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'Glass Quilt' created during lockdown goes on display at National Museum of Ireland - Country Life in Co Mayo

Dr Audrey Whitty, Deputy Director/Head of Collections & Learning, NMI, Clodagh Doyle, Keeper, Irish Folklife Collection, NMI, and Emma Bourke, glass artist from Westport. Image: Michael McLaughlin

A unique collaborative artwork created by 50 glassmakers from across the island of Ireland during a 12-week COVID-19 lockdown has gone on display at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo.

A Breath of Fresh Air - The Keep Well Glass Quilt was undertaken by members of the Glass Society of Ireland during the 3rd wave of COVID-19 and subsequent 12 weeks of lockdown. 

Confined to within five kilometres of their homes and studios, the glassmakers came together virtually to collaborate on a large glass quilt.

Made of individual pieces of glass, each glassmaker interpreted their own ideas around what the theme meant to them. Themes include nature, poetry, textiles, patterns, mental health, capturing actual air, and emotional responses.

As each piece was added to the artwork, a unique story of a unique time evolved. Testimonies emerged from participants on how this project was critical to their creative process and well-being at a very difficult time. Members recounted how it has been a starting point for new work, new approaches and a restarting point when their confidence had been at an all-time low.

Artist Róisín de Buitléar, chair of the Glass Society of Ireland and one of the coordinators of the project, explained:

Meeting online and sharing the creative process during this project has fuelled new ideas and interest and has brought our membership closer together. Some of Ireland’s foremost glassmakers are represented in the Glass Quilt, making this art work a unique and historic portfolio of Irish artists and their generosity of community spirit during a difficult time.”

Dr Audrey Whitty, Deputy Director/Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland, said:

We are grateful to the artists and the Glass Society of Ireland for the opportunity to display this beautiful artwork at the National Museum of Ireland in Co Mayo. Each of the individual glass pieces provides a unique perspective on an unprecedented time in our history. Art and culture proved to be a vital means of expression during our shared COVID-19 journey and we know now, more than ever, what a privilege it is to be able to share and engage with these artworks together in our public spaces with our visitors.”

Professional and amateur glassmakers are represented in the work as well as all techniques of glassmaking, from traditional cutting, glass painting, kiln working, etching, engraving and lampworking. 
Each of the four provinces of Ireland is represented, bringing the whole Island together in one collaborative piece.

The quilt was selected by an international Jury for Venice Glass Week and exhibited at Dublin Castle for the World Craft Council conference as well as the President’s Residence at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The project was made possible by the support of the Health Service Executive ‘Keep Well’ campaign and Design & Crafts Council Ireland.

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