Traditional skills inspiring contemporary craft at The Higher Bridges Gallery

Published: 13th August 2015

An exhibition displaying the very best of local traditional skills alongside contemporary craft has opened at The Higher Bridges Gallery at The Clinton Centre, Enniskillen.

Presented by Fermanagh County Museum, the ‘In the Making’ exhibition features the work of 14 talented artists, designers and craftspeople from counties Fermanagh, Leitrim and Monaghan, alongside intriguing objects from Fermanagh County Museum’s historic collections.

At the official launch of the exhibition, Sarah McHugh, Manager of Museum Services at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, said:

“This exhibition is a credit to past and present craft workers of the area. The display proves that highly skilled crafts are certainly not a thing of the past in this part of the world.  ‘In the Making’ is part of the outreach programme being offered by Fermanagh County Museum during the development of the Enniskillen Castle site which is due to reopen in Spring 2016.  This exhibition and our other outreach programmes ensure visitors can continue to enjoy the museum’s collections during the development.”

The exhibition coincides with August Craft Month, Northern Ireland’s annual celebration of contemporary craft.  It has also received support from the Northern Ireland Museums Council through its Community Engagement Initiative.

Speaking about the inspiration for the exhibition, Sinead Reilly, Development Officer at Fermanagh County Museum, explained:

“In the Making’ was inspired by the work of Tempo folklorist and artist, the late Johnny McKeagney. Prints of his intricate drawings, exploring local crafts of the past, form the backbone of the exhibition.”

The exhibition includes a piece by Simon Carman who lives and works in County Fermanagh and has been a studio holder at The Leitrim Sculpture Centre for many years.  Predominantly working in stone, bronze and collage, he has exhibited both nationally and internationally and his work is held in a number of private collections.  Speaking about the exhibition, Simon Carman explained:

“I currently work predominantly in stone and am inspired by everything from Greek sculpture to electro record covers.”

Contemporary photographs also give a glimpse into the workshops of modern-day Fermanagh craftspeople. One of those is jewellery designer Fiona Kerr, who works from her picturesque studio on the townland of Cleenaghan, Ballinamallard. Fiona’s jewellery in precious gold and silver resonates with the skills of the ancient craftspeople of Fermanagh. Fiona said:

“When I moved to the area a few years ago, I was fascinated to see a beautiful gold bracelet on display in the Fermanagh County Museum. It was found in the townland where I now live and work, and is about three thousand years old!”

Following several years working on new build and restoration projects in England and Scotland, Enniskillen-born stone carver, Michael Hoy returned to his roots in 1996 to carve pieces for St Michael’s Church in Enniskillen. Michael now runs his business, ‘Ernestone’, from his workshop in Monea, creating hand carved memorials using traditional masonry methods and local stone.  Michael commented:

“As for aesthetics, I’m more influenced by the work of modern sculptors since the 1940s than I am by the historical Irish carvings. Nowadays there is a wealth of different stone types available from around the world, whereas in the past, local stone was the only option for masons.”

Other Fermanagh craftspeople featured in the exhibition include Louise Hardman (hand weaving), Ronan Lowery (furniture) and Tom O’Brien (basket weaving).

Séamus Dunbar is one of six Leitrim based artists taking part in the exhibition. Séamus co-founded the Leitrim Sculpture Centre in Manorhamilton in 1997. Other Leitrim artists whose work is on display include Brigitta Varadi (felt), Fiona Mulholland (jewellery), Jonathan Ball (forged metal), Peter Fulop (ceramics) and Ruth Duignan (fashion).

Woodworking skills are represented by Monaghan based David Cousley, who uses a traditional pole lathe to create his furniture and designer Ronan Lowery of Design Onion, Belleek. A variety of country-style furniture from Fermanagh County Museum’s collection is also on display.

The exhibition continues at The Higher Bridges Gallery until 19 September 2015.  Admission to the exhibition is free.

The Higher Bridges Gallery is open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday 11 am to 3 pm.


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