Fragment of Needle Lace with Art Nouveau Design

The little fragment featured here came in a trunk of lace purchased from the estate of Marian Powys, lacemaker, lace designer, and well-known as a New York City lace dealer in the first half of the twentieth century.  She was a huge fan of Art Nouveau, a style popular early in the twentieth century, and designed many Art Nouveau pieces for her speciality, Honiton bobbin lace.

Art nouveau scrap overview

The whole subject of Art Nouveau lace deserves, and eventually will get, its own discussion on this website.  Briefly, Art Nouveau refers to a style, and the designs can be produced in lace using any technique.  Art Nouveau was developed in the early years of the twentieth century when a call went out to professional designers to produce designs for lace in an attempt to help the failing handmade lace industry by producing exciting new designs.  Some famous designers did repond, especially the renowned Wiener Wertstatte, or Vienesse Workshops, a community of architects, designers, and visual artists.  

The sinuous and elegantly curving lines of Art Nouveau are indeed suitable for lace designs.  Very few pieces of such lace can actually be attributed to specific known designers, but curious pieces of lace of all levels of quality do show up with Art Nouveau designs.

This tiny piece, just a few inches across, is wonderful for the amount of information packed into the tiny space.  

Art nouveau scrap crop edge

It obviously is only a bit of a larger piece; the finished edges along the right side would have fit like a jig-saw piece to more of the complete object.  It does, however, contain a complete and charming little floral bouquet.

The variations on buttonhole stitches easily define this piece as needle lace.  The specific way it is worked, including the flat edges combining with a background mesh sets it apart.  Classic needle lace techniques such as Point de gaze, Alencon, Point de Venise a Reseau, etc, define how the clothwork, outline, mesh, and connecting bars are worked.  A set combination of stitches used in specific ways define those laces.  In Art Nouveau pieces, the design itself determines what stitches are to be used and how they are used.

The flatness of the lace, with no raised edges outlining the design, make it light and simple, letting the little flowers float in space.  The stems, simple lines covered with buttonhole stitches, are held in place with the finest of single threads.  Ths allows them to also float i space. The edges of the little flowers and leaves are defined with many fine threads instead of a single heavier thread, again adding to the lightness and floating simplicity.

The sweet little bouquet would love to sprout again as new lace:  see COPY THIS for a pattern.


June 12, 2013

ADDED JULY 31, 2013

  Correspondence from Nancy Evans. 

...I have a piece of your Art Nouveau scrap, too. I will look up my information on it and let you know what it says and where I got it. I seem to remember Austria. I'll try to look it up later today.

...My fragment has a little less net around it and is a little smaller that the one you show, but is identical in pattern. I bought it from Marion Powys in 1965 for $7.00. I kept her original tag which says"Point de Gaze made in Vienna with turn of the century modern design". There is no other mention as to what it was a part of. To me, it has "Deco" characteristics, so maybe it's transitional from Art Nouveau.


My piece of the Viennese lace doesn't seem to connect with yours………..there must be more out there. Let me know if other fragments come forward.

 Bacause Nancy has such an extraordinary background in the study of antique lace, (she currently is teaching Youghal needle lace) I asked her to add a few comments:

Dear Elizabeth,

The study group that I belonged to was Edna Barnett's group. She was our first teacher. Our connection to Marian Powys was by mail, lots of correspondence. We also corresponded with Rachel Wareham, the first editor of the N.O.L. We all bought lace on approval from several dealers, an unheard of thing today. I focused on samples because that's what I could afford and I wanted so much to learn. We bought from Marian Powys, Nancy Price, Mrs. McMurdie, Elizabeth Zbaffy (not sure of her spelling and I don't have time to look it up) and Vada Bledsoe. The last four were in England. I'm afraid that The Bobbin and Needle Club was a societal step above us West Coast gals. But, we loved lace and were serious students. I am the last survivor of "the Old days", but the group goes on today and has chartered with I.O.L.I. Our interest continues as you know. We've enjoyed two of your wonderful workshops.

Hope this helps a little. I leave for the Lace Convention in Salt Lake City tomorrow early.

Love, Nancy

Nancy Evans Nouveau sprig      219-659-1124    Elizabeth Kurella 2014