In the 1970’s in the weaving department at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin, students were actively discouraged from the medium (of tapestry). The head of department favored the Theo Mormon inlay technique which was the only one she would teach. Having learned the technique of Gobelins tapestry as a teenager, I had made my way to Art College to immerse myself in the technique. So it was an act of defiance that some of us in the weaving department would join the students from the Education Department one evening a week to learn the basics from the lovely Evelyn Lyndsey who encouraged all her students to explore and experiment further with the techniques. When Theresa McKenna arrived into the college as a part time tutor from a post grad in tapestry at the Edinburgh College of Art she opened our eyes further to the wider world of tapestry. The college in Edinburgh had a somewhat mystical quality of the Holy Grail of tapestry, in my mind anyway. I regret that I never studied there.
Before I became involved with Interconnections, I had not woven a tapestry since 1995. The first Interconnections exhibition coincided with my deciding that I might start weaving again. I reached out to my former weaving colleagues on Facebook to ask about tapestry cotton suppliers and Frances got back to me telling me about the exhibition she was organizing in conjunction with Joan Baxter and a group of Scottish weavers. I was amazed and delighted to become involved. It was such a stroke of luck or perhaps destiny that I had posed my question at just the right time. Having moved away from tapestry in the 1990’s, I felt, and still feel at a bit of a loss when it comes to the medium in the context of the wider world. I‘m playing catch up most of the time and I must say that being involved with interconnections 1, 2 and 3 and the participation in both symposia have been an enormous help in finding my feet again.
In my experience woven tapestry has been like a distant cousin twice removed to the tradition of cloth weaving in Ireland. It is my impression that tapestry weaving is held in higher esteem in Britain and the USA, in that it is accepted as an art form. It was always my ambition to run a studio making art tapestries. The innocence and enthusiasm of youth seemed to make the dream come true. At that time I found many architects willing to commission tapestries for public interiors. Even though there was a recession in 1980’s I was busy full time on commissioned pieces. Terry Dunne and I had studios in the same building at the Tower Design Centre in Dublin. I think we felt that there was the possibility to make some sort of a living from tapestry weaving at that time. There was a healthy market between Ireland and USA and I exported one off pieces to private clients there. It’s funny to think that in pre internet times it was possible to reach across the world through the mail and design pieces for far off clients. When I gave up weaving in 1995 it was for family reasons but I did sense that commissions and opportunities to exhibit were becoming less plentiful.