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Down by the Salley Gardens

Last year, the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland had an open call to members to submit textile pieces for an exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the poet, W.B. Yeats.   A number of talented textile artists were finally chosen to exhibit and the collection was shown at the Knitting and Stitching show in the RDS last November.   The exhibition was called ‘Thread Song’ – a wonderful name.

The exhibition inspired me to create my own small tribute to Yeats and his poem “Down by the Salley Gardens” immediately came to mind.  For me the words of this poem conjures up a misty, early morning image of a slow river weir, fringed by long grasses, rushes and, of course, willow trees (salleys).

Detail from “Down by the Salley Gardens”, Barbara Seery

My starting point was two vintage wooden spools which I had been saving for use on a suitable project.  I cut some Irish linen into long strips and soaked the bottom half of each strip in watered down acrylic paints.  I let them dry and then repeated the process. The effect was of layers of different depths of colour forming a good landscape background.   The most promising looking strip was then attached to pelmet quality vilene to give it some rigidity.  I used ink pens to draw willow trees and a boat house and then overlaid the strip with painted bondaweb, trapped threads and scraps of silk chiffon to give a diffused, misty effect.    Finally, I used free machine embroidery and silk threads to stitch what seemed like a million rushes along the length of the piece and I left the various coloured threads hanging.

Down by Salley Garden

Attaching the piece to the wooden spools so that it could withstand the tension of being pulled taut took a number of efforts and the problem of how to mount it was resolved by Niamh of Iniscarra Gallery and Framers, Rathcoole.

This was a really enjoyable creative exercise and technically easy – so give it a try yourself!




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