Lace Reimagined: Amy Sands’ Art Brings Women’s Work to the Forefront

Artist Amy Sands with her Bobbin Lace Fence Project, installation of bobbin lace patterns on cut polystyrene along the historic wrought iron fence at the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN.
During this pandemic time period, many people around the world have been seeking out more indoor activities traditionally focused on during wintertime, but because of lockdowns and curfews the world population has spent a significant amount more time indoors.

Harkening back to the nineteenth century, Amy Sands’ works, based on a Swedish immigrant’s sample book of lace patterns, bring women’s work to the forefront with innovative and exquisite portrayals of contemporary art dialectics.  “I want to give homage to these works created for the home or clothing; the things that mattered to people. I’m fascinated with the time and care that went into the lace and garments of this time and the traditions that centered around them. These crafts often have their own stories, and I’m interested in the communal ways that women worked during this time,” Sands iterates.


Astra V, serigraph, stencil and hand coloring on duralar, 1/1, 16" X 16", 2021.


Sands’ exhibition, Lace Reimagined, at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, incorporates works that intersect her explorations redefining print today with digital interventions, questions of women’s work and its perception in history, and the contemporaneity of craft in the fine art dialectics. Her original intention was to work directly with objects in the American Swedish Institute’s collection, but because of the pandemic, she had to expand the boundaries of possibilities in her research, with wonderful and unexpected results including outdoor installations. Sands explains the background to this focus,


“I have been working with lace and patterns from the home for many years. The concept of women’s work is an important theme for me, and working with lace allows me to utilize the intricate patterns through cut paper and the printmaking process. This Knyppel Profver book was from the late 1800’s (Lannaskedebrunn, Sweden) so it was a fascinating resource to dive into. It contains real bobbin lace samples no larger than 2”-3” each made by Carolyn Hjelmerus, a Swedish immigrant who brought the book with her when she moved to Minneapolis in 1889.”


Bobbin Lace III (view), digital engraving on acrylic Plexiglas, 18 ½” X 18 ½”, 2021.


Sands takes printmaking to a new level using technology to create paper cut-outs as digital prints, along with printing on acrylic for the works which are installed on the gates of the institute. This allows visitors to interact and experience them on a larger scale closer to our own human body size, rather than with the tiny samples she used as source materials. On the one hand, she appeals to our sensitivities to the fragile nature of paper, lace that reveals and creates a barrier of modesty, and the delicate nature of creating a fence made of lace printed acrylic. Rather than seeing the usual banners outside the institute, which are typical of museums, her installation of acrylic works with lace prints truly brings the displays to the people in a lovely interaction with light both day and night.


The research and creation of these works has been supported with a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. I asked Sands what she hoped the public would experience and learn through this work, she replied, “While it may not be understood by looking at the works, I felt really connected to making this series during the pandemic. My research was originally supposed to be conducted at the museum itself, but because it was closed for much of the time, I received all the images and information via email and virtual meetings. The isolation felt really similar to the way in which the women worked during this time, often only having a small sample as their guide and no diagram pattern to follow. I hope that when visitors see this work, they also become interested in, and learn more about these historical patterns.”


Bobbin Lace V (view), digital engraving on acrylic Plexiglas 1/1, 10 ¾” X 32”, 2021.


I met Sands while she was working on her Master of Fine Arts’ degree at Pratt Institute and I ended up with her studio space in my last year at the university, after she graduated and returned to Minnesota. It is wonderful to see how her work in printmaking has expanded in relation to digital technologies, and historical sample works. The delicate layers of her paper works breathe color as if they are lightly dusted with pastel, appearing also as the transitions of color in one’s own iris. The acrylic installations on the exterior of the institute are a fresh approach, which will inspire others I am sure, while also creating links to the hidden or rarely lauded work of women over the centuries. Enjoy the show!


Bobbin Lace IV (view), digital engraving on acrylic Plexiglas, 1/1, 18” X 26 ½”, 2021.



Lace Reimagined— Amy Sands | April 10 to July 11, 2021, American Swedish Institute


Anne Murray