I can work away on a design for days or sometimes even minutes and be very happy with the result. I can look at it and re-look at it and perhaps tweak this or that aspect, and sit back in a glow of a job well done. But then… but then I am required to share it, especially if I want the world to purchase my designs and, you know, keep the Cat (and me) from penury. And that’s where it can get a bit tricky, because (deep breath) other people see differently. Then they say something challenging. And then one has to think, which is no bad thing in and of itself but it does bring an intellectual aspect to a process that hitherto, at least for me, operates on an intuitive level. I surmise at heart that this is probably all at odds with what they teach on textile degree courses, but as I am self taught, I can contentedly do this in reverse, happy in the knowledge that the subconscious is a wondrous thing and I really am a textile artist after all!


And so to thinking. To start at the beginning, which is always a good place to start, but can be difficult if you are, like me, Irish. I live in London but travel back to Dublin to visit the folks probably not as often as I should. My mother is an avid supporter of the National Gallery of Ireland there, which not so long ago had a bit of a revamp, and off we went to view the upgrade. Very nice it is too – sensitively glassy, concretey and modern against the backdrop of the 1860s original. We sat down on the obligatory concrete bench to admire recumbently which is I feel the best position for admiration. Refreshed we set off to continue viewing the works on display, which handily were on the way to the café. If I was any good at all I’d be able to pinpoint exactly when and where my gaze fell on the exquisite grid but I confess I cannot. I can recall only seeing it, between the floor and the skirting board and tucked away behind I think a set of stairs in the older part of the gallery. It was a vent of some kind that much was clear. And it is clear that there was care in its design. Someone had thought about not only its function but also perhaps more importantly in that it was for an art gallery, an art gallery in Dublin, its form. Of all the works of art and contemporary architecture I had seen that day, it was this humble grid that I photographed.


Having looked down and been happily surprised, I was reminded to look up, indeed just to look. I think that this was the first time I actually saw my home city. Of course Dublin is nothing like it was when I was growing up. There’s been the Celtic Tiger, which then upped and died in spectacular fashion leaving a sad and rather grey pall over the city for several years. The banks were bailed out at great cost to the citizenry. The whole sorry mess has, I think, made Dublin a more vibrant, more alive, more interesting, more modern city. If she feels a little chaotic at times, that’s all to the good as she navigates a new path rooted in place but determinedly looking to the future. I am invigorated by every visit.


So what’s all this to do with an overlooked grid, albeit lovely, in an art gallery? Well somehow the grid, the embellishments on Dublin’s architecture and the water that flows through her all came together to make Incognito. At the time I was designing it, I had no thought of Dublin as such. At least not until I showed the stool covered with Incognito Dark to a friend. He looked at it and said, “it’s lovely but just not for me. I find the pattern too chaotic.” I nodded and heard myself saying, “yes, well, it’s inspired by Dublin; how her past is being broken up and reformed for the future; how this is a chaotic but ultimately joyful and rewarding process, which is reflected in the movement inherent in the fabric.” It’s amazing what one can drag up when one feels the need to provide an intellectual basis for a work. Why it should require an intellectual basis, I’ve no idea but in that moment, it did. He went on to ask me some very astute questions about why I do what I do and helped me to see my work in a different light.


So now I do think…just perhaps not exactly when I design. In that moment, shape, proportion, form and colour obsess me.


It’s only when I share what I have created that I can truly see it.


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