In 1966, Henderson Valley resident, Alwynne Crowsen came across an article in The Lady, a periodical sent to her by an Aunt in England, that suggested it was not possible to teach yourself lacemaking. Since then Crowsen has proved The Lady wrong.
In addition to teaching herself the art of lacemaking, Crowsen has passed her knowledge on to countless others via weekly community classes and the Auckland Embroiderers' and Lacemakers' Guild, which she co-founded in 1970. Crowsen has seldom undertaken commissions or given her work away, instead she has made her own collection. Brought up in England, daughter of a librarian mother, her approach has been both panoramic and archival. She has surveyed a world of lace, making almost five hundred pieces that are carefully catalogued and stored in a tall filing cabinet under her West Auckland home.
A Lace Life, the first exhibition based on Alwynne Crowsen's remarkable dedication to lace, will showcase the spectrum of her handmade collection - needle laces, bobbin laces, piece laces, tape laces, tulle laces, continuous laces; Binche, Mechlin, Chantilly, Rococo, Limerick, Torchon, Rosaline, 'Bucks' and 'Beds', Swedish, German, Venetian, to name a few.
Crowsen's determined pursuit of as many as possible of the world's lacemaking traditions is the focus of the exhibition and the accompanying publication. Her work in this prettiest and most technically demanding of mediums reveals a drive for comprehensiveness and an individual spirit. Perhaps the example that exemplifies Crowsen's independent approach most vividly is 'The Honiton Lace weta' - probably the only New Zealand insect to have ever been rendered in the English lace chosen by Queen Victoria for her 1840 wedding gown.