Location: Perth, Australia
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $35,000
Independent Visual Artist
Building Management Authority, WA.
West Leederville Primary School
Through delicate lacework patterns, the ‘Lace Fence’ transforms the 3.6 metre security fence that weaves through the school’s grounds. Concentrated in the south-eastern corner of the basketball courts, the artwork diffuses out over 7 or 8 meters in each direction like a fantastical plant structure.
First and foremost the school wanted a student participation driven project and I was awarded the commission based upon my working methods, before we had brought Redfort Fabrics on board. The children’s ideas, drawings and participation needed to be central and so the drawing workshops drove the design process. “I didn’t teach the children how to draw, I taught them how to look, and it was through this detailed process of investigation that they were able to generate such beautiful work.” Without a doubt, the artist’s orchestration of the students’ artwork with Lacefence and the Bangalore craftsmen resulted in a dramatic piece that does justice to the enlarged West Leederville Primary School and compliments the campus environment.
The school community enthusiastically embraced the project. An Artwork Project Group was formed composed of school community delegates, the architects & Education Dept representatives. In true engagement style distinctive in Paula’s work, all students from PP to Y7 were involved in the design process.
To create the integrated artwork, Paula collaborated with Redfort Fabrics, a Dutch based design house that produces the customized LaceFence. LF is based upon traditional lacemaking stitches in galvanised wire added into regular chain mesh fencing. Lacefence inventor Joep Verhoeven describes these dynamic tensions as Hostility versus Kindness, Industry versus Craft. The perfect medium to transform harsh Australian flora and industrial fencing into a beautiful work and an intimate space. Paula developed the children’s illustrations into the 70m2 design, then across the world Paula and Joep worked side by side via Skype to translate the design into the lace patterning, recreating the children’s original drawings with the various stitch types. The project continued it’s journey to Bangalore, India where 60 craftsmen spent 2 months meticulously creating the design by hand using traditional hammer and nail lace bobbin techniques. The LaceFence was installed by local contractors.
The students participated in native flora drawing workshops. Before the children started drawing they looked. At first the Banksia and Grevillea looked so prickly and harsh, but as the children looked closer, pulling the flowers apart and examining them with their fingers, the most extraordinary patterns were revealed. Interlocking, repeating, swirling, unraveling. The outcome of this highly sensorial approach was over 400 exquisite botanical drawings from both front and aerial perspectives.