The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2015 > Common Grounds: Lace Drawn From The Everyday

Common Grounds: Lace Drawn From The Everyday

2 May - 28 June 2015

An installation of light sensitive drawings by artist Sarah Casey went on show in The Bowes Museum’s award winning Fashion & Textiles Gallery.

Common Grounds: Lace Drawn from the Everyday featured a selection of Casey’s drawings of bonnets which literally brought to light hidden aspects of the internationally significant Blackborne Lace Collection, the whole of which was gifted to the Museum in 2006 by descendants of A Blackborne & Co, master lace dealers in 19th century London.

In addition to the main Blackborne collection, which is exceptional in its quality and quantity, the Museum received a secondary group of items categorised as the ‘B’ collection. Unlike the main collection, which contains some of the finest surviving examples of handmade lace dating from the 16th century, the latter is principally the lace of ordinary people. It consists of reworked fragments of lace from a range of sources, with the quality itself uneven, although some fragments of lace on the bonnets is close to 300 years old.

And it is these which inspired Casey’s exquisite, transparent drawings after she opened two unsorted trunks of stock from Blackborne’s shop, which had lain unexamined and overlooked for 70 years. 

Intrigued, she began sorting through the bundled together articles, visually enjoying the process of examining and creating a record of their personal and social history, while further exploring how drawing can both examine unseen aspects of the collection and present it creatively to the public. 

For the exhibition, Casey catalogued every lace bonnet via 54 ‘hidden’ drawings which appear like x-rays or scans, revealed only when held up to the light. 

This innovative approach to exhibiting aspects of the collection seeks to revalue this overlooked lace, bridging a gap between high art and everyday textiles of ordinary people.

The drawings were presented alongside the lace bonnets and the carriage trunks in which they were stored, together with a selection of the finest bonnets from the main collection which had been conserved.

Related Events

Drawing Common Grounds
2 May, 2.15
Artist Sarah Casey talks about her collaboration with The Bowes Museum to research the Category B Lace collection and her process of making the drawings for the exhibition Common Grounds. Booking required

13, 14, 20, & 26 May, 11 June, 10.30 & 3.00 (approximately)

To celebrate this exhibition lace makers from local guilds will be demonstrating their technique and answering questions from visitors.

Printing Lace
26 May, 10.30 - 3.30 
Children can explore the exhibition with a children’s trail before trying printing techniques to create your own lace inspired artwork to take home. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies. 

Gallery Talk
1 June, 2.15
Join artist, Sarah Casey, for an introduction to this exhibition.

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.