Hundreds of lace makers from around the world descended on Prague at the weekend for the 11th World Lace Congress. The congress displays the work of lace makers from dozens of countries and holds exhibitions and workshops for people interested in the ancient craft of lace making.
The congress is organised by OIDFA - The International Bobbin and Needle Lace Organisation. The event provides a forum for lace makers from all over the world to exhibit their work and share information on their craft.
The Czech Republic is actually the first country from the former Eastern Bloc to be chosen to host the congress. The country is indeed a suitable location for the event, as there is a strong tradition of lace-making here which is over 400 years old.
Nevertheless, the president of OIDFA, Margaret Crocker, also points out that Czech lace is now best known for its innovative, modern style.
"The general view of Czech lace is that it is contemporary. Many countries emphasise traditional lace. But whenever one thinks of Czech lace one thinks 'contemporary'. [It has] unusual colouring, unusual design, wall hangings, large pieces, and pictures. It is art in textile. That is Czech lace. And that is unusual. There are very few countries where this is common."
Czech lace-making's original contemporary style began in the last century. It is probably best exemplified by the work of Marie Sedlackova-Serbouskova who won a prize at the World Exhibition in 1925 for her pioneering lace designs. One of the many ancillary exhibitions of lace making accompanying the Prague congress includes a retrospective of Sedlackova-Serbouskova's work.
Besides hosting displays and exhibitions, the congress has also held a number of workshops on lace making. Ms Crocker feels that this is a good way of keeping old traditions alive, not least in the Czech Republic:
"We also discovered that there are very old laces here in some of the villages in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They are very traditional laces but they're dying. One of the things that we hope these congresses do is to encourage local people to start an interest in lace again. The main aim of OIDFA is for people to meet and to learn about each other's laces so that the whole thing is kept alive, because - although there was a tremendous revival in lace in the 1960s and 70s - that's now dying again because other crafts have taken over. So we're trying to keep it going."
Anyone wishing to find out more about the OIDFA lace-making congress can visit the conference's website at unicoagric.czu.cz/oidfa2004/
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