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Kildalkey NS Art Percentage Scheme

Flax

Do you ever think how important fabrics are in your day to day life? Probably not and yet we are wrapped in them from the cradle to the grave. Historically people were very aware of fabrics and what was involved in their production as well as how expensive they were. I am fascinated with textiles and as a result this was my chosen speciality when I attended NCAD. So as you can imagine when I heard the brief for the Kildalkey art project I was excited!! Textiles, history and the natural environment three of my favourite things! As the new school was built on the site of an old retting pond (an area where flax is left to rot) the idea was to look at flax growing and linen production in our area.

     As with any commission I began with research and development. I started by meeting with Mr Fox and Ms Halligan to discuss ideas and what the physical size, materials etc might be. We also decided the children would be involved in some way. Off I went with lots of ideas, suggestions etc to do my research and come up with a design. Firstly, I did some local research starting in the County Library in Navan. Here I looked through books suggested by the librarians and came home with lots of images and ideas. My most fascinating discovery was the names of five Kildalkey farmers who were growing flax in our village in 1796 according to the British governments’ flax growers list. Every farmer who grew 3 acres received a spinning wheel or a loom if they grew over 5 acres. This was recorded as a list of names. Reading their names and imagining their lives connected me to the project in a whole new way. In my minds eye I could see beautiful fields of blue flax flowers blowing in the breeze all around the area in June/July. We can only imagine this now as the crop has not been grown here within living memory.

I then headed up to Lisburn to visit the Irish Linen Museum where I was like a child in a sweet shop surrounded by fibres, fabrics and fascinating facts on the history of this flower. Here I gathered more ideas as well as photographs of the original flax growers list which is kept in the museum.

Armed with my design drawings and after further discussions it was decided that I would spend a week working with each class in the school firstly introducing them to the history of linen and the whole concept of the artwork. Afterwards each child drew a colourful flax flower. These beautiful little drawings were put together as collages which I had printed on lengths of linen and they now form the flax field on the first panel of the wall hanging.

This panel also includes a little cottage with a path through the flowers. I photographed this house when walking the fields which belong to a farmer whos’ family grew flax in the 1700s. Maybe it was there 200 years ago? In the background you can see a field map which I have created as a patchwork using the linens donated by students’ families? Maybe you can find yours if you take a closer look?

I am currently working to finish the final two panels which are smaller and will hang each side of the large panel to form a triptech. Its been a fascinating journey so far! I’ll leave the last two panels as a surprise for now. All I can say is there’s lots of hand embroidery involved so I better get back to work!

Anita Reynolds

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