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In June this year, Helen McLoughlin completed a Diploma in Art & Design at NCAD with modules in sculpture, photography, painting, film and visual culture. 

Her graduating body of work explores barriers in relation to privacy, security, isolation and the fragility of our existence. 

210 x 190 x 32 cm
DPC, Bolts, Tape

Barriers can engender a feeling safety and security, or the complete opposite, depending on perspective.  Primarily using Damp Proof Course (DPC) membrane, Helen created a series of large scale structures and installations, which she sited outdoors.  DPC is used as a barrier in the construction industry.

150 x 190 cm
DPC, Dogwood Branches

Searching for the aesthetic in the unusual, and concerned with materialism and the throwaway culture, Helen works largely with recycled or found materials, low value building products and organic matter; she allows her materials to lead the work.  Photography is also integral to her practice.

185 x 130 x 230 cm (variable),
DPC, running water allowed to pull and evolve its form

490 x 300 cm
Hazel Rods collected locally, netting

185 x 213 cm
Photographs on acetate, recycled screen

Another Graduate

Next person to feature in our spotlight on members completing college courses this year is Barbara SeeryShe undertook 2.5 modules in her final year of a Higher Certificate in Visual Art Practice in NCAD:  Painting and Visual Research, Drawing and Sculpture and a 10 week module in Professional Practice.   

Painting and Visual Research puts as much emphasis on research as it does on painting.   Researching, documenting and developing one’s chosen theme and also looking into the techniques and styles used by artists who might have painted similar themes.   Life drawing, blind drawing and study of composition, tone and colour also form part of the programme.  Barbara’s interest was taken by structures and her mid term assignment was a painting of the Sean O’Casey pedestrian bridge in Dublin, which appealed to her for its complicated form and interesting shapes.   

Sean O'Casey Bridge, Barbara Seery


Continuing her interest in structures, Barbara looked to the rural environment for inspiration for the end of term project.   Her local area provided plenty to work on: vernacular farm cottages now used for storage, Dutch hay sheds painted a faded oxide red, barn doors, iron gates held upright with baling twine and corrugated metal sheds.  The final brief was to produce a series of six small paintings on the chosen subject matter (four of which are shown below).

Oxide Barn, Barbara Seery  

By concentrating on the simple forms of the structures and using a muted colour palette, she rendered these unremarkable buildings in a contemporary, rather than nostalgic, format.  The paintings are minimalist, with a flat, untextured finish on deep boxed canvases which support the contemporary expression.


Drawing and Sculpture gives students a chance to work in 3D.   Barbara created three installations to draw attention to the numbers of migrants dying whilst trying to reach Europe or whilst awaiting processing of their refugee applications in Europe.  The statistics are shocking.

Barbara used teabags in various forms as a metaphor for the lack of welcome offered to migrants seeking a life in Europe.  Tea is a universal comfort, a symbol of welcome and hospitality for visitors.  Rituals of welcome involving tea have been used around the world for centuries.

Some drowned refugees have been found with pouches of soil from their home countries sewn into their clothing.    In “Memento” Barbara used tea bags dipped in plaster to represent the weight of that memento of home. The orange thread is reminiscent of the life jackets that didn’t save them.  


The names of the countries of origin were written on the ‘tag’ of each tea bag – a total of 50 teabags were sewn between 3 metre sheets of skizzen paper (like tracing paper) to form two hangings.

For the second installation, “There are many Ways …”, Barbara took the statistics for one year, 2018, and recorded the many ways in which migrants died by writing the cause of death onto unused teabags.  By dipping the ends of the open teabags into wax they could be held open to resemble Chinese lanterns of hope moving in the wind.   Again, orange thread was used to hang the teabags and plaster casts of hands were made and fixed to a wooden pedestal underneath.


Barbara’s third installation comprised two scroll or banners using charcoal, ink, pastel and wax on rice paper.  Titled “Paths to Nowhere” no maps can prepare for the journey which ends in nowhere”.

The data used on country of origin and cause of death has been extracted from a list compiled by UNITED Against Refugee Deaths.eu, an NGO which has, since 1993, documented 36,570 deaths of migrants and refugees to Europe.  Barbara printed the list and displayed it with the installations so that viewers could see the full source material.  Unfortunately, the end of year exhibition did not take place in June but NCAD will be producing a digital catalogue in the autumn showcasing the work of graduates from its Continuing Education programme and its full time students.



Life Long Learning

It is wonderful to be able to embrace life long learning – to have the courage, time, interest and money to wade back into education.  This week, and in the following weeks, we highlight the work of members who have just graduated from the college courses they have pursued for the last few years in the National College of Art and Design.   It has been a bit of an anti-climax as, this very week, they should be showcasing their final pieces at the NCAD CEAD Annual Exhibition but instead the works of art are packed in boxes under the bed or stuffed in drawers or garden sheds.  So we asked them to release their work to the light of day, and let us see the products of their last few months of research and making.
First up is Caroline Fitzgerald who studied two modules in the final year of a Certificate in Visual Art Practice.   The modules, Creative Embroidery and Drawing and Sculpture, couldn’t be more different in every way : content, practice and even location within the college.
Creative Embroidery takes place in a calm, well light and airy part of the original building with views down Thomas Street through lovely tall windows.   Sculpture on the other hand, takes place in an appropriately rough and ready studio with lumps of plaster adorning the tables and chairs and plenty of scope for physical engagement with creativity and mess!
In her final project for the Creative Embroidery module, Caroline took her inspiration from an old spoon she found at her holiday home by the sea.  “It reminded me of a sea shell and, as I find it hard not to come home from a walk on the beach without collecting shells, this seemed to be a theme needing exploration”.  
Caroline developed notebook studies and samples looking at the shapes and textures of sea shells and then mimiced these patterns and shapes with stitch on fabric.  The background of this final piece is a digital image of a shibori and indigo dyed piece of organic linen.  “I used a combination of slow hand stitches using silk thread, and free machine embroidery in metallic threads, to create shapes and texture which are further embellished using gold and copper foil”.  The finished piece is 20 x 57 cm
Shell, Caroline Fitzgerald
Caroline’s final project for the Drawing and Sculpture module is titled “Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk”.
“The development of the concept of ‘walking’ to heal yourself, using it as a form of self-medication.  Going for a walk, one step in front of the other can be both mindful and meditative.  The very act of being in nature and the observations we make about our surroundings, the footprints we leave on the ground and the images we take with us to sustain us later when the need arises”
Caroline worked through the ideas for her piece on large scrolls of brown paper and created a virtical ‘rugged path’ as an integral part of the finished installation.

Detail of 2.5 m scroll
Brown paper scroll , ink, acrylic paint, handmade papers and fabric
For the 3D element of the installation Caroline used three bundles of wood (representing life), with fabric dipped in plaster, plaster mould, wax mould (with light detail), distressed and painted handmade paper and found objects from nature all tied up together with copper wire.
Congratulations Caroline on completing the Certificate and well done on the pushing the boundaries of your creativity.  We hope some day to see the final pieces assembled in one place.


Elaine Peden is a powerhouse of creativity. Whilst working part time during the lockdown, she has also managed to work on a number of creative projects inspired by her longstanding love of the ocean.

Whilst yellow is not normally a colour Elaine uses in her work (she says she runs a mile from it!) the colour combination is beautiful in this wall hanging. The piece has come out of her concern about all the plastics in the ocean – to be honest plastic inspired work has never looked so good!! We can’t wait to see it in reality and in its entirety.

Elaine’s preoccupation with the seashore continues in other pieces she is creating, small samples of which are captured in this image : driftwood, white felted pods and crochet small vessels.

The crochet vessels are made from paper ‘twine’ which she bought in Finland.  With all the paper mills in that country they make good use of waste product making twine in three different strengths. The lighter one is used for crochet etc as in Elaine’s sample above and the heavier is really strong and has many uses such as basket making.  It is woven tight to form a fine twine/thread then dyed. 

And just when you thought there could not be anything more – there is! Paper weaving…. using the aforementioned paper twine and this fascinating, and rather beautiful, piece of equipment. Elaine, we will have to get a demonstration!

Works in Progress

It looks like we will have the makings of a really good exhibition or two by the time we can actually meet up and work together again as a group. Some of us (not me!) are finding the time, and the head space, to work with their hands, whether it is with the sewing machine, the needle and embroidery thread, the paint brush or the dye pot. A quick peek at some works in progress this week ….

Fidelma Barton is working on ‘The Past …is impenetrable’.   She has dyed the base material using flour paste as a resist to create the background, then painted the window detail in acrylic. She is adding the brambles, leaves and eventually the roof using various types of stitch and appliqued textiles. The piece captures an air of neglect and a hidden history just waiting to be uncovered.

Trish Webb Duffy is working on a number of projects, one of which is a series of 18 small hand dyed and stitched squares. She may make them into little cubes or leave them in a grid formation – we will have to wait and see..

Hannaleena Ahonen’s forte is hand stitching and applique. She is definitely looking on the bright side of our current situation with this colourful and happy piece. Its’ sunshine colours would make anyone smile.

Lastly this is Kathrina Hughes’s lockdown project – based on a photo of her husband’s niece heading off into a field of buttercups. I don’t think it needs any words.

Stay safe everyone.