International Fibre Arts Festival 2018

On the May bank holiday weekend, the Interconnections 2 exhibition opened, in Boyle, Co. Roscommon.  The event, an exhibition of woven tapestries spread across two venues, is a collaboration between Irish and Scottish artists and runs until 25th May.

Line Dufour’s Fate, Destiny and Self Determination

Forty-four handwoven tapestries, the work of four Irish and four Scottish artists are on show at King House, an important historic building in the town.  Whilst Áras an Chontae in Roscommon town, houses two tapestry projects: Fate, Destiny and Self Determination by Canadian artist Line Defour, and Timelines, a collaborative tapestry, designed and woven by ten tapestry weavers. The weavers are Pascale De Coninck, Joan Baxter, Terry Dunne, Catherine Ryan, Lorna Donlon, Muriel Beckett, Frances Crowe, Heather Underwood, Tish Canniffe, and Frances Leach.

All ten Timelines tapestry weavers with the tapestry in the background

All ten weavers of the tapestry were in Roscommon for the festival, including the four of us based in County Cork.  It was great to meet again, for its first public showing, as it was the first time we had all been together since the beginning of the project. We met in smaller groups when we were weaving the tapestry, over a period of about 18 months. The tapestry was made at Pascale De Coninck’s Dancing Threads Studio near Midleton, in Cork.

Alice Maher’s prints

Tish, Heather and I travelled to Roscommon together. Pascale had arrived a day earlier. She was one of a great line up of speakers for the symposium on Saturday and Sunday. On the way to Roscommon, we stopped off in Thurles to see Alice Maher’s Vox Materia exhibition at the Source Arts Centre. In making her wood relief prints, she was influenced by a stone carving of a mermaid at Kilcooley Abbey near Thurles.

Joan Baxter’s The Selkie

Coincidentally, there is a strong connection between these works and Joan Baxter’s The Selkie, showing in the Interconnections 2 exhibition, at King House. Joan’s multi-layered landscape/seascape tapestries are influenced by storytelling, culture, and tradition. Stories about seals and mermaids are similar in Irish and Scottish folklore.

Sitting outside Gleesons

Gleeson’s Townhouse in Roscommon was our base for the weekend and we couldn’t have chosen a better place to stay. Most of the tapestry weavers stayed there and the atmosphere was perfect for meeting friends, chatting, swopping ideas and enjoying ourselves. The food was great too, including a barbeque in the square on Saturday night, with lamb chops on the menu. It is also a Lamb Festival, after all!  Frances Crowe had organised everything, down to the last detail. We marvelled at her energy, and her ability to bring so many weavers and artists together at this festival.

Frances Crowe with Councillor Orla Leydon

Frances is one of the Irish weavers exhibiting work at the Interconnections 2 exhibition in King House. Angela Forte, Mary Cuthbert, and Terry Dunne are the other Irish weavers, whilst John Brennan, Joan Baxter, Elizabeth Radcliffe and Amanda Gizzi are based in Scotland.

The exhibition is simply stunning. From the moment we walked through the big door at King House and saw Joan Baxter’s large Hallaig 2 tapestry (it’s the tapestry on the front of the catalogue) we were seriously impressed. We hadn’t seen anything like this exhibition in Ireland before. The images of some of the individual pieces, online, were great, but the real impact of these tapestries took place when we saw them in reality. Each of the artists talked passionately about their work, their influences and the techniques they use.

top row: Joan Baxter HALLAIG 2, Terry Dunne AUTUMN FALLING INTO SNOW, Mary Cuthbert DOWN UNDER, John Brennan SINGLE POPPY bottom row: Frances Crowe DISPLACED, Elizabeth Radcliffe WOOD NEAR BALQUIDDER, Amanda Gizzi HANDLE ME WITH CARE, Angela Forte RIVER ROAD

The symposium was on Saturday morning with speakers, Pascale De Coninck from Cork, Line Dufour from Canada, Anet Brusgaard, from Denmark, and Joan Baxter from Scotland. Pascale gave a presentation about the Timelines tapestry, how it came about and the challenges of working in a collaborative process. Line, had a fascinating talk about her Fate, Destiny and Self Determination tapestry project, and how much it has grown, in meaning, and in size, now that it is international (700 people from 36 countries have contributed 450 submissions to date). Joan talked about her work, where she learned tapestry, and the Henry Moore tapestries she worked on that influence her to this day. Anet told us about her approach to tapestry weaving and the important part colour and light play in her work. Each speaker showed beautiful slides as they were talking.

Samples and notes from John Brennan and Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter and John Brennan led the workshops, with the theme Weaving Green. They brought many tapestry samples showing the colours and materials they work with. Joan and John gave us individual suggestions and advice on what we were weaving and demonstrations of techniques that will, I’m sure influence our own practice. We swopped tips and tricks made new friendships and learned a lot about the different ways in which we approach our work.

Weaver’s Bazaar pop up shop

Weavers Bazaar supplied the wool for the workshops and provided a great pop up shop with colourful yarns and beautiful bobbins.

When the International Fibre Arts Festival comes to Roscommon in 2020, I’d advise you to book early so you don’t miss it!


Words and images by Frances Leach, several images used with kind permission from Frances Crowe

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