Featured Artist Elizabeth Zipay of
Elizabeth's Lace

After catching up with Elizabeth Zipay of Elizabeth's Lace at the Pennsylvania Guild - Fine Craft Fair in Blue Bell, PA, and being quite impressed with her art form of Tatting, we wanted to know more. Elizabeth told us of her journey, what has inspired her, awards and recognition, and even some fun facts about her that most would not know. Enjoy our Conversations on Fine Crafts and Arts, as Brothers Handmade features Tatting Artist, Elizabeth C. Zipay, of Elizabeth's Lace.

Greetings Elizabeth, and thanks for agreeing to our Featured Artist interview.

To start, please tell us about your primary Art interest?

My primary interest is tatting, a form of lace-making consisting of knotting threads into rings and chains, forming beautiful patterns of open and closed space. It is created by using thread, your hands, and a tool called a shuttle. Traditionally, tatting has been used for practical items like baby bonnets, table doilies, and lace edgings on various linens. My tatted lace jewelry developed as I searched for a contemporary expression of this classic form of lace-making.

How did you get started? Tell us about your journey in this art form.

My paternal grandmother did tatting from the time I was a very young child. I spent lots of time at her house when I was young, watching yards of lace appear magically out of her fingers. I was fascinated with it but had a difficult time learning it (unlike other crafts like crocheting and embroidery).

It wasn't until I had graduated from college and she and I were on the bus to Atlantic City (NJ) that I asked her again to teach me, having not tried since I was probably around 11 or 12. She just kept saying, "watch me", unable to put into words the process she had been doing for about 60 years. It took me about 10 minutes to understand the structure of the knot and I tatted all the way down in the bus, all the way home, and haven't put it down since. That was almost 20 years ago. Golden earrings Tatter Elizabeth Lace

It took about six months of tatting consistently before I thought my work was at an acceptable level. It takes lots of time and practice to get the tension even and learn little tricks that make the lace look perfect. After tatting some traditional items, I decided I wanted to use my tatting in a fresh and modern way, but one that would still allow it to be displayed and easily identified as this beautiful old craft. (Click to enlarge picture)

To further my expertise in this craft I have taken classes in modern tatting techniques and tatting design. I have also taken classes in basic jewelry construction and recently, have started to combine bead-weaving with my tatting so I have taken classes in many of the basic stitches as well as some more advanced techniques.

Have you won any awards, competitions, or recognitions for your Craft?

Some of my show achievements include:

  • Best in Design - in the Best in Pennsylvania Crafts Gallery - Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (awarded November 2010)
  • Juried Member - Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (awarded September, 2008)
  • Juried Member - Reading/Berks Chapter, Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (awarded March, 2008)
  • Best in Show - 2006 Mifflin/Juniata Arts Festival, Mifflintown, Pennsylvania
  • Award of Merit (Red Ribbon), Fine Craft -- Visual Arts Celebration 2005, East Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Best Art/Craft - 2003 Pittsburgh North Arts & Crafts Christmas Spectacular, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • Third Place - 2002 Mayfair Festival of the Arts, Allentown, Pennsylvania

What do you like best about tatting?

For me, the process of tatting itself is very relaxing, and is still my favorite part of the entire jewelry making process. I usually end up with piles and piles of tatting sitting next to me until it comes down to days before a show when I finally have to stop and actually put the jewelry together.

What are your favorite pieces?(Click images to enlarge)

Great question! I had to go searching through some of my pictures to really find my two all time favorites.

Elizabeth Lace Tatter Large Rose The first one combines my two favorite elements, tatting and bead weaving. The rose medallion is inspired by a vintage pattern from the 20s and an old book of my grandmother's. I just love the way the whole piece came together with the beads I had on hand. But probably the main reason I love this piece is because I kept it for myself and I get to wear it all the time. I kept it because there is a mistake in the piece which I didn't notice until it was completed. It's not terribly noticeable but I wouldn't sell it without correcting the mistake and in the meantime, while wearing it, I fell in love with it.

It reminds me too that I'm human and that I'm not perfect. At times I struggle with perfectionism and had a difficult time selling my work in the beginning because I never felt it was quite good enough. It also reminds me that regardless, I can still create and enjoy the fruits of my craft when they are not perfect.

Elizabeth Lace Tatter Oval BroachThe second piece reminds me of how I started and, in some sense, how far I've come. In the beginning I thought of tatting as a very Victorian craft and my jewelry reflected that image. I make each of the roses and flowers by hand and did a lot with cameos and pearls.

The oval pattern is an original of my grandmother's. When I first started making the jewelry, she liked to make little medallions for me to use; I would often create pieces for her to wear or to give to her friends as gifts. Although I don't do many pieces like this any more (I'm completely addicted to beading in my tatting now), they were the basic line of my jewelry for many years and are still a favorite style of mine, and of many of my customers.

What do you like doing when you're not creating in the studio?

I have a full time job at a CPA firm and am back in school to become a CPA myself. Right now I am really enjoying watching my 18-year-old twin sons play football for their high school, the Schuylkill Haven Hurricanes. They have had a great season, won their district title and are in the state playoffs now (GO HAVEN!) I'm a video game junkie too, and in my spare time (not much of that these days) like to play games like Zelda, Myst, and Rock Band.

Tell us something about yourself that even some of your friends wouldn't know.

I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and several medals from competitions (sparring, breaking, and forms). I trained for about five years and received my black belt at the age of 34.

We hope you have enjoyed our conversations with Elizabeth C. Zipay - Award Winning Tatter Artist, Black Belt, Video gamer, and probably most importantly, Mom. You can find more information on Elizabeth's Lace including show schedules and contact information on her website.

And remember, go to fine craft and arts shows and festivals, and to Brothers-Handmade.com, to:

"Come See What Your Neighbors Are Making"©

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