Aemilia Ars needle lace is one of the most breathtaking laces I've ever seen. Conceived in Bologna, Italy at the end of the 19th century, it is made by building a structure of supports with thread, covering them and filling in the spaces between; working on cardstock and later inserting the lace into the finished artifact. The principal difference between this and other applied needle laces is that it makes use of a system of support stitches which are then cut away enabling the execution of some pretty amazing designs.
In 2007 I went to the Italia Invita Lace and Embroidery Forum in Rimini, Italy and took a three hour workshop on Aemilia Ars needle lace while I was there. Needless to say, this kind of beauty takes time and much practice! I'm not showing you the 'lace' that I made, but I will say that it did ignite my curiosity! Last year I went for the 2009 Forum, this time it was in Parma, and afterwards I went to Bologna in the hopes of seeing some of this lace up close. What I saw left me awestruck and literally brought tears to my eyes.
Two very generous ladies met me at the train station and took me to the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte Museum which has a small but unbelievable collection of pieces. I say the collection is small because when you walk into the room there are (if I remember correctly) only five glass cases with the lace inside. However, to study the individual pieces would require many, many visits as they are all very intricate and the more you look, the more you observe.
There was a very nice attendant who let us take photos but without flash and consequently many of mine did not turn out or are quite grainy (all the more reason to go back!). I'm putting them here just to give you a feel for the pieces though obviously I'd like to get my hands on clearer pictures...
Bologna, you could study these pieces everyday and never get tired!
To learn more about Aemilia Ars needle lace, visit Tuttoricamo (click on the British flag for the English pages, there are articles under both the "History" and "Techniques" headings. While you're there check out "Prominent Characters": Antonilla Cantelli, Virginia Bonfiglioli and Christine Bishop for even more photos and info.
Tomorrow I'll tell you about the second half of that day in Bologna and some books on the Art of Aemilia Ars needle lace.