I was delighted to be awarded this new percent for art commission Semblance last year for Scoíl Bhríde in Edenderry, Co Offaly. The project is being curated by Rina Whyte with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Education. I have been busy collaborating with 100 students from 5th and 6th class to make it happen. We have carried out a series of creative engagements with the students over a number of months which feed into and help shape the final project outcomes.
The project started out with a series of craft workshops in February 2020 making traditional St Brigid crosses using rushes with Heritage Specialist Melanie Lorien. There was great engagement with a large number of students who really worked very hard to manipulate the rushes and get their hands working. Our lives today are very technological, so it was good to touch natural materials so to speak. Melanine was a wonderful tutor in the art of rush manipulation and showed many examples of how rushes were used in various ways on farms long ago. Rushes were a source of soft material before we had plastic and were used to make toys, figures and playthings, for mummers masks, to make baskets for eggs and also to make brushes to sweep the floor. People on farms would be able to craft the rushes to make things they needed and give objects as gifts. The Semblance sculpture refers to the history, heritage and indirectly to St Brigid. It also refers to place, nature and community. Perhaps today young people do not get the same opportunities to make objects that we did in the past, yet is so important not to lose these skills and the satisfaction of creating our own unique things. We had to stop and find ways around covid stoppages including delivering workshops via zoom which was an interesting experience. Giving a zoom drawing class to 90 students was a memorable experience, but thanks to the helpful teachers it went well.