Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Carrickmacross Lace Work

Illustration: Carrickmacross Guipure lace.

Carrickmacross lace was originally produced in the small Carrickmacross region of County Monaghan in Ireland. It originated in the 1820s from Italian examples that had been brought back to Ireland by a Mrs Grey Porter, collected whilst she was on holiday in Europe. The practice of using exterior sources for Irish hand crafts is a fairly familiar one and can trace its history back to at least the early Christian era. This does not imply that Ireland did not have a fully functioning indigenous decorative culture of its own and therefore had to import one. In fact, Ireland has always had a strong self-identity, which was often directly and indirectly fuelled by the frequent and blunt British attempts at Irish assimilation. That Ireland felt comfortable with a combination of internal and external influences on its craft system shows perhaps the maturity of the culture with its willingness to incorporate new styles and ideas within its traditions.

Illustration: Carrickmacross lace examples, c1897.

Carrickmacross, like much of the Irish production of hand lace, was interpreted over the decades of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, in a number of fashionable and hopefully profitable styles. It is interesting to follow the lace production over this time period as it shows the flexibility and creative energy of the Irish craft system. Although the general traditions of the craft were always firmly in place, the level of interpretation was always fluid and readily adaptable which probably helped many of the craft disciplines in Ireland to continue well into the twentieth century, although on a much reduced scale. Some in fact have managed to continue into our own century including Carrickmacross lace work, which is still produced in County Monaghan.

Illustration: Carrickmacross applique lace, c1898.

Although the Irish Arts & Crafts movement could often be engineered by outside sources, particularly those interested in retail and manufacturing profit from England and Scotland, Ireland itself had a particular interest in promoting indigenous art and craft. Much emphasis was placed on the unique character and traditions of Irish culture, along with the dynamics of contemporary design, decoration and styling. Ireland during this period was still part of the British Empire, and like other nations and regions of Europe that had no real representation or identity, such as Norway, Finland, Poland and many others, Ireland sought to use the Arts & Crafts movement as a form of social, cultural and political identifier. It was through the domestic Arts & Crafts movement that Ireland was able to both keep alive the ideal of its individuality that was distinct from Britain. Although this was not to necessarily lead to political independence from the British, it did help in some ways at least to build on the idea of Irish distinctiveness through culture.

Illustration: Amelia B Wright. Carrickmacross applique lace dress yoke, 1903.

Illustration: Mary G Simpson. Carrickmacross lace dress yoke, 1903.

Illustration: Maud C Fisher. Carrickmacross lace dress yoke, 1903.

As to Carrickmacross lace itself, there were a number of interpretations of the craft, which followed both Irish, and the broader European styling of the early twentieth century. The illustrations of lace dress yokes by Amelia B Wright, Mary G Simpson and Maud C Fisher for example show both the level of craftsmanship that was available within the design area of Irish decoration, but also that of the level of interest and understanding of European contemporary styles of decoration and pattern work. It is interesting to note how both Irish and Scottish Arts & Crafts movements could so readily by-pass the English movement and connect directly with mainstream European movements and decorative styles. It is often assumed by many that both Irish and Scottish Arts & Crafts movements were subservient to that of the English. This is patently not true and the evidence is in the fact that both countries had fully functioning mature, professional and independent systems that sought to link themselves with the contemporary European decorative arts.

Illustration: Carrickmacross guipure lace, c1898.

In the Reference links section below are listed two websites that still produce hand produced Carrickmacross lace work. Both are in Ireland, one still in Carrickmacross, the other in County Carlow. Also listed are a number of books concerned with Carrickmacross lace work.

Reference links:
Carrickmacross lace gallery
Handmade Irish Carrackmacross lace
Needle-Made Laces and Net Embroideries: Reticella Work, Carrickmacross Lace, Princess Lace and Other Traditional Techniques
Carrickmacross Lace: From Beginner to Expert
Carrickmacross Lace: Irish Embroidered Net Lace : A Survey and Manual With Full Size Patterns
Lasadoireacht: Practical Workbook for Carrickmacross Lace
Lasadoireacht II: Carrickmacross Lace: Workbook 2 (Carrickmacross lace workbook)
Needlecraft Practical Journal #28 c.1903 - Carrickmacross Lace
Masterpieces of Irish Crochet Lace: Techniques, Patterns, Instructions (Dover Needlework Series)
Irish Crochet Lace: Motifs from County Monaghan
Irish Crochet Lace 
The Borris Lace Collection: A Unique Irish Needlelace (Milner Craft Series)
Clones Lace: The Story and Patterns of an Irish Crochet
Favorite Irish Crochet Designs (Dover Needlework Series)
Youghal & Other Irish Laces
Irish Crochet Designs and Projects (Dover Needlework Series)
A renascence of the Irish art of lace-making. Illustrated by photographic reproductions of Irish laces, made from new and specially designed patterns

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