Andrea Eimke

Andrea Eimke - Hibiscus Lace

Andrea Eimke – Hibiscus Lace

Textile Fibre Forum

| Volume Thirty One | Issue 1 No.105, 2012 31



‘Third Space II’ consists of 35 textile panels made from bark cloth (tapa), cotton gauze, interlacing, thread and soluble stabilizer. A detail of one of the pieces, the image that appears in the Love Lace catalogue, is shown here, indicating how the creation of a ‘fabric’ (tapa) can leave spaces characteristic of the definition of lace as an openwork structure, with each space offering a unique design opportunity including the option of leaving openings as evocative in themselves.

The largest of the 35 panels is 7400mm x 900mm and the smallest is 770mm x 11mm.

Andrea Eimke, who makes her home on Atiu in the Cook Islands was a finalist for the prestigious ‘Love Lace’ exhibition continuing at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney until April 2012. She was asked to provide the story of how this remarkable work evolved.

In 2008, aged 58, an unexpected but very welcome opportunity came my way: the chance to study towards a master’s degree in art and design with AUT (Auckland University of Technology) staying based on my residential Polynesian island of Atiu (Cook Islands). Although quite challenging and nerve-racking at times, it made me grow and transcend my boundaries and ultimately resulted in my participation in the international Lace Award competition held at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum in 2011.

The subject of my studies was the liminal process of transformation as a result of the migrant’s ambiguous position between cultures and consequent changes to perception of home and belonging. Addressing and accepting my own permanence in the third space of cultural liminality, I saw its potential for growth.

Energy could be freed by destruction and renewal, interaction and change. It of fered me the opportunity to celebrate difference as a basis for innovation .

In 2011, I presented my final exam exhibition on Rarotonga at the recently renovated Takamoa Mission house which proved to be the ideal venue.

Constructed in the early 1900s with the island’s materials (limestone and wood), employing local hands and skills, and foreign technical knowledge, European missionaries had designed the hybrid structure as a place of study and education.

In my installation Third Space, tapa, fibres, fabric, and lace overcame the limitations of their customary role as materials for ceremonial cloths. The complex combination of concepts and aspects from different cultures and the composi tion of uncommon textiles, of space, light, and shadow created an interactive zone for artist, objects, and viewers.

Entry into the installation’s space offered the viewers room for their individual sensory perception. The installation demonstrated “gracefully how being in between cultures is no handicap and how boundaries can be creatively interpreted and negotiated. A third space can turn into a source of opportunities for innovative actions and solutions – in art and life.” (Kunzlé, J. (2010), Cook Islands News, 25 February 2010, Rarotonga, Cook Islands).

The invitation to participate in the Powerhouse Museum’s Love Lace Award Exhibition presented me with an ideal opportunity to use what I had learned from the Rarotonga exhibition. I immediately hoped that I could take this work in a similar form to Australia, another country that is known for its migrant history.

I enjoyed the challenge of installing its components in a completely different visual and physical environment that would ultimately result in giving it an entirely new face and feel.

I was fortunate to be allocated space at the Museum’s restoration laboratory to prepare the 35 individual elements of the installation for hanging. Working alongside the Museum’s multi-ethnic group of textile conservators, who soon made me feel like ‘part of the family’, gave me an interesting glimpse behind the scenes of this impressive museum of Applied Arts with its well-equipped lab and large construction workshop.

It was quite an eye opener to learn how much work goes into keeping exhibits in good condition, and getting an insight into the intricacies of organizing exhibitions in the museum itself and lending collections to other museums in the country and overseas.

Living on a remote and rather basic Polynesian island has made me self-reliant and a creative problem solver. I therefore found it especially gratifying to be surrounded by helpful and resourceful people who were able to assist with anything I could possibly need to display my work in the best possible manner.

Third Space II was installed in record time thanks to my previous experience and the superior facilities that the Powerhouse Museum offered.

The museum has an enormous number of daily visitors, many of them children. Therefore, unlike in my exhibition on Rarotonga, viewers cannot be allowed access to the space inside the installation itself and the work is surrounded by a guardrail. This prevented part of the intended sensory experience, but it gave me the opportunity to make more use of the floor as additional exhibition space.

To compensate for people being distanced from the work, I planned for a further element to become part of the work: the addition of sound. I chose the clicking sounds that Atiu Swiftlets make when they use echo location to navigate the total darkness of their nesting cave on my island. The museum’s audio engineer managed to make it sound so real that I had to look up repeatedly to check that the tiny birds were not actually flying above our heads.

Thanks to the lighting expert’s magic, the lace’s patterned shadows add to the mysterious feel of an inner space that the black-painted environment enhances.

For me it has been a huge privilege to have been allowed to present my installation in a new environment. For their help in making this dream come true I wish to thank Powerhouse Museum staff Lindie Ward and Joanne Delzoppo, and all the wonderful people with whom I had the joy to work during my extended stay in Sydney. I was made to feel very welcome.

Meeting an old friend again, Rosemary Shepherd OAM, whose dedication to lace laid the foundation for this event, was a highlight of my stay.

I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with a number of international fellow lace artists, being able to ‘talk art’ with them and now to stay in touch.

Thanks to the involvement of the Cook Islands tourism office, my installation has also provided an opportunity to help promote my beautiful island country as a destination worth visiting.

A lot of encouraging feedback has come my way. I can see how much potential this Third Space idea still offers.

Now I have but one dream: to be invited to take the installation to other countries, to add to it, to alter it, to study its adaptive transformation in new environments, and to ultimately be able to show it in my native Germany as the other end of the scale that encompasses the components of my Third Space.

‘Love Lace’ opened in July 2011 and continues at the Powerhouse

Museum until April 2012. A superb catalogue of all works selected for the

exhibition is available from: