From 11 March, several costly historical pieces are on display in two galleries alongside old master paintings depicting people wearing luxurious lace accessories and the work of contemporary artists and designers who have been inspired by traditional lace. One of these contemporary artists is Isabel Ferrand (Figueira da Foz 1962), of whom three installations are on show. In Ferrand’s work, the ‘memory’ of the hands is central.

Isabel Ferrand would have liked to make World Lace, consisting of 1300 porcelain tiles, from lace, but in order to do so she would have to spend years learning the complicated bobbin lace technique. But she also had to practice for many hours to make the porcelain tiles. Ultimately it’s as if the experience has been engrained in the ‘memory’ of her hands.

Craftspeople become proficient through hundreds of hours of practice and repetition of the same movements. Whoever learns to throw clay on a potter’s wheel goes through the same process. Just how gradually the skill is acquired becomes clear when you cut the test vases vertically, mercilessly revealing every irregularity. But gradually the vases get increasingly better. Eventually the skill is so anchored in the memory that the potter’s hands are able to make a vase without clay.

In the other work from this series Ferrand attempts to make a typical Korean moon jar while wearing a blindfold. This is a ceramic form that she admires greatly but the technical skill required to make it does not reside in her hands’ memory.