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Article by Marie Walsh

0 Comments Date: 08 May 2020 Blog: Ivana Safran
article-by-marie-walsh

To all Friends of Mountmellick Embroidery Museum,

Message from Chairperson of Mountmellick Museum,

Welcome to our latest article during the COVID 19 lockdown emanating from our Museum Committee. Thank you for joining us once more, We hope this finds you all well and staying safe, the outlook for a resolution to this crisis appears to be more positive, we all look forward to a reduction in some of the restrictions that we understandably are adhering to at present in the interest of all. Our Museum is eighteen years in existence this year, some of our exhibits are nearly two hundred years old. The application of this craft to create exquisite pieces has proven very resilient in that they are easily adapted and transposed, to compliment more contemporary creations. This week's article (with photographs and video illustrations) written by Museum Committee member Marie Walsh outlines how two of our exhibits were the result of very successive collaborations that incorporates an ancient craft with modern design. Tune in again next week for another museum related article.  

Over to you Marie.  

                                    Ann Dowling

This week's article brings us back into the museum and relates to two acquisitions on exhibition which are the result of collaboration projects, using heritage craft to inspire creativity in modern design. I refer to two contemporary dresses, designed by top Irish fashion designers and incorporating Mountmellick Embroidery, worked by local embroidery tutor and designer Dolores Dempsey.
The first collaboration was with renowned Laois designer Heidi Higgins. Heidi is an award-winning designer who graduated from NCAD in 2008 and just one year later she proudly introduced her own label to the Irish market. She presents a chic and contemporary label, whose motto represents the ' Heidi ' look perfectly -"elegance with a twist".
So in 2015 we invited Heidi to support the museum in the design of a contemporary creation, incorporating Mountmellick embroidery :- a heritage craft, but very much a living craft. Mountmellick Embroidery came into being in 1825 and although it has stayed pure to its origins, it has evolved over the years for different uses. Heidi chose one of her classically tailored dress patterns, made in a luxurious metallic gold and winter white lame fabric, to reflect the white cotton sateen which has a sheen and the matte thread which are traditionally used in Mountmellick Embroidery. Dolores created a delicate floral and butterfly pattern design for the sleeves and top of dress. The inspiration of unifying this traditional craft with modern dress design brought about this unique creation. The dress was unveiled by Heidi and generously donated to the museum for permanent display, for which we are most grateful.
Our second exhibition dress is the very successful result of a collaboration project in 2018 between The Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD) and The Design and Craft Council of Ireland (DCCoI), of which we are a member. The title of the project was.....' A complimentary meeting of Craft and Design. Heritage and craftsmanship are part of the DNA of the world's leading luxury brands. This season 2018 several CIFD members have collaborated with DCCoI craft persons using heritage skills and methods to provoke and inspire innovation, creativity and design.'
It was our good fortune to be invited by DCCoI to take part in this project and we were partnered with Irish Knitwear Designer Caroline Mitchell from Limerick. Caroline is a graduate of The Limerick School of Art and Design and has been a designer in Limerick city for about 20 years, having worked with Irish and International companies before setting up her own label. Caroline's unique designs feature hand beaded, crochet and embroidered details on easy to wear shapes with a focus on colour, texture and comfort. She specialises in designing for special occasions, Brides, mother of the bride and groom and also stocking several exclusive boutiques with her ready to wear collections. All of her knitwear is designed and made in Limerick.
So Caroline came to visit us in the museum to view and study the collection, and having created her design she sent pieces of knitting and the traditional embroidery fabric for Dolores to embroider with various time honoured patterns and stitches which were then woven with delicate bead work and crochet into the bodice of the dress. The skirt was inspired by the knitted fringing used to trim the edges of the finished traditional embroidery pieces. This stunning dress incorporates knit, crochet, embroidery and bead work inspired by old pieces of embroidery in the museum.
All the creations from this collaboration project were launched at the CIFD show in Dublin which I was delighted to attend with Dolores. Following that show the dress was modelled at London Fashion week and also displayed at The Knit and Stitch Show in RDS, Dublin.
In 2019 Caroline donated the dress to Mountmellick Embroidery and Heritage Museum for permanent  exhibition and it was launched here in December 2019.
It was a privilege for the museum committee to be involved in these two collaborations with Heidi, Caroline and Dolores and we very much appreciate their generosity and support. So as previously mentioned these two contemporary creations are on display in a large glass cabinet in the museum as a testament to 'The Living Craft'.
Speaking of which, I am sure many of you are working on your own embroidery creations during this Coronavirus pandemic as you social distance or are cocooning. Perhaps you might record or write ' the story' of your piece and get a photo or two taken as you weave your needle through the fabric of a future family heirloom noting the joy and pleasure in practising this ancient craft, in common with embroiderers over nearly 200 years, often through difficult times. So for the time being, stay home and stay safe and when life returns to normal, or a new normal come and have a look at those two beautiful dresses.


Best Regards,
Marie

 


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