One of Ireland’s foremost designers and tapestry artists, Lisbeth Mulcahy, who introduced international artists to West Kerry and West Kerry to contemporary art, died on Sunday.
A true exponent of contemporary design, Lisbeth established a world-renowned business in Dingle selling her own woven designs and tapestries while promoting Irish design and designers.
A distinguished supporter of the arts and artists she was the first person to bring works from the Irish Museum of Modern Arts collection for display in Dingle. Her influence extended beyond West Kerry, she was a member of the board of Siamsa Tíre and also served as chairperson. As a tapestry artist her work is found in collections worldwide and she was a founder member of Contemporary Artists of Ireland.
Lisbeth was born into the Lundsager family in Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark, on April 8, 1945, a few months before the end of five years of Nazi occupation. In the 1960s she came to Dublin as an au pair, where she met RTE cameraman and husband to be Louis Mulcahy.
During her time in Dublin, Lisbeth’s father gave her a gift of a potter’s wheel that he had made, and legend has it that the moment Louis sat at the wheel the seed was set for the move from Dublin that would lead to the establishment of their pottery in Gráig, which went on to become the most significant employer in the West Kerry Gaeltacht.
Danish was Lisbeth’s native language but she learnt English and then embraced the Irish language after she and Louis left their secure incomes in Dublin and invested their savings in establishing ‘Potadóíreacht na Caolóige’ in 1975. With three young children Jette (8), Lasse (5) and Sally (3) they made Irish the language of the household and this ethos extended into the business.
Lisbeth started weaving that same year and in 1980 she undertook an intensive course in weaving and textile design in Sweden, leading to the development of her own design and weaving business ‘Siopa na bhFiodóirí’. She opened her first shop in 1986 and subsequently purchased Murdoch’s premises on Green Street, where the business is located to this day.
She was precise and meticulous in her work and in her business. Trainee weavers, under her wing, learnt from her exactness and high standards, and her influence is to be seen.
Lisbeth’s art found expression in tapestry and commissions of her work are in collections including the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dúchas, Kerry Group and Eircom. Lisbeth’s final tapestry is on display in the Céide fields exhibition centre in Mayo.
Lisbeth is survived by her husband, Louis, daughter Jette, who lives near Copenhagen in Denmark with her husband Lars, son Lasse and wife Emer, who manage and run Potadóireacht na Caolóige, and daughter and fellow weaver Sally and her husband James, her grandchildren Esben, Jakob, Oskar, Liobhán, Etain, Michael, Tomás and Emer, her brother Per and her brother-in-law Frank.