Monday, July 6, 2009

Lace-making in Bayeux, France

During Louis XIV's reign, his finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert undertook to develop and support the luxury goods industry within France. Because Colbert valued retaining monies spent on the purchase of luxury fabrics within France, he helped establish and/or improve existing textile and fashion related manufacturing in the country. These efforts established Bayeux as a lace-making centre.

Bayeux lace is characterized by its delicate patterns based on historical patterns and comes in white, ecru or black.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

At its peak, Bayeaux and surrounding villages had in the order of 5000 workers creating bobbin or needle lace. Today there are less than a dozen artisans who create hand-made lace.

Leading the revival of hand-made lace is Marie-Helene Salvador who runs the Atelier du Centre Normand de la Dentelle aux Fuseux in Bayeux. At this centre, she teaches and supervises those who wish to learn the craft of lace-making.

When I stopped in for a visit to observe the lace workers, I was impressed with the skill, dexterity and focus required to create such delicate handwork. I had no idea how the lace-makers knew which bobbin to manipulate and which needle to remove. After seeing them in action, I had a whole new appreciation for the level of craftsmanship in handmade lace. And it didn't surprise me that the beautiful black lace shawl on display took 20 women approximately six months to make. (Sadly no photos were allowed!). Madame Salvador has received national honours for her efforts to revive this dying art.

At the neighbouring museum, Musee Baron Garard Bayeux, there is an extensive collection of Bayeux lace on display including lappets, shawls, collars, cuffs and ruffles. As well, I was delighted to find one of my favourite paintings by Francois Boucher (1702-1770) called The Cage on display as well.

To read more about lace, please see my earlier posts on the subject including:
The Establishment of Lace Making Industry in France
The Lace Sleeve Ruffle