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a new community artwork made by the women of Open Circle Community Arts
About Common Thread
Common Thread is a collaborative project initiated by visual artist Carrie Lynam, working with a group of women from Open Circle Community Arts. Over the course of 9 mornings throughout Spring 2022 the group met weekly in the City Library, Johns Quay. The objective was to research, design and embroider an artwork based on the experiences of women 100 years ago in Kilkenny. The women of Open Circle stepped back in time to explore the experiences of women in Kilkenny 100 years ago. They took a thematic approach to their research of this time period and begin with the materials and techniques of their chosen artform – stitch, thread and fabric to uncover experiences of women from all walks of life at this time in Kilkenny. This collaborative research project culminated in the making of an embroidered artwork that tells a story and connects the viewer to this time in our collective history.
The approach to research was a personal one, it began with participants sharing objects, photographs and stories from their own family’s history. The passing around of objects such as snuff boxes, a hand written recipe book, items of clothing to name a few were great catalysts for discussion and asking further questions. The viewing of old family photographs collectively brought the group back and forward in time and around the world. A participant in the group had a family link to Cumann na mBan and this was an opportunity to focus on a particular line of research. This artwork is not about the women who went into combat or were there on noteworthy days that have made the history books, it acknowledges the everyday work that women did to support the Irish Revolution and subsequent Civil War 100 years ago, the invisible work is made visible.
The Common Thread project was funded by the Kilkenny County Council Decade of Centenaries programme, which is part of the national Decade of Centenaries programme of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. We also acknowledge the funding and excellent support provided by Kilkenny County Council, City Library.
An unveiling to the public of this collaboratively researched, designed and handmade artwork took place on Wednesday 17th August 2022 in the City Library, Kilkenny to celebrate Heritage Week. The women involved in the project shared their work and experience of the project to a full house. The attendees had an opportunity to learn about the research the group carried out, see evidence of the design process and try out some stitching for themselves
A short presentation by Carrie Lynam gave a deeper engagement with not only the themes explored but the techniques and skill that went into the making of the artwork.
I enjoyed the course, the camaraderie, the fun, and the opportunity to make something to commemorate the hidden unacknowledged mna na hEireann, the women of Ireland.
What a wonderful experience to have participated in the creation of this unique piece of artwork, ‘Common Thread’. I learnt so much both creatively and historically. I was very impressed with other participants’ wealth of knowledge and insight into women’s experiences one hundred years ago. I looked forward to every session and was excited to witness how the tapestry was developing. Many thanks to Carrie Lynam for her guidance and research, without whom this could not have been completed. Thanks also to all of the other ladies for the chats, the jokes, the anecdotes and the snippets of wisdom as we stitched together. How those sessions flew!!
The whole process was so positive and inclusive, one`s skill level wasn`t under scrutiny! The enjoyment and sharing as well as learning how to research a project like this was unique!
Research, design and embroidery by
Ailbhe Nich Ghearailt
Gráinne Quigley Lambert