STEP INSIDE THE Wandering Methods HQ at Dublin Castle over the past few months and this is what you would see: people from their 50s to 70s beavering away, creating intriguing craft projects.
On one wall hung the fabric and paper items they handmade during a ‘pass the parcel’ game on their first day.
On another were sheets of hand-printed material, next to tables stacked with colourful papers.
A handmade paper lampshade prototype (influenced by the hallways in the castle) sat on one table. Jars of glue and empty soup tubs-turned paint containers were nearby, ready to use.
Walk into any room armed with a camera and microphone and you’ll usually attract attention. But in this room, all attention was on the crafts, and not on the wandering journalist.
Wandering Methods is part of the Bealtaine project, and involves a group of people working with professional textile artist Liz Nilsson to draw inspiration from the castle, its contents and archives.
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The ability of the different members varied – there were former art teachers cutting out shapes while sitting next to complete newcomers to crafts.
One of the most interesting aspects was how they were not just looking at traditional crafts, but at modern ways of making art – like milling and laser cutting.
They were also working in parallel with CraftSpace and a group exploring Soho House Museum in Birmingham, and two members got to visit a digital fabrication lab in Falmouth University.
One of the big collaborative items they made was this huge piece of hand-printed material, which will hang from the main staircase in the castle:
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They had wooden stencils, onto which they would layer on coloured paint. Here’s how they printed them onto the material:
The woman project managing the whole thing is Lian Bell. “The idea was really about getting people who are local to a heritage site to get in and get a little more information about it, but to also create a relationship with it themselves”, she explained.
“And to do that, they spend a lot of time in the castle, hearing about stories about the history and architectural details. And then they work with craft artists and use the things they’ve seen and the stories they’ve heard to create things themselves.”
“It’s so important not to be isolated”
One participant was Jacinta Dowling, whose husband worked on the chandeliers in the castle while he was an apprentice electrician in the 1960s.
“I think Charles de Gaulle was coming, and that was the reason they were fussing about with the castle,” she recalled. “He always told me he’d bring me in to show me the State apartments.”
She retired on 22 March from the HSE, and started with Wandering Methods on 28 March. “I’ve always been interested in art,” she said, while gluing together paper bags made from leaflets about the castle. “I never had time, really, to learn something new.”
She had a stall in Dublin’s Dandelion market “many years ago” where she sold handbags and children’s clothes.
Her son told her about the course, and she booked a place straight away.
It’s a lot more creative than what I ever thought it was going to be – I thought it was going to be very, very simple. I’ve learned so much – I knew nothing about laser cutting. It’s a real eye-opener.
She’s off to the Chelsea Flower Show next week. “Retirement is great! I’m very, very happy at this moment in time. I didn’t realise there was so much to do for retired people in Dublin. It’s all a matter of getting out there and looking.”
As people get older, it’s so important not to be isolated.
Items made on the course will go on display in the State Apartments next week.