Sunday 19 November 2017

Stitchers weave Norman odyssey in 15 tapestries

Grace Hall
Grace Hall

David Looby

The work of creating what is now the Ros Tapestry has been ongoing in the South East since 1998, with more than 150 stitchers from all areas of the county and beyond working on 15 giant tapestries.

Marion Coady of The Ros Tapestry said the project is an excellent example of creativity and community spirit on a grand scale which depicts Norman history linking all the sites in Ireland's Ancient East. Ms Coady said: 'The Ros Tapestry is one of the largest series of embroidered tapestries in Europe and each tapestry depicts a different significant event in history. It is a Norman odyssey told in thread.'

The first tapestry was completed in 2002 and to date 14 of the 15 tapestries are complete. The final tapestry, which is called 'Battles in the Kingdom of Ossory', depicts the fierce battle which ensued between the King of Ossory, MacGiolla Padraig and his mortal enemy Dermot MacMurrough. It is presently being stitched in Rothe House in Kilkenny, because as much as possible the tapestries have been stitched as near to where the history happened as possible.

When this tapestry is complete it will join the rest of the original 14 tapestries which are presently on display at 14 the Quay, New Ross.

These tapestries were worked from the paintings of renowned local artist Ann Griffin Bernstoff and have been seen by Michelle Obama. 'Presently on the loom upstairs in our tapestry buildings, our stitchers are working on one of two ovals by the artist Reiltin Murphy from Wexford. These are Threads of Friendship series, and the tapestry COMING HOME, Threads of Friendship between USA and Ireland, with all its poignant connections with the emigrant story of New Ross is being stitched right here on the quay, where the emigrant ships would have left from.'

The second tapestry UNITY, Threads of Friendship between Europe and Ireland is being stitched by the ladies from Wexford in the old County Hall. 'One of the most incredible features of the entire project is the fact that all of the stitchers have given of their time completely voluntarily. They turn up week after week and their attention to detail, care and love of the work can only be likened to the care that one would give to a small child, total and selfless. We must give great credit to them, without whom this great work of art would not exist.'

Ms Coady also paid tribute to another volunteer to the project though this time not a stitcher, but a very worthy contributor in her own art form. Grace Hall from Wexford town is a portrait artist, her practice also includes other genres, such as still life, landscape, events and live performance. 'Grace has voluntarily come to the tapestry building on an ongoing basis over several months and photographed all of the people who have worked on the Ros Tapestry. Grace has provided beautiful 8X10 photographs for the stitchers personally and an invaluable record for the tapestry archives for posterity.' When Grace first arrived to live in Wexford, she visited the Ros Tapestry on several occasion I would like to quote her opinion of the exhibition. She said: 'This body of work is magnificent and deserves to have the title of national treasure. The panels in all their glory of colour and texture rival any similar body of work in all of Europe".'

Hall said her aim for doing this work was to make visible the volunteer artists who participated in the creation of the Ros Tapestries, by means of portrait photography. 'She has created a portrait archive of the volunteers, which will make them visible to future generations as well as, adding to the visitor experience. For Grace the wonderful part of the project has been talking to the people, hearing the wonderful stories of their experiences, and learning about the long-lasting friendships, which were forged during their involvement in the project.'

New Ross Standard

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