Fiona Harrington is a visual artist who works with handmade lace. She studied fine art, textile design and lacemaking, and has been the recipient of the Thomas Dammann Bursary, RDS Graduate Prize, National Craft Award, Eleanor De La Branchardiere Prize, Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland Award, and a Per Cent for Art commission. She has exhibited and travelled extensively to give talks and demonstrations on Irish lace, at, amongst others, the Textile Arts Centre, New York, 2018 and the Straight Out of Ireland exhibition, Pennsylvania, 2019. Fiona was recently selected as curator of A Space Between, an international Lace exhibition which is part of initiatives celebrating Galway as European Capital of Culture 2020.
Her work can be seen here at www.fionaharrington.com/
My current research explores the economic and social value of the Irish lace industry, the country’s second largest industry at the turn of the twentieth century. Made by the poor and worn by the rich, harrowing stories are told of women working long hours in poor conditions, often paid for their labour with tea and shoes. However, uplifting accounts also transpire, of women who bought farms and educated their children using their lace earnings. I want to acknowledge and respond to the significant contribution that lace making made to the female labour movement, and create a dialogue between traditional craft practice and contemporary art aesthetic.
Fragile Economies considers how domestic activity often led to successful female enterprise. Like lace, poultry keeping was once a stable source of income for women seeking financial independence. Production Line pays homage to the countless women who would work months to produce a single garment. To echo this traditional purpose of producing ‘functional lace’, this piece, when complete, will be used in a hand tying ceremony at my own wedding, postponed due to restrictions relating to the pandemic.