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Linen Futures – a celebration of craft and linen in Northern Ireland

The month of August is a celebration of local arts and crafts with hundreds of events across the counties of Northern Ireland. This could not be complete without a celebration of the tradition of world famous Irish Linen. The SDC Northern Ireland region committee are all industry experts working with linen in its heyday, so were delighted to experience some of their local events.

Indigo dyeing

Indigo dyeing

It was a little like a Top Gear road trip with the first stop at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum to see the story of flax to fabric told as history as well as seeing the process. Originally a museum focusing on the local history of Lisburn and the Lagan Valley, the museum expanded in 1994 with the opening of the Irish Linen Centre. The museum has fully operational spinning wheels and hand operated looms which are run as a business and open to the public to see and chat to the weavers. It was magical to see, just like stepping back in time and the weavers really love their craft and are happy to chat and explain what they are doing.

The museum was also host to the “Linen Futures” a travelling exhibition celebrating collaborative craft and design practice based on the past, present and future landscape of Irish linen. Linen Futures aimed to communicate the value of textiles, eroded through globalisation, by encouraging design that emphasises longevity, durability and the timeless quality of linen. Twenty textile orientated practitioners have been linked through their Celtic roots by the Curator Jane McCann to embrace both the past heritage and modern style. There were just too many different styles of expression of the beauty and flexibility of linen to mention here. It was great to see a special work inspired by Carrickmacross Lace hand painted using distressed foil technique from Trish Belford (an SDC silver medalist).

Linen blog 5Then off to drive past the Titanic museum to Donaghadee with its silver sands coast line stopping at the home and studio of designer Jane McCann. Jane in recent years has become an expert in designing for wearable technologies. She said “working with high tech was exciting, but it was nice to have a counter balance of getting back to close nature’s raw materials.” Every day for a week Jane opened her home and studio to craft making with a different specialist teaching a craft each day including indigo dyeing, embroidery, felting and on the day we visited it was dyeing with natural products from the garden and sea shore on to silk and linen.

(left to right) Janet Best, Bobby Bunting, Paul Santokhi, Jane McCann, Alex Perry

(left to right) Janet Best, Bobby Bunting, Paul Santokhi, Jane McCann, Alex Perry

SDC member Janet Best had come from London to try her hand at natural dyeing and had great fun with the other crafters sharing their found treasures of nature. We understand that Janet’s silk scarf dyed with rust, leaves and raspberries produced a really nice design, but we had to leave before the dyeing process had finished.

Our thanks to Jane for her warm welcome and hope she will continue with more craft workshops next year.

With thanks to Paul Santokhi, Chair of the SDC Northern Ireland region for this blog. For details of future SDC events, please visit our website or email: marketing@sdc.org.uk.

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