Manca Ahlin's bobbin lace mammoth adorns Texas airport terminal
One of the walls of the newly renovated airport terminal in Waco, Texas is adorned by a huge bobbin lace depicting a life-sized mammoth and her calf in what is the latest creation by Slovenian New York-based artist Manca Ahlin.
Ahlin's is one of four pieces of art commissioned from more than 100 submissions as part of a US$8.8 million renovation of the Waco Regional Airport terminal. Apart from hers, works by Mike Tabor, Eirini Linardaki and Bryan Stanton were displayed as the refurbished terminal opened on 15 December.
Measuring nearly five metres, the mammoth weaving made of jute and cotton rope makes a reference to the Waco Mammoth National Monument, a paleontological site and museum where fossils of two dozen Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age mammals have been discovered.
Ahlin comes from Žiri, a town in western Slovenia that is known for its bobin lace-making tradition. She describes herself as an architect who creates a piece of art now and then, but she has been making bobbin lace since her childhood.
Manca Ahlin working on her creation at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Photo: Manca Ahlin
Before Waco she was involved in the renovation of the old Carnegie Library to transform it into MuseumLab, an extension of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Inside, Ahlin created Gymlacium, a three-storey installation of ropes where children over the age of 10 can climb, crawl, play tag, swing and explore.
She wove and knotted rope lace elements by hand, making structural elements in the studio, while installing the connecting ropes on site through months of work, including during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 when she was alone in the museum.
Including design and planning, she spent three years working on the project. Later she added two similar installations for smaller children, Knot Ramp and Hi Bridge, in the original building of the Children's Museum.
"The idea for the giant rope lace came to me in New York during a major existential crisis a few years ago, when I started making bobbin lace as therapy," she says.
She was getting ideas of what else she could create in this medium, and slowly the shapes became more and more three-dimensional and the materials thicker and thicker - industrial. "Somewhere around the size of two metres, architects with the right clients noticed my work. The rest is history, as the Americans say," she adds.
Manca Ahlin's lace screens at the Etsy headquarters in Dumbo, New York. Photo: Manca Ahlin
Ahlin has also used ropes to create elegant decorations and screens for the new Etsy head office in Brooklyn, New York. Etsy is an e-commerce company focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies.
In a similar way, she created an artwork for a Starbucks cafe next to the Brooklyn Bridge and restaurants in southern Manattan. Her image of the Good Shepherd adorns a wall of the Slovenian St Cyril's Church in East Village.
Manca Ahlin's lace at Skinos restaurant, New York. Photo: Manca Ahlin
In Slovenia, Ahlin has installed two artworks in her home town of Žiri, and in Beričevo on the outskirts of Ljubljana, she decorated the office building of ELES, the national grid operator, with a lacework made of electric cables that runs through four floors and represents a plan of Nikola Tesla's electric motor.
Two years ago, Ahlin and painter Aleksij Kobal created an installation called Dilemmas Crisscrossed at the Božidar Jakac Gallery in the space of a church in the former monastery complex in Kostanjevica na Krki. For it she wove a five-metre Möbius strip to represent the cyclical repetition of history.