Current Progressive Dairy digital edition
Advertisement

Lace art shares connection of dairy industry to city dwellers

Jen Bradley for Progressive Dairyman Published on 16 November 2018
Dagmar Beckel Machyckova showcasing lace art

Through the art of lace-making, Dagmar Beckel Machyckova is encouraging an unfamiliar audience to find the common thread between modern calf housing and urban human housing with her hand-spun masterpiece.

Discovering a love for handmade lace

Dagmar’s dairy career began when she married Andy Beckel, and together they formed Golden Calf Company LLC, but her love for lace began long before that, as a young girl growing up in her home country of the former Czechoslovakia.

advertisement

advertisement

She recalls her first encounter with lace arts as a magical one. “I was 9 years old, standing in an old village in the Slovakian mountains surrounded by wooden houses. In front of every house, there was a porch, and on the porch ladies in scarves sat making these clicking noises with their hands,” she says. “Upon closer inspection, I found them to have little pieces of wood in their hands with lots of thread, and as their hands quickly moved, the threads created gorgeous patterns.”

Her childhood friend showed her how the art was done later that week, and Dagmar has been mesmerized since. Her mom helped her find classes, but it took them two years before they could find someone who didn’t impose a 15 years of age minimum. “So, I started with a book and later found an elderly woman who taught an after-school program,” Dagmar explains.

She entered the Czech School Institute of Art Manufacturing in Prague at age 14 and obtained her lace-maker degree. Since then, Dagmar has spent a lot of time studying and learning about modern lace, taking and teaching classes all over the world.

Dagmar Beckel Machyckova

A statement in lace

For Dagmar, the opportunity to combine her love of lace art and her passion for the dairy industry has been exciting and way to bridge the disconnect between those on and off farms. A unique opportunity came her way when a New York curator approached her about creating an exhibition in New Jersey showcasing contemporary lace exhibits. This was the platform she had been waiting for.

advertisement

“I felt it was necessary to make sure my piece carries a message that defends dairy farming and what it has become,” she says. “I grew up in a city and married into a dairy farming family, so I am able to relate to both perspectives and understand the disconnectedness between the two.”

That motivation inspired what she named the “Habitats of Hypocrisy” project, a thought-provoking design of calf housing and human housing.

This artist also didn’t want her message to be misinterpreted, which is why Dagmar says she included calf hutches and three rows of houses in the final piece. “The idea is to show the world that as humans we are quick to criticize what we see, but hardly ever take the time to investigate why it is happening, partially out of the fear that we might find ourselves to be the cause of the problem,” she explains.

“By juxtaposing the rows of calf hutches against the rows of houses, I was able to reinforce the image that a city is just a ‘concentrated people feeding operation’ that drives the ‘concentrated animal feeding operation,’ and that neither of them exists in a vacuum,” she notes. “My hopes are that the piece will make people think twice about judging the farming community at first glance and, rather, try to learn more about it.”

For her, an interesting part of the experience was making sure the descriptions in the exhibit’s catalog were accurate. Dagmar explains the concept of showing rows of calf hutches without criticizing seemed like a foreign concept to the East Coast group, and so she exchanged many emails with the curator to make ensure those descriptions were correct.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Dagmar’s experiences as both a city dweller and, today, a dairy entrepreneur create a unique understanding of how food production is viewed from the outside looking in. She was raised in Prague in the previous Czechoslovakia during its time in the Communist Bloc, but came to the U.S. on a Rotary Youth Exchange scholarship. She previously told Progressive Dairyman that the opportunity filled her with hope and empowerment, to work hard and believe she could achieve her dreams.

advertisement

She finished high school with a desire to return to the U.S. and then received a scholarship to complete college and a master’s program in the same stay. She met her now husband when her employer at the time was applying for a visa to help her stay in the country. She had to return to the Czech Republic to wait for the visa to be issued, but when Dagmar returned to Minneapolis, she found out her employer was shutting down in Minnesota and moving to Texas. After being unable to find a job, she had to go back again to Europe, but returned to Wisconsin with a proposal from Beckel.

They struggled to find a farm to buy and instead built a barn themselves, while Dagmar also worked at the City of Eau Claire’s Economic Development Division. In 2010, the duo introduced their company to the industry at World Dairy Expo, with their first product, the ColoQuick colostrum management system. Today, they both work in their business and have garnered national recognition for their calf care solutions.

Dagmar Beckel Machyckova with lace art

Teacher at heart

While Dagmar has embraced the Wisconsin dairy lifestyle and enjoys teaching others about quality calf care, she also enjoys the opportunities to share her love of lace art with others. Since 2006, she has been teaching bobbin lace in the U.S. and, since 2012, serving as an instructor at the national level with the International Organization for Lace Inc. at their annual convention. She says she likes to balance between modern and traditional lace art techniques.

“From a creative perspective, I love teaching the contemporary lace classes, where we start with an outline image and over the course of class, we make it in bobbin lace,” Dagmar says, adding that last year one of her students was working on her favorite 4-H goat. She says a class that has lots of creativity, less rules and is more art than craft is what makes her happy.

In order to maintain a connection to the heritage of lace-making, she also offers classes in traditional Czech and Slovak lace, where there are rules bound by the region and the specific lace. Dagmar says the class participants can explore how lace was made centuries ago and preserve it for the future.

“Lace-making to me is two things: a connection to the past, and a way to create something new,” she says. Her favorite memory in the years of lace-making is when her mom gave her an antique pillow for her college graduation, with bobbins and lace already started that were more than 100 years old. She was able to sit down and continue the lace someone began long before that.

“It was a very spiritual moment, a connection to generations that came before us,” Dagmar concludes. “In some ways, it reminds me of farming, where we pass the land, the knowledge and the craft on to the next generation. It is a sense of belonging.”  end mark

Jen Bradley is a freelance writer in Chilton, Wisconsin.

PHOTO 1: Dagmar Beckel Machyckova’s lace art is featured in New Jersey as part of a “Habitats of Hypocrisy” project. Her work with calf hutches is intended to help consumers understand this part of dairy farm life.

PHOTO 2: Dagmar says her interest in lace art began when she was 9. She obtained a lace-maker degree at age 14. Today, she has an exhibit on display and has taught classes since 2006.

PHOTO 3: “My hopes are that the piece will make people think twice about judging the farming community at first glance and, rather, try to learn more about it,” Dagmar says. Photos provided by Dagmar Beckel Machyckova.

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS