Lace in Translation

Lace in Translation
Design Center at Philadelphia University
Closes April 3

Cal Lane
Visitors to The Design Center at Philadelphia University have just weeks left to see Lace in Translation, the ground-breaking exhibition of contemporary work that redefines historic lace, before it closes on April 3, 2010. The exhibition has drawn several thousand visitors and groups from all over the U.S. The Design Center has hosted tours for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Maryland Institute College of Art, the Costume Society of America, the Embroiderers Guild of America, the Textile Museum of Washington, D.C., St. Andrews College of Grahamstown, South Africa, University of Delaware, West Virginia University, and the Philadelphia Public Arts Forum, among many others.

For this pioneering exhibition, The Design Center (TDC) has created a 102-page richly illustrated exhibition catalog, featuring essays written by Matilda McQuaid and Nancy E. Packer. An exceptional reference for all those interested in design, art, and industrial history, the catalog is filled with full-color reproductions and photographs of intriguing source materials — elegant drawings, machine-made lace samples, and savvy marketing materials — that served as touchstones of inspiration for the commissioned artists and designers. The catalog also features in-depth artist interviews, curator commentary, a DVD video insert, and more.

The Lace in Translation exhibition catalog explores the broader context and history of lace as a design element while offering a behind-the-scenes, in-depth look at the development and creation of the exhibition as seen through the eyes of the world-renowned artists and TDC’s curators. An essay by co-curator Nancy Packer chronicles the historical underpinnings of the exhibition in the designs and products of the Quaker Lace Company of Philadelphia in the early 20th century, while design historian Matilda McQuaid surveys the re-emergence of lace in contemporary design.

The catalog is now available for purchase in person at The Design Center (4200 Henry Ave, Philadelphia), on, through the University of Washington Press website, or by calling the University of Washington Press fulfillment agency at 1-800-537-5487.

Included as an insert in the newly released catalog, is a short film (also available online and on view at The Design Center) that explores the history of the Quaker Lace Company and its role in transforming lace from luxury product to mass market consumable, as well as the creative processes of the three Lace in Translation artists and designers. The film, directed by Glenn Holsten, features historic footage of Quaker Lace being manufactured, the designers’ contemporary production techniques, and interviews with the designers and curators.

For Lace in Translation, European designers Tord Boontje and Demakersvan, and Canadian artist Cal Lane created site-specific installations for TDC’s unique and intimate space — a 1950s era, Hollywood-style ranch house, one of the first in Philadelphia, situated on the edge of Fairmount Park. The Design Center’s historic Quaker Lace Company collection is the inspiration for the three internationally-renowned artists and designers reconsidering conventional notions of lace.

From the intricacy of a hand-woven raffia curtain, to the industrial art forms of laser-cut fabrics, a welded filigree oil tank, and a lace chain-link fence, Lace in Translation plays with the concept of lace, utilizing unexpected materials and new technologies to transform the Center’s grounds and galleries.

Lace in Translation has been described as “radical and whimsical takes on a form which typically refuses to descend from its lofty, elegant perch,” by Philadelphia City Paper in addition to being featured in The New York Times’ T Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Elle Canada, Fiberarts Magazine, on TV’s 6ABC Loves the Arts, and in numerous other publications, websites, and blogs worldwide.

Lace in Translation’s exhibition website,, continues to invite visitors from all over the world to share their own lace-inspired handiwork and designs in the Your Translations online community. Submissions are displayed on the Lace in Translation website as viewers weigh-in on their favorites.

As part of the nation’s oldest textile school, TDC’s historic textile collection features many artifacts from Philadelphia’s pinnacle as a national center for textile design and manufacturing. The Center’s lace collection includes some 150 machine-made lace samples and marketing materials from the Quaker Lace Company of Philadelphia. TDC also houses an extraordinary collection of hundreds of original design sketches by Quaker Lace designer Frederick Charles Vessey (1862-1948). Just as the Lace in Translation designers and artist turned to these historic designs for inspiration, Vessey himself mined such varied sources as Egyptian tomb paintings, Jacobean architectural motifs, and tin ceiling catalogs to inspire and inform his designs for the Quaker Lace product line.

Lace in Translation has been funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative with additional support from the Marketing Innovation Program. Additional support has also come from The Coby Foundation, LTD and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.