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Missing in (in)action

Apologies for the lack of contact – it has been a long time since we posted to the blog. We took a break from meeting as a group for the summer and are now back together again to work on our next project. And what an interesting project it is ….. but I can’t reveal all, just yet. The culmination will be an exhibition in the Coach House, Dublin Castle, next September….. a wonderful location to show work. Thanks to the OPW for giving us the opportunity.

We have started to sketch out ideas in our notebooks and to do sampling of possibilities or techniques that might eventually lead to a finished piece or evolve into a finished artwork …. here are some images from our September get-together. Well done to those who have already created such interesting textures and patterns – some of us need to catch up! More updates soon.

Soya Milk and Pigment to colour cloth.

Recently we were treated to a taster workshop on using soya milk and natural pigments to colour cloth. Colleen had attended a full workshop during the summer with textile artist, Claire Benn in the UK and was willing to share her knowledge with us. The sharing of skills and techniques within our group is an important part of being a collective. It takes the mystery out of something that can seem daunting and allows further exploration within a structured course if the process appeals to one. Dying of cloth can involve many chemicals and solvents that are not good for the environment so it was great to sample a method that is more environmentally friendly.

Using soya milk as a binder for the pigment is a cheap and ecological alternative to using acrylic binders. Soya bean is rich in protein which has adhesive like qualities and, when made into a milk, it bonds with the fibres of the cloth. To make the milk you soak the soya beans overnight and then blend into a milk.

This method is suitable for use on natural fibres, both cellulose (linen, cotton, viscose/rayon) and protein fibres such as silk and wool. The fabric must be scoured before use to remove the size or dressing used in the manufacturing process.

As you can see from the images we were really just playing with the process and the pigments. I don’t have any final images to show as the cloth has to be left to cure for four weeks before it can be ironed and used.

I have just outlined the basics of the process here but there is a lot more detail you will need if you are to try it yourself. Fiber Arts Take Two are releasing an online workshop in March 2023 called ‘Out of This Earth’ with Claire Benn, if anyone is interested in learning more. You can sign up to get notified of their courses and they have wonderful interviews with textile artists around the world and are a great source of information on textile art. www.fibreartstaketwo.com. Claire Benn is a textile artist, author and teacher who is passionate about landscape and the environment and you can see her work or sign up to her blog on her website. https://www.clairebenn.com.

Kinship in Nature

We are over the moon to have been accepted to show our work at Sculpture in Context, the longest running and most prestigious sculpture exhibition in Ireland. The exhibition is currently running in the National Botanic Gardens until 7th October. There are 169 pieces spread throughout the gardens, the indoor gallery and the greenhouses.

Our piece is called ‘Kinship’. The idea for the work came from our belief that the sustaining nature of our creative bond as a group of artists is a mirror of a tree’s root system. It provides anchorage and sustenance to flourish in a world beset with profound challenges. In many cultures, a red string or thread represents the labyrinth of connections tying together those whose lives intertwine. We worked collaboratively on ‘Kinship’, using the symbol of the red thread as a visual connection from us to the natural world, from our sculpture to the earth.

We carefully chose the location for ‘Kinship’, at the fallen Morus Nigra, as we think it reflects the resilience of nature and of humankind. The fallen tree remains firmly rooted. It survives and flourishes and shows beauty in adversity. There is another connection to this location. The Morus Nigra and the Morus Australis growing beside it, are mulberry trees, the leaves of which are food for silkworms. As textile artists, I could say we knew this in advance and that it contributed to our choice of location, but we didn’t until we arrived to install the work last week and ended up covered in fallen mulberries!

The gardens are open Monday – Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm, admission free. Our sincere thanks to the committee of Sculpture in Context for their commitment to this exhibition which is held each year since 1985.

https://sculptureincontext.ie/

A Year’s Turning through the early morning mists …

Our exhibition ‘A Year’s Turning’ was always going to be a challenge. Making art for display outdoors in Ireland is an exercise in hope over realism. We installed the artworks in the rain and they spent the first week in the early morning mists that can descend on the foothills of the Wicklow mountains. Hunting Brook Gardens in particular, with its exotic leaves, looked right at home in the warm mist which, to be honest, just added an element of mystery to some of the artworks:

  • A Touch of the Tropics, Dee Kelly
  • Stay At Home 2019-2020, Caroline Fitzgerald

Then last week, the sun shone and umbrellas were needed to shade us from the heat. It was a fabulous week where we got to chat in comfort with all the visitors. Those who came for the exhibition and were blown away by the gardens, and those who came for the gardens and were delighted to encounter the art.

We had a visit from Richard Murphy, who produces wonderful garden photography. He took images of our work in its garden setting taking full advantage of the beautiful early evening and early morning light. The intensity of the colours in his photographs is amazing and we really appreciate the trove of images he has captured. Here are a small sample but there are lots more on his Facebook and Instagram page (richardmurphyphotography).

  • Frivolous, Marie Dunne
  • Falling Leaves, Fidelma Barton
  • They Awoke One Morning, Colleen Prendiville
  • Wild Meadows, Elaine Peden

The project was a year in the making as we tracked the seasons in the gardens of June and Jimi Blake. We could not have imagined how successful it would be in terms of engagement with the public, pushing the boundaries of our art and expanding the range of materials we employ. The images below capture some of that diversity – ceramics by Hannaleena Ahonen and metal work by Helen McLoughlin.

  • One in a Tree, ceramic and crochet, Hannaleena Ahonen
  • Water Vessel?, sheet steel, Helen McLoughlin

Lots of red stickers have appeared (we have sold 21 artworks from the exhibition so far) and some of the works could have sold many times over. We have two commissions to undertake, so that is exciting.

Thank you to everyone who has supported ‘A Year’s Turning’ and, if you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, the gardens are open this week from

Wednesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Hunting Brook Garden (Jimi Blake) W91 YK33 Garden Entrance €8

Wednesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. June Blake’s Garden W91 EC90 Garden Entrance €6

Come rain or shine these gardens are always a treat.

element15 facing the elements!

Our exhibition, ‘A Year’s Turning’, has opened and will run for the next three weeks. This is an open air exhibition across two gardens – the well known Hunting Brook Garden of Jimi Blake and June Blake’s contemporary garden just around the corner on the N81 to Blessington.

We are either very brave or very stupid putting on a textile and mixed media exhibition outdoors! The weather has not exactly been in our favour but we have made the pieces to withstand the elements so hopefully all will be well. Many of the artworks have been fitted into or over steel frames which we commissioned from Barry Murphy, Anvil Ironworks, Saggart. The ‘frames’ have been produced to easily sit into any garden and will last forever. The reaction so far has been very positive and we are very grateful to those who have visited and to those who purchased on the first day.

Here are some images to whet your appetite.

Works by Fidelma Barton, Marie Dunne and Hannaleena Ahonen

The exhibition is open at the same time as the gardens:

11am – 4 pm, Wednesday – Saturday in Hunting Brook Garden, Lamb Hill, Blessington W91YK33

11am – 5 pm, Wednesday – Sunday in June Blake’s Garden, Tinode, Blessington W91 EC90

There is a charge into each garden via an honesty box ( €8 and €6 respectively ), so bring some cash. Both gardeners are happy for you to bring a picnic and linger. Lots of plants for sale and well as the artworks…..

We are very grateful to Kildare County Council Arts Service for grant support to mount this exhibition.