For the past five years I have been photographing and then drawing antique lace from the archives in the V&A Museum, Bronte Parsonage Museum, Fashion Museum in Bath, Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and Worthing Museum.
In the drawings, items of lace are painstakingly reconstructed in black or white ink, an activity which both negates technology and embraces the imperfections inherent in the hand-made objects to which the drawings refer. The drawing technique utilised is so close to the process of using thread that the images are more a re-enactment of the lace making process, than simply a likeness to the end product, and so true-to-life are the images that tiny threads appear to intersect each other, recording the miniscule defects in the fabric and the way the threads interweave.
The level of realism in my work often confuses the viewer as to whether they are contemplating a real piece of fabric or a photograph; the drawings occupy an unusual space between the drawing of an object and the recreation of it in a different medium.
I am interested in exploring through my work what the lace-making process tells us about the social history of women and as well as exploring the solitary lace-maker I have also made work which explores the tradition of lace-making by large groups of women. The drawing 'Black Lace Shawl' was created in a public re-enactment of this communal lace-making process during a residency at Fabrica in Brighton. Twenty artists worked on the drawing with me over a period of six weeks in an event which was inspired by the two hundred Honiton lace-makers who took nine months to complete the lace for Queen Victoria's wedding dress.
The amount of hours and effort invested in this activity is unthinkable today, but the drawing highlights the allocation of time devoted to female, domestic labour in that period of history. The deceptive simplicity of the detailed, repetitive mark-making of the drawing provokes memories of the time before mass production, when hand-made textiles were part of everyday domestic life for women, some of whom attended lace schools as children and made a meagre living by the trade throughout their lives.
I am currently making a series of drawings of lace owned by Victorian women writers, the first of which is from a black lace shawl worn by Charlotte Bronte.
The 170 year old shawl, which has suffered some deterioration since Bronte's death in 1855, has through the drawing process been 'restored' it to its former glory; the drawing process has both repaired the damage to the shawl and preserved it for generations of Bronte admirers to come.
The long and, in this case, solitary process of drawing the shawl is a reminder of the hours and weeks of intense concentration intrinsic to the creation of Bronte's novels. The drawing engenders further unexpected connections with the shawl's former owner who was renowned for her diminutive pen and ink script, obsessively producing miniature hand written books in an activity not dissimilar to the drawing technique utilised.
CV & Education
Qualifications and training
1997 - MA Fine Art Drawing, Wimbledon School of Art, London
1995 - PGCE Art & Design, University of Brighton, Brighton
1987 - BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting, Norwich School of Art, Norwich
2009 - Drawing Lace, Worthing Museum & Art Gallery, Worthing, West Sussex
2008 - Drawing Lace, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, Devon
2012 - Lace Works: Contemporary Art & Nottingham Lace, Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Nottingham
2012 - Wildness Between the Lines, Leeds College of Art, Leeds
2009 - 'At Home' New Paintings by Kate Montgomery & Teresa Whitfield, St. Anne's Galleries, Lewes, East Sussex
2009 - Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Space, London
2008 - HQ Gallery, Harrogate Art Fair, Harrogate
2006 - Autumn Exhibition, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
2006 - Islands Lace, Star Gallery, Lewes, East Sussex
2006 - Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London
1999 - Freeze Frame, The Millinery Works, London
1999 - Real, Brighton Media Centre, Brighton
1998 - Lost & Found, Decima Gallery, London
1992 - In Memoriam, General Cemetery, Sheffield
1989 - 90 Days in 89, Graves Gallery & Mappin Gallery, Sheffield
1987 - Women's Pictures, Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich
2009 - Artist Animateur during John Grade Elephant Bed Exhibition, Fabrica, Brighton, East Sussex
Competitions, prizes and awards
2008 - Award for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, University of Brighton, Sussex
2006 - Learn Higher CETL Teaching Fellowship, University of Brighton, Sussex
2002 - Major Award, Arts Council South East, Brighton
2002 - Research & Scholarly Activity Grant, Northbrook College, Sussex
Educational experience - tertiary
1996 - Course Leader BA (Hons) Fine Art, Northbrook College, Worthing, West Sussex
2010 - 'Drawing Lace' by Teresa Whitfield, Lace Magazine pp14-17
2009 - 'Drawing Threads' by Teresa Whitfield, Embroidery Magazine pp 16-17
2009 - 'Embroidered with White' by Teresa Whitfield, Selvedge Magazine pp48-51
2008 - 'Long and Drawn Out' by Beth Smith, Selvedge Magazine pp48-51