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New exhibition and conference to re-imagine Limerick’s lace tradition

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Over recent years the focus on Limerick’s cultural offering has enabled us to re-imagine traditional aspects of our cultural history whilst also discovering the value of bringing culture and artistic elements to the streets of our city.

Anyone who has visited the area around the Potato Market in Limerick recently will have noticed an unusual intricate piece of public art. From a distance it looks somewhat like a giant spider’s web weaved through branches of trees in Brian Boru square on Merchants Quay. On closer inspection it is clear this installation is clever nod to the form of delicate lace for which Limerick is synonymous.

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The work is by a street artist called NeSpoon, a Warsaw based street artist who uses lace patterns to create delicate and visually unique artwork on public spaces. All of her work is inspired by the fabric of lace.

Most of us would consider street art to be of the sort linked to the graffiti movement of the 1980’s. During our year as National City of Culture we saw examples popping up across the city, many of which have now become an accepted part of the urban fabric.

Just last year as part of the Sign Painters exhibition in the city we saw the unveiling of a large public installation using the title of the Cranberry’s first album ‘Everybody’s Doing it. Why Can’t We?’. The finished piece, crafted by skilled sign painters, has been on view on the side of Brown Thomas for over a year.

NeSpoon is interesting in the sense that she isn’t a street artist in the traditional sense. She describes her work as somewhere in between street art, pottery, painting, sculpture and jewellery.

“I like to make positive art and deal with positive emotions”, she says. “Sometimes I also use my works to comment on social and politics issues that are important to me”.

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Most of NeSpoon’s work consist of prints of traditional laces, made in clay or painted on the walls. Here reason for focussing on lace is the fact that she believes there is an aesthetic code, which is deeply embedded in every culture.

“In every lace we find symmetry, some kind of order and harmony, isn’t that what we all seek for instinctively?”, she asks.

“Why street art? Because it gives freedom”.

NeSpoon’s Limerick piece is part of an upcoming multi-site exhibition celebrating Limerick’s history of lacemaking and contemporary lace forms.

Hybrid: Limerick Lace Liminal Identity exhibition and conference taking place in Limerick later this month and is a partnership project between Limerick Museum and Archives and Limerick School of Art and Design.

There seems to be a renewed interest in the tradition of Limerick Lace over recent years. December 2014 saw the launch of Amazing Lace, a book written by Matthew Potter and edited by Jacqui Hayes, which focussed on Limerick’s lace tradition.

Potter, Hayes and the research team conducted extensive searches in newspapers, archives and online resources as well as speaking to people who still practice the craft or have family links to the Limerick Lace tradition.

Jacqui Hayes is Archivist with Limerick City and County Council and believes the skills of lacemaking almost died out and it is so important to preserve a tradition that Limerick can be very proud of.

Commenting on the NeSpoon instalment Hayes notes: “Bringing lace to the street adds energy and excitement to this tradition. There are lots of possibilities with lace. Even if you have no interest in lace or craft, this work illustrates the power of pattern – it’s fun and beautiful and uplifting.”

 A-lace-worker-making-Limerick-lace-1936-Courtesy-of-Veronica-Rowe
A-lace-worker-making-Limerick-lace-1936-Courtesy-of-Veronica-Rowe

The Limerick Lace industry was founded in 1829 when an Englishman Charles Walker established a factory at Mount Kennett Limerick and began training the first recruits. At its height the industry provided work for 1800 women. Limerick lace was prized for its quality and design and was worn by royalty and exported throughout the world.

The Hybrid conference and exhibition will address the role of multiple influences in the creation of contemporary lace inspired work. Hybrid will investigate the role of lace and its social-economic history and how this once pure entity is continuously transforming and recombining in its use of materials, execution and consumption.

The event will consist of a multi-site exhibition and conference exploring the past, present and future of lace addressing the role of multiple influences in the creation of contemporary lace inspired work. The city centre venues will include exhibition space at Limerick School of Art and Design, FabLab on Rutland St and the local authority building on Merchant’s Quay.

Conference speakers will include textile artists, lace makers, lace historians and curators. Experts from other great lace centres in Nottingham and Calais will address the heritage and future of lace and what it means to contemporary society.

What I love about NeSpoon’s piece of public art in the city is the fact that it not only animates the Merchant’s Quay square but also reminds us of our cultural history and somehow reintroduces this almost forgotten tradition to the masses.

In the words of Giordana Giache, Lecturer in Limerick School of Art and Design commented: “It’s like urban jewellery. Enhancing what’s already there in a way that is very immediate. People can easily relate to this artform- it’s almost like a delicate and intricate spider’s web – all inspired by lace.”

“It’s great to see people walking through the installation, touching it and taking selfies. We were thrilled that NeSpoon accepted our invitation to bring her celebration of lace to Limerick, where we are reconnecting with a long tradition. The skills of Limerick lace are acquired slowly and the skill level to achieve the quality required of Limerick Lace takes many years to acquire.”

The Hybrid conference and exhibition will run from 24th October until November 4th. Tickets for various events are available through the Lime Tree box office here.

Conference speakers will include:

  • Dr Gail Baxter – Lace-maker and researcher, Lace Research Network, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham.
  • Shazia Boucher – Deputy Director, International Centre of Lace and Fashion, Calais.
  • Dr Amanda-Briggs Goode – Head of Fashion Knitwear & Textile Design, School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University Nottingham Trent University.
  • Roisin de Buitleir – Ireland’s best known glass artist and educator.
  • Dr Maura Cronin – Lecturer in History, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.
  • Giordana Giache – Lace-maker and lecturer at Limerick School of Art and Design.
  • Toni O’Malley – Limerick-based lace-maker and artist.
  • Dr Matthew Potter – Author of Amazing Lace and Historian at Limerick Archives.

Other examples of NeSpoon’s work can be view here: http://www.womenstreetartists.com/nespoon

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