It was a GREAT HONOR to have received this wonderfully encouraging letter from "across the pond!" Queen Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting Philippa de Pass is a close friend of the Queen and, even now aged into her 80(s), still writes for the Queen!
Also, new to the Museum, that will be newly exhibited on April 15, 2017, is a rare and extraordinary set of six (6) LACE MAKING PILLOWS I recently purchased in London, UK!!
Three Bobbin Lace Pillows, early 20th century, applied with 82 plain bone bobbins, with attached panel of Torchon Lace; another with 14 bobbins and panel of Tapelace; the third with approx 30 bobbins with note,”belonged to Mrs Beach of Buxted, aged 101 whose unfinished work is still on the pillow;” together with a quantity of threads, prickings and box on bobbin lace. Another three (3) Bobbin Lace Pillows, early 20th century, will be displayed with a quantity of mainly plain turned Bone and Wood Bobbins, Prickings and Threads.
DETROIT BUSINESS JOURNAL (left)
Article Published October 18, 2016
Mary Salmon, the founder of The Lace Museum, Detroit, who is working with family members to run the space. “There are rotating exhibits, so there’s always going to be something different and special about (the museum).” Exhibits will feature sewing machines from before the Industrial Revolution to around 1880 to 1900, hand-made lace and fashion from Central Europe, Ireland, England, and the United States, and more from Salmon’s 2,500 piece collection, which has been preserved following guidelines established by textile conservators at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Salmon says the exterior of the museum was configured to look like a lace shop in Paris during the mid-1800s. The interior offers high ceilings, wood floors, antique glass chandeliers, pillars from an 1850 home in Detroit, and a salon-style layout with seating options for attendees. The space also contains a humidity-controlled back room where special pieces are stored as well as a second room with vintage fashion and textiles, which will be for sale. There is no cost for admission to the museum. Hours of operation vary, and appointments can be made to view The Lace Museum, Detroit’s collection. Special events, such as a grand opening and weekends dedicated to a specific type of lace, will also be held quarterly in the space. “It’s its own world,” Salmon says. “I just want people to see the history of this unusual art form.” For more information, visit thelacemuseumllc.com.
METRO DETROIT WEDDINGS
A mid the modern-day restaurants, shops, and entertainment in downtown Northville, a small space that’s been fashioned to resemble a Paris lace shop houses an ivory silk wedding gown from the late 1800s and a peach-colored English Edwardian day dress from 1910 in its double bay windows. Tucked away basement-level in Northville Square, “The Lace Museum” is stenciled above its violet door. Mary Salmon, owner of the museum, welcomes guests entering the space she opened in late November as Debussy’s Claire De Lune plays in the background. “This is my funny, odd museum,” she says. Nearby, a stack of white gloves sits at the front of the space that Salmon says is only one of three dedicated lace museums in the country. By slipping on a pair, guests can hold any item in her more than 2,500-piece rotating collection, which includes portraits of unidentified aristocratic women, intricate fashion ensembles, sewing machines, lace-making bobbins, table linens, antique accessories, and more. Salmon says some of her earliest memories — the building blocks of her expansive knowledge of the textile — include admiring the beauty of her aunt’s lace tablecloths as a little girl. She continued learning about famous presidents and their lace cravats in grade school, and says she viewed lace adorned outfits in oil paintings at the Palace of Versailles in Paris when she was 12 years old. “Some people look at paintings and they think they’re beautiful, but for me it was just textiles and predominantly lace,” Salmon says. She’s spent more than 20 years growing her collection, knowing for the last 10 that she’d one day launch a museum.
Prior to opening the space, Salmon — who is also a federal representative for people with disabilities and a former artistic staff member with the Dayton Ballet in Ohio — stored her pieces at her 1880s Northville estate. Despite being kept in protective bins and boxes, the items were prone to strange smells and fold lines by not being properly archived or displayed. She needed a dedicated facility to care for her pieces, and says she attempted to have the collection shown at local historical societies and museums, such as The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn. “I tried really hard to give my collection out to venues where it would [be] beautifully displayed and the public could have enjoyed it ... but I couldn’t get anyone to take it seriously,” she says. “So, I always thought that I would have to do it on my own.”
Although the space is only about 1,000 square feet, it covers a large range of time — one of its exhibitions will focus on American Civil War-era fashion — as well as cultures from near and far. The museum has a number of local treasures along with more worldly finds from France, Ireland, Belgium, and Italy. There are vintage ensembles and accessories sold at Hudson’s department store, Detroit family heirlooms, and garments by Hugo Hill, a German fashion designer who ran a clothing business on Woodward Avenue during the 1800s. “I found beautiful things that families, probably farming families, inherited and they just kept them and stored them very well,” says Salmon, who visits auction houses on the East Coast, local estate sales, rural areas near Michigan State University, and more to add to her collection. On a yearly basis, she says that she accrues about 150 “really solid” pieces. Unlike most artwork, which can feature signatures from an artist, Salmon says it can sometimes be difficult to determine where her pieces came from. However, after years of practice, she now notices style characteristics that help her fill in the details.
A climate-controlled storage area and a small shopping space, which features a rack of vintage gowns and textiles as well as displays of hats, lace fans, and more, can be found behind the museum’s main display room. Instead of charging for admittance, profits from the space, along with sales to costume shops and personal requests, fund the museum. Salmon says the facility was previously empty, and she used her personal finances and sale profits to renovate and launch the museum. Along with its regular hours, visitors can schedule an appointment with Salmon to view The Lace Museum collection. She says this approach, along with thoughtfully written description cards placed throughout the space, is meant to help her share her knowledge with others. “If somebody came and wanted to look at things and peruse for an hour or two, I have couches they can sit on, and I’m there to describe things,” Salmon says. “I would love to educate people.”
Mary Salmon restores beads to an Antique Lace Dress
in the workroom of the Museum. (Photo below by Liz Cezat
of Northville City News: published February 9, 2017).
(February 9, 2017)
The Lace Museum of Detroit puts Northville on the map for its intriguing collection of hand-made lace - in clothing, accessories and tablecloths along with the tools used to create the ornamental fabric. This slice of history is tucked away on the lower level of Northville Square. Owner and Curator Mary Salmon, of Northville, is seeing her dream come true after opening the museum on Nov. 18, 2016, at 133 West Main St., Suite 160. Museum hours are seasonal, typically Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 5, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Call before going: 937-681-7219. Admission is free.
The exterior looks like an 19th century Victorian storefront. New wood floors cover the 1,000 square foot area, layered with Persian rugs. Sparkling chandeliers twinkle through the large front windows and velvet-lined exhibit cases display lace artifacts. A workroom in the back is equipped with a bright, swivel-mounted magnifying glass where Mary can re-stitch lace, beads and buttons.
With a long history working with disabled Americans in federal court, Mary's collection is self-funded. Her avocation is collecting lace and learning about its history. She is a font of knowledge about how lace was made using hand-crafted bobbins and lace-making round pillows made firm by horsehair. She can also tell you about the cottage industry that evolved around lace-making in Europe, and how the aristocrats who purchased lace-trimmed clothing and handmade linens would often have their initials or names stitched on the garment.
She became fascinated with lace at the age of 10 while visiting her aunt's home, which had a lot of linen and lace. "I wanted to live there because of all of the beautiful things she had," Mary said. "Lace is a female-dominated art form that's like a Picasso. The really nice pieces will never be duplicated. Lace making is all but extinct. Yet, it was part of the economy in Europe," Mary said. "The women who made lace were extraordinary artists. You had to be disciplined and intelligent to create geometric designs. Lace brought beauty to every part of society."
The lace makers used the money it brought for their farms and their children. "Lace was part of a cottage industry. It deserves respect," Mary said. "The lace on display is a part of the souls of the women who made it." This remarkable skill was also part of America's cottage industry in the 1800s but the Industrial Revolution turned lace making into a factory-produced item. Mary opened the museum in the Northville because she says, "Residents are educated and inquisitive, curious people. They would appreciate what I have. It's intellectual because of the history."
When she first told people she was opening a lace museum, some thought it might be like Victoria's Secret. She quickly dispels that notion, although the museum does have antique lace garter belts. A patron who had been visiting a bar in the building stumbled upon the museum and said, "Hey, what's going on in here?" Mary deftly handles all kinds of visitors - from teens to seniors and from newbies to history buffs. There is a retail component of buttons, lace garments and some historical pieces. "Northville has an endearing soul. This museum maintains the city's quaintness. I feel like it belongs here. If I inspire 10 people a month to learn more, then I've done my job," she said.
While the museum would have greater visibility on Main or Center streets, the lace would be damaged by sunlight streaming through the windows. The museum is bright enough to see the spectacular collection that Mary has carefully arranged within the space.
Mary invites all to come and see this extraordinary, now nearly extinct art-form. There are still some hobbyists who make lace and others who belong to lace or embroidery clubs.
Prior to starting the museum, Mary often took the lace items on the road and set up displays. In 2013, she sent out 40 letters to historic societies and museums in southeastern Michigan telling them about her collection and saying she would exhibit it for free at their venue. All of the museums, even the Henry Ford, turned her down. She also sent a letter to the VFW Hall in Northville (because of its WWI connection). They were interested and wanted to hear about her plan. They invited her to their board meeting. When she arrived on the appointed day, she found six to seven men in leather vests on the front lawn near the cannon with their motorcycles parked nearby.
One of them said, "Okay Mary. Tell us what you got." She told them that she would like to use their space to show her lace exhibit during the weekend of the Victorian Festival (renamed the Heritage Festival). The leader asked his board, "Who's in support?" One by one, the men said "Here, here," and pointed a finger skyward to show their consent. "God bless them. They were real characters. But they were the only ones who gave me any encouragement," she said. That event launched her exhibit locally and fed her motivation to open her own museum.
She used "Detroit" in the name since she travels on the East Coast and Europe to make purchases and people there don't know Northville but do know Detroit. Additionally, people come to the museum from Detroit. She often gets small groups of different ethnicities. Lace is a treasured tradition for Italians, for example. She would like to host fundraisers in the museum for charities that are based in Northville or benefit people in the city. "I want to give to this community and I don't expect anything back," she said. However, she does crave feedback...it shows people care and also helps her keep accurate historical notes.
When Mary Salmon of Northville looks at a piece of vintage handmade lace, she sees much more than carefully crafted, delicately beautiful geometric patterns spun from threads.
What she sees, instead, is much deeper: the souls of the age-old craftswomen who spent days and hours creating beautiful art, art that would last hundreds of years into the future and for which they would receive no credit.
“These women were brilliant; they were uneducated women who created incredible intelligent and articulate pieces of work which they would sell — without ever attaching their own names to their art,” said Salmon, owner and curator of The Lace Museum of Detroit, “It wasn’t like a Van Gogh or other pieces of art to which they could sign their names. They sold their work and it went out into history without them.”
It is her appreciation for those craftswomen and the lovely lace they made that led her to open the museum, one of only three lace museums in the nation, last November.
The Lace Museum of Detroit in Northville. (Photo: Mary Salmon)
The 1,000-square-foot museum, on Main Street in downtown Northville, features 18th and 19th century handmade lace and linen, as well as lace-making tools, textiles and fashion, carefully chosen and amassed by Salmon throughout her 55 years.
The museum’s permanent collection focuses on European and American lace and its influence on fashion and home décor during the 19th century. Bolts of linen and lace share space with individual textile pieces, Victorian and Edwardian-era fashion ensembles and table linens, as well as antique dressmaking tools, sewing machines and more. The museum also offers fine antique lace, as well as antique/vintage textiles, linens and clothing for purchase.
An example of antique lace at The Lace Museum of Detroit. (Photo: Submitted)
It is collection that has been meticulously curated with both the artisanal and historical value in mind.
“There is so much history in every piece. Handmade lace was a huge part of the economy in the past; it was very valuable,” Salmon said. “Lace was so valuable and exquisite that it would be smuggled in and out of countries.”
Lace was particularly popular with men in the United States as a status symbol in colonial times and proudly worn by early statesman such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, she said, adding, “It was a statement of your station in life.”
According to Salmon, lace began to fall out of favor around the time of the Civil War
Mary Salmon recently received a letter from Buckingham Palace from Queen Elizabeth's Lady in Waiting about her efforts at maintaining antique lace in America. (Photo: Submitted)
“It was a more serious time and lace began to be considered pretentious by some,” she said. In addition, the Industrial Revolution introduced machine-made lace and lace fell out of fashion as it became more accessible.
Overseas, however, handmade lace continued to be favored by European nobility and aristocracy.
Salmon recalls seeing portraits of historical figures in lesson books and as a child being drawn to their lace cravats.
“I may have been the only child in my school to have noticed the details on the clothing when we learned history,” she said with a laugh.
Growing up in a Polish-Irish family in the Detroit area, Salmon said she was surrounded by beautiful lace in her own home, as well as the homes of her aunts.
“I was always fascinated by the intricate design. The fact that it was made by hand from pieces of thread just amazed me,” Salmon said.
Her fascination with lace followed her through college, where she earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in political science. It continued through law school and as she raised her four, now-grown children.
“I spent time in Ireland and London and other parts of Europe and was able to learn so much about the art of making lace. I remember going to Versailles and seeing the portraits of kings and queens, all wearing gorgeous lace,” said Salmon, who works as representative for disabled Americans in the federal court system.
She began attending auctions in Boston and other cities on the east coast of the United States, purchasing handmade lace and linen pieces, as well as antique lace clothing, keeping some pieces for herself and selling others.
Serving as a merchant of lace, it soon became apparent that she was keeping more than she was selling. Friends began teasing her that she should open a museum.
“I would go to these big shows out east and find things that I just couldn’t part with,” she said. She also harbored a desire to share her collection with others and draw attention to an art form that is “all but dead.”
Salmon said the museum has had a positive response from the public since opening, with many visitors expressing a shared admiration for the almost-extinct art form.
Salmon recently learned that she and the museum goers are not alone in their admiration; it is also shared by certain reigning royalty “across the pond.”
Just last month, Salmon received a handwritten note from Queen Elizabeth II’s Lady-in-Waiting Phillipa de Pass, indicating that the queen shares Salmon’s enthusiasm for handmade lace. The note, written on Windsor Castle stationery, included well-wishes for the museum and the queen's appreciation “for all that I have done for handmade lace,” Salmon said, “It was so beautifully written and such a lovely gesture.”
Salmon said she is hopeful that an upcoming exhibit on the Civil War and another featuring antique equestrian habits will inspire increased interest in the historical pieces, drawing even more visitors to the museum.
She also has another objective.
“I just want respect for these old souls and for their incredible work. They did this work and just let it go out into the world. It is not signed or dated, but it is a piece of themselves that they left behind. That has value in and of itself,” she said.