Headford community project draws inspiration from town’s lace-making heritage

Pictured with their current lace bench are Headford Lace Project members Kathleen McMahon, Esther Kiely and Ger Hassett. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

Pictured with their current lace bench are Headford Lace Project members Kathleen McMahon, Esther Kiely and Ger Hassett. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

An innovative project in county Galway has been awarded funding to create a beautiful new bench that draws on a local town’s rich lace-making heritage. The Headford Lace Project is one of nine community and craft ventures across the county that have being chosen as part a Sláintecare-funded collaboration between the Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI ) and Healthy Ireland.

The new bench will be located in the centre of Headford and, together with another lacemaking-inspired bench that was created in 2019, will bookend ‘The Lacemaker’s Shoes’ walking tour.

Headford Lace Project chairperson Eilís Nic Dhonncha said the new bench will be a very welcome addition to the town and local community.

“This beautiful work will draw heavily on Headford’s rich lace-making heritage. The first lace bench is located in our community orchard at the heart of the lace garden and provides a nice place to sit and reflect in beautiful surroundings.

“This new bench will be situated at the opposite end of the Lacemaker’s Shoes’ walk, which highlights different areas important in the story of lace making in the town. We are delighted that the two benches will bookend the tour perfectly.

“As we all stay within 5km of home we want to encourage people to get out and about, and we look forward to the time when people from further afield can come and explore and enjoy Headford also. Established in 2016, Headford Lace Project is a voluntary community initiative set up to research, revive and reimagine the town’s proud lacemaking heritage, which dates as far back as 1766. “In 2018, Headford Lace Project, in collaboration with Headford Environment Group, established a Lace Garden at the Community Orchard. The Environment Group planted a lace-inspired garden of white flowering plants. Headford Lace Project then commissioned blacksmith Conor Murray of Kilkee Forge to create a bench where people could sit and enjoy the garden.

He was excited about the project from the onset, especially the challenge involved in recreating the delicate lace pattern into a permanent structure. He translated the original Headford Lace pattern into steel and recreated the exact shapes using a plasma cutter. Conor said his new bench will be similar to his first work. The intricate lace pattern will remain the same to provide continuity, although the design of the new bench will be updated.

Steel and lace

“I loved working on the first lace bench as it fulfilled my craft and gave me an opportunity to create something permanent in a beautiful setting. I love the juxtaposition of the strength of the steel structure against the delicacy of lace. The bench was made from 5mm thick steel so it is very durable but looks delicate,” said Mr Murray.

“There was a lot of design work involved in translating the lace pattern into steel and recreating exact shapes and I enjoyed the challenge. I’m looking forward to creating the second bench and updating the design,” he added.

Design and Crafts Council CEO Rosemary Steen said this bench will provide a beautiful space for the community to switch off and relax and will provide a focus for the ‘Lacemaker’s Shoes’ walking tours, encouraging people to get out and immerse themselves in the town’s lace-making heritage and to stimulate their own creativity. The new bench will be a great addition to Headford and the local community.”

Minister of State for the Department of Health, with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan said this wonderful project draws on Headford’s rich lace-making heritage while providing the local community with a beautiful new bench to and is a great addition to the town’s walking tour.

“The project chimes perfectly with Healthy Ireland’s ethos and I’m delighted to see this community efforts being rewarded with Sláintecare funding to complete the bench, which will be enjoyed by local people and visitors to the town for generations to come.

“During these times, it is vital that we do everything we can to stay healthy and active. All of these projects offer people hugely positive engagement with diverse artistic activities. There is growing evidence that creative activities can help lift our mood and to have a positive impact on health and wellbeing,.” concluded Minister of State Feighan.


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