Wednesday 29 April 2015


After Easter I went for a few days down to Waterford area. As discussed in a previous post, I stopped in Carlow town for lunch and afterwards paid a visit to the beautiful Carlow Castle. Believe it or not, this is very close to the centre of the town! I am happy to re-post this picture of the castle.

 After a morning in Waterford the following day, we took a drive in search of some dolmens, named in my monuments book (Guide to National & Historic Monuments of Ireland by Peter Harbison). It was yet another gorgeous day and while stretching our legs at a walk by a series of man-made ponds near Dunhill, Co. Waterford, we thought we could see a casle silhouette in the distance. My husband asked in the local pub if there was a castle nearby, and we got directions to Dún Aoill.

The three storey castle was at the top of a low hill but very accessible. There were a few families picnic-ing at its base and lots of children enjoying the ruin,

The view from the castle was lovely too.

Though not as large as my favourite castle what I loved about Dún Aoill was that you could climb up several floors, and be within the ruins, not just look at it from the outside. Ballycarbery Castle is definitely my favourite castle in Ireland. It is near Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry near to where I lived for three years in the mid-1990s, so I visited it regularly. I never really think of it as being so huge, until I see pictures of it, but the remains are only of one corner so the castle in its day must have really been gigantic. This castle is on a farmer's field and is only accessible from the road at low tide,

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Ecclesiastic ruins

The days are still gorgeous here at home, but I am so glad they were amazing while on Easter break, and especially for the little sojourn down to Waterford and surrounding area. On the leisurely way back home, the first stop was Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny. This was a ruin I had seen pictures of and was meaning to visit for a long time, but never found the opportunity. It was originally founded for the Benedictine order in 1158 AD but became a Cistercian abbey by 1180 AD.

It is a well-kept OPW site with information displays in the small visitor centre and an additional museum style room containing items that were found on site and further didactics.

The colonnaded cloister area was beautifully decorated with carvings on all window columns.

One of the didactics claimed that it was against their order for the Cistercian monks to live in highly decorated surrounds. As there were carvings everywhere and evidential remnants of frescoes on the walls, the monks here must have been a rebellious lot!

Continuing along the road home, we were going through the town of Gowran (also in Kilkenny) and happened upon this ecclesiastic ruin, so stopped to take a look at St. Mary's Church, originally built around 1275 AD.

My monuments book talks about how the decoration here contrasts to Cistercian building, but as I said above, Jerpoint Abbey was quite decorated, and certainly would have been anything but austere in its heyday!

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Waterford - sculptures

I spent last Wednesday morning in Waterford city, having a meander around the quays and Viking Triangle historic area. I stopped to have a look at this bronze memorial to the youngest soldier (aged 14) killed in WW1 created by Pat Cunningham.

The John Condon Memorial has a beautiful contrast between a textured & patinated exterior and a highly polished interior.

Also bronze, this amusing sculpture, "The Marriage of Strongbow & Aoife". was created by Eithne Ring.

At the roundabout to the quay parking lot, was this sculpture of a tall ship by Cork artist Denis O'Connor. The ship is on stilts so is raised above the roundabout and can be easily seen by traffic and pedestrians alike.

At the quayside, abstract concrete sails tower over the Millenium Plaza, designed by William Vincent Wallace. 

Friday 10 April 2015


On the way to Waterford from Bray, there were a few things we wanted to see. Our first stop was Newbridge, to show my Mum and my daughter my husband's sculpture "Sentinel" as they had not seen it yet.

Our next stop was Carlow. Many years ago my husband and I had tried to find Browne's Hill (or Brownshill) dolmen, but now it has been nicely marked. Although it is within a field, it has it's own fenced off space, with seating, an OPW didactic, a parking area and a path leading up to it from the road.

It is quite a spectacular dolmen, in my opinion it far surpasses the famous Poulnabrone dolmen for both size and accessibility.The capstone is believed to be several hundred tons in weight, making it the heaviest in Ireland.

There is no barrier to keep you away from the dolmen, therefore you can notice puddles underneath reflecting sunlight onto the dolmen's belly. It was beautiful!

We also wanted to check out Visual, the arts centre in Carlow, which could easily belong in any big city. It was both impressive in space and the exhibition showing, Cosmic Dust, a group show, In an upstairs gallery a triple film, The Floating World by Clare Langan, was haunting. Outside of Visual was a large sculpture, The Medusa Tree, by Eileen McDonagh.

Lennon's, the restaurant adjoining Visual, is a great place to have lunch. I thought the artwork on display in the restaurant looked very familiar, and taking a closer look realised it was the work of Karen Hendy, an artist who had stayed with us for a few days in January, as Umha Aois (a project with which both my husband, James Hayes, and Karen's partner, Holger Lonze, are involved) were giving demonstrations at the Ninth Experimental Archaeology Conference held at University College Dublin. Here is one of the paintings on view, from Karens "Littoral Series".

After lunch we went to take a look at Carlow castle which is beautifully impressive despite being only a ruin with two towers and one wall.

The castle is accessible by stairs from the street and then a winding path around it. Along the path are a number of etched plates which act as information didactics. Below, the plate is showing the two towers and wall still standing in relation to a floor plan of the original castle. The OPW (Office of Public Works) is responsible for the site, so I imagine they were also responsible for the clever planting -- shrubbery is being trained to take on the shape of the rest of the castle.

Across the road from the castle is a large sculpture. Unfortunately, I could not find any identifying plaque which gave any information on the piece nor could any mark be found identifying the artist. For the Newbridge piece (picture above) my husband taught himself how to electro-etch his name onto the back of the sculpture in order to have his identity clearly associated with the work. This is something I think that more artists are starting to consider as not every piece of public sculpture gets an information plaque.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Making Books!

There are a few special occasions coming up, so I wanted to make a few leather sketchbook/journals. These are a handy size, less than A5. I coordinated the bead decoration on the spine with the embroidery thread for binding and some decorative endpapers. 

I started work on another book, with a cardboard cover. Everything is nearly ready to go!

 I thought I would make a better effort at keeping a pictorial record of how I make the books. In this picture I am simply cutting the cardboard to size (slightly larger than the prepared signatures of paper, as above). Whenever I come across pieces of cardboard in packing and see the double crease that reminds me of a book spine, I hold on to the cardboard for a future book.

The signatures are almost square, so for the endpapers I ripped to size from a larger piece of coloured paper. My trusty bone folder is great for getting a smooth crease around the first and last signatures.

I also (after years of threatening to!) decided to try my hand at a simple presentation book design, based on a book that was gifted to me about 15 years ago. I prefer to rip inside pages than to cut them, as I get a deckled edge. This helps me orient my pages in a specific direction. I am using a heavier coloured card for the presentation booklets, and am preparing the paper for making a number of these booklets. The booklets may be used as scrap books or books for specific occasions to hold photos, writing, paper memorabilia, or whatever else one might put in a presentation book!

I am using some handmade paper for the cover, and cutting it to match the paper I have already prepared.

I used the bone folder to score the cover and the pages.

Lion clips are a great help for holding the pages and cover together. I used the push pins to mark the places where I wanted the holes and made the holes with my awl tool.

Using coloured embroidery thread (all six strands - for the other books I make, I divide the thread to 3 strands) I sewed the book together, twice in fact, so that the bind is 12 strand. Below I have shown the second book I made in this way, with red thread and red card stock on the inside.

This is my  first finished book, made to this simple design. It is 14 pages, yellow card, handmade paper cover and bound by yellow cotton embroidery thread. It is A5 size and I am quite pleased.