Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Arsenic and Old Lace – by Maija DeRoche

Finnish lace

I make lace. I weave unbleached, natural linen thread wound around smooth wooden bobbins lathed by an elderly craftsman. I weave the bobbins over and under each other on a stuffed flat pillow. I secure the threads in place dictated by the pattern, by strategically placing straight pins in their proper places creating knots on each side of the pins anchoring the thread. The result is natural, understated, yet intricate lace at the speed of two inches per hour.

I make “fans”, “spiders”, “fishnets”, and “almonds”. My father taught me bobbin lace making, when I was six years old. He was fanatic about saving the dying art for my hometown of Rauma, Finland.

Recently, the definition of bobbin lace as art has come to question. When I demonstrate or tell people I make bobbin lace, some announce:” I love to crochet”. I may be a snob, but there is no comparison between the two methods. At times like this, I feel like dropping some arsenic into the tea cup of the master crocheter.

Sometimes, an onlooker will make a comment to the effect of: “You can find lace like that at Walmart. Why bother spending all this time?” Arsenic!…

I am willing to admit, however, that bobbin lace making, as I know it, may be more of a skill than an art or even a talent. It is relatively easy to learn with a pattern to guide you, be it on a form or in your brain stored as information. It is entirely different to create something new, to weave the bobbins in a pattern unique to you. This task  seems to me completely undoable and tempts me to put those drops of arsenic into my own tea!

Then again, I have only used my skill and have never attempted art. It may be a great test of my creativity, when I tire of the old set patterns and/or simply get old(er). In the meantime, I will continue the slow process of making lace in the known Rauma patterns.  Contributed by Maija DeRoche.

4 comments on “Arsenic and Old Lace – by Maija DeRoche

  1. We are pretty sure that your are skillfully balancing between art and craft Maija. While over here in Rauma we have acquired a deep appreciation for your home town and all of the arts it possesses. It seems that in every nook their is art and the Finger Lakes Region is so lucky to have a Rauma resident in its area!

  2. Oh, one more thing…here are a few photos we took in Rauma

    From Rauma Blog

    From Rauma Blog

  3. Jacqueline Satterlee
    May 20, 2010

    What lovely work ! Congratulations. A long time ago I bought the bobbins and a pillow, but could not find anyone to teach me. Maybe you can suggest a good book that would help me 🙂 Jackie in Elmira

  4. Littece Wilber
    March 28, 2011

    A dear friend of mine taught me that the definition of true humility is, “To stand at your full stature, in the presence of someone greater than yourself”.

    Outstanding bobbin lace, by the way.

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2010 by and tagged , , .
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