Saturday, October 10, 2020

Title: Port San Aer (Irish for ‘tune in the air’) is an installation artwork examining the space between my new-found skills in lacemaking and the community where these skills once thrived.

In bobbin lacemaking, the lacemaker begins with a pattern, known as a ‘pricking’. The pricking can sometimes look like a ‘stave’, the five lines and four spaces used to write music. So I began to wonder…what tune could my lace compose?

I provided members of my community with blank staves, where they punched a hole for each note. I used the stave as a pricking to create a simple linen-stitch strip of lace, where a bead for each note forms a pattern. The lace rises into the air from my lacemaking pillow. The pricking becomes a stave again as it passes through a music box, to create a tune. The stave winds onto an antique bobbin, from a long-forgotten textile mill, honouring the lacemaking heritage of Headford, Co. Galway.

An Italian lacemaking term ‘Punto in Aria’ (which literally translates as ‘stitches in the air’) reminded me that ‘Aria’ is also a musical term for melody or tune. The Irish title of my piece ‘Port san Aer’ plays in the space where these ideas meet.

Use the QR code provided (or click here: Ester Kiely: Port San Aer: An installation for The Space Between, October 2020) to listen to the tune created by the lace. Email if you would like to contribute some notes yourself!


Monday, January 13, 2020

Creative Schools with Tuam Educate Together National School

Self-made mark-making tools from found objects

Using view finders and simple house-hold objects such as rolling pins to create a moving scroll allows pupils to really look at the marks they have created to identify exciting patterns.

Go big or go home! 
Mops, sweeping brushes, buckets of paint. 
Creativity can sometimes be a messy process but thinking on a larger scale allows us to make grand gestures that create a lasting impression.

Manipulating the surface of our flat paper drawings creates new patterns and textures that might inspire new ideas.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Teacher Artist Partnership 

Annagh Hill National School

Spending time with the children in the school garden


Observation: comparing the shape, size and texture of Sweetpea and Nasturtium seeds. 

Colour Theory: 3 primary colours to mix and create a range of colours

Creating our own palette of hand-dyed fabrics

From sketchbook ideas to quilt-design

Sowing The Seed: An original quilt design by the pupils of Annagh Hill N.S.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sketchbooks, notebooks and visual journals

I'm a little obsessed with notebooks. I usually have one with me everywhere and I fill it with notes and lists, but it often has doodles, collage and some drawing in there too. I have found that ideas are everywhere and they generally start from very small observations. Even the most boring ones, can be inspiring to look back on, as memories can often trigger a new idea that develops into something different to the original observation. So I encourage you to give it a go....but be warned it's a little addictive! 

Reach for your notebook...

  • Daily diary.
  • Travel journal.
  • Memory of a special event (birthday, celebration, etc.)
  • Planning things you want to make, paint, do, achieve, etc.
  • Sketching.
  • Doodling.
  • Writing stories, poetry, songs, etc.
  • Keeping notes about places, you've been, things you've seen.
  • Recording, observing, spending time looking, paying more attention.

Don't judge a book by the cover ...

You might buy a beautiful artists sketchbook, or a very plain student notebook. You might take an old copybook or notebook and paint over the writing. You can use a book found in a charity-shop and re-purpose it, taking inspiration from the words printed on the pages. The cover might inspire the contents, or the contents might inspire you to decorate the cover. Anything's yours now, make it your own.

  • You can leave your cover until you Fill some or all of the pages, and your book begins to take on a life of its own..
  • Paint it
  • Stick things to it
  • Use gel pens or metallic pens over dark or buff covers
  • Have some kind of window/door in it with something behind it.
  • Cover it with fabric or paper
  • Add Gesso to the cover to create texture for painting.

Living on the edge...

  • Layer the edges of your pages so that you are glimpsing an element of the next page as you are reading the current page.
  • Use repeating patterns
  • Decorative edges
  • Plain borders (you can add in some writing or comments later?)
  • Torn page edges
  • Use decorative scissors to cut an edge
  • Just start cutting with a scissors and see what you come up with
  • Cut around the edge of a drawing or picture you have  stuck onto the page
  • Stitched edges.
  • Add tabs

Deep Pockets ...

  • Adding pockets or envelopes to your book provide an opportunity for adding notes, photos, sketches that allow the reader to interact with the book and become more engaged with the narrative. 
  • Anything you can stick down on 2 or 3 sides can make a pocket (photos, cards, etc)
  • Use different sized pockets and envelopes
  • Make envelopes out of interesting magazine pages
  • Glue two pages together to form pockets.
  • Add clear plastic pockets to allow you to see the contents.

A little tied up ...

  • Punch holes....plain circles or decorative shapes
  • Use reinforcer rings
  • Add metal eyelets
  • Add fibre samples
  • Add tags or 3D elements

Special effects ...

  • Colourwash: Mix paint with good amount of water and use large brush to colour page.
  • Sponging: Use a sponge to dab paint over page.
  • Wax and wash: Wipe blank page with wax crayon or candle and colourwash over it.
  • Dripping: Drip or pour diluted paint onto page and fold paper or another page over it.
  • Clingfilm wash: Paint onto piece of clingfilm and press page onto it.
  • Stencil: Paint over lace, netting or paper lace to stencil pattern onto your page.
  • Ink rubbing: Use a make-up sponge to dab ink from a stamping pad onto your page.

Spread out ...

  • Spread your sketches across two pages with one image, theme or colour scheme to lead your eye around the page.
  • Incorporate the next page through cut-outs, folds, transparent pages
  • Use the same colour, image or theme throughout the book to link pages
  • Use composition to lead the eye from one area to another across pages
3D elements ... 

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Flaps
  • Stitch
  • Fabric
  • Folds
  • Cardboard shapes

Keep it interesting ...

  • Different types of hand-writing
  • Stamping
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Mask over something, paint the page, remove the masking.

  • Maps
  • Pop-ups
  • Messages
  • Lists

Remove or add-in pages
  • tear out pages
  • cut out pages

Rip up a picture /coloured paper and
  • Weave it
  • Stick down the strips leaving spaces between them
  • Mix up the pieces and stick them down
  • Form a new pattern by sticking down the pieces in swirls, patches, lines, shapes

Page Markers
  • Tabs
  • Ribbons

  • Papers
  • Colour
  • Text under or over images
  • Fabrics
  • Translucent over solid
  • Pattern over plain
  • Depth/perspective through use of colour, scales
  • Use sellotape to make a transfer
Use different ways of sticking things in
  • Masking tape
  • Sellotape
  • Parcel tape
  • Coloured tapes
  • Staples
  • Tie things in
  • Stitch things in

How to trick yourself into drawing!
  • Look at the object. Put your pen down on the paper and start drawing without looking at your page until you finish. This stops you from criticising what you are doing.
  • Turn the picture you want to copy upside down and draw the lines you see. This stops you from drawing what you think you know about the thing.
  • Put tracing paper over the picture and just trace it. This allows you to learn how to draw the lines you see.
  • Put a piece of the picture on your page and continue to draw the lines outside the picture  onto your page. This gives you the confidence to finish something that’s already started for you.
  • Cut out the shape of something from a picture and outline it on your page.
  • Use a thick marker to outline the shape of something in a picture and copy that outline onto your page.

Things to use in your notebook
  • Magazine  or newspaper clippings, old photos
  • Old envelopes and stamps
  • Threads, beads, buttons
  • Tickets, maps
  • Paint, pencil, crayon, marker, gel-pen, wax, ink, ink stamping, chalk, pastels, etc.
  • Pressed flowers, seeds,

Monday, January 2, 2017

Headford Lace Project connecting me to PLACE

Blown In, art installation created by Selma Makela for The Nesting Lark, a pilot project for 
Galway 2020 Small Towns Big Ideas

In 2016 I was asked to assist curator Eilís Nic Dhonncha in coordinating a 4-day cultural event for Headford, Co. Galway to support the Galway bid to become European Capital of Culture 2020. One of the artists who participated was Selma Makela, creating a series of beautiful bird-boxes through the town, each one highlighting a different aspect of the area's cultural heritage. The box shown above, with its reference to Headford as a lacemaking town of some note, fascinated me because of my life-long interest in textiles. Together with Selma and a number of other community members, we embarked on a journey to research, revive and reimagine Headford's lacemaking heritage, that became Headford Lace Project. 


(l to r) Jackie Magnin, Selma Makela, Anne O'Hara Quinn and myself at a Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland lacemaking event in the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar

One of our first tasks was to find someone who would confirm that this was indeed bobbin lace, one of the oldest forms of lacemaking. We reached out to Anne O'Hara Quinn, a Galway-based crochet teacher with links to the Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland, based in Cork. We sent a photograph Selma had researched for her artwork, found in a local history publication and Jackie re-created a sample of this torchon bobbin lace trimming. Selma, Anne and I were very excited to travel to the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, where we met Jackie for the first time and tried a little hands-on bobbin-lacemaking 

A replica, created by Jackie Magnin, of a sample of Headford Lace from 1904.

The first group of Headford Lace beginners in September 2016 visiting New Street, where the Lacemakers Cottages built in 1796 still exist today

With Jackie on board to become our bobbin lace tutor, we set about planning a workshop weekend in Headford and had very little trouble finding a group of students willing to learn these skills, which had been forgotten in our community.

Me, helping to display the only original piece of Headford Lace we know of (owned by Sandra Joyce) as well as Jackie's replica and a Headford Lace trimmed hankie made by Jackie 
at our first workshop weekend.

That was the start of a most rewarding journey for us, as we quickly established Headford Lace Project with the aim of researching, reviving and reimagining Headford's lacemaking heritage. The project has grown from a small community funded project, to the award-winning project it is today supported by a number of regional and national agencies. See Headford Lace Project for more information on our activities.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Student samples of free-motion stitching at a recent workshop



Some thread-sketching...

We had some fun at the workshop on Sunday in Cruthú Studio, Claregalway. A group of eager participants were introduced to a number of techniques to use in their textile work:
  • finding inspiration
  • developing ideas in sketchbooks
  • free-motion machine stitching
  • fusible appliqué
  • foil appliqué
  • soluble fabric
The above are some of the stitch samples produced, and I sincerely hope they found the class useful in helping them begin to find their own visual language so that they create unique textile artwork.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Creative Textile Art

Upcoming workshop at Cruthú Studio in Claregalway

On Sunday 24th from 14.00 to 18.00 I will teach a workshop in Creative Textile Art. In this class I will share with you ideas, prompts, tools, materials and techniques to help you develop your own style of textile art. I will introduce you to my making process and resources so that you can take these basic skills and begin your own creative journey to making textile art that is meaningful for you. 

I hope this introduction to textile art will provide you with the encouragement to explore fabric and stitch as a means of personal expression.

Give me a call on 087 6193870 or email me for further details. 

Remember, for updates on this and other workshops, give my Facebook page (Ester Kiely, Textile Artist) a like!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cute as a button!

Button necklace

I used a selection of pink, mauve and neutral buttons from my stash, threaded them through with waxed linen cord and tied in a knot after each one. I used sliding knots for the closure so that you can put it on over your head and then pull to shorten or lengthen to the position you prefer. 

Off to raid the button stash some more, Christmas is coming and the list is long!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Get your craft on!


It's time to think about Christmas presents!

Christmas on a budget can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. This year my motto is make, recycle, thrift, re-purpose. 

With this in mind I started thinking of those short straight waiter-style aprons that always look neat, comfy and don't restrict movement. I like the way the strings are long enough to wrap around and bring to the front. You can use this to tuck in a tea-towel. 

I decided to make them using 2 coordinated cotton prints and make them reversible too. I added lace trims, a nifty pocket and a couple of printed words for a little extra detail. 

I've made a start on the present list.....but there's still a bit to go!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

"Goodnight Chicken"

Hand-dyed fabrics, vintage lace, free-motion embroidery, fabric painting and machine-stitch sketching are just some of the techniques used to create this frame-stretched piece for the exhibition "Art is a Wound Turned into Light" at NUIG for Mental Health Week, which opened on September 30th 2015.
This piece was a slightly new direction for me to explore. I enjoyed allowing the piece to evolve in the same way as I treat a page in my sketchbook. I just gathered fabrics and lace scraps in my studio and allowed the piece to evolve as I worked.
Working in this way is all about enjoying the process and not worrying about the outcome.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Galway Culture Night: "Building Claregalway"

A wall-hanging created with the help of some local children for Culture Night at Cruthú Studio in Claregalway on the 18th September, 2015. The children used fabric crayons to depict something about their life in the community, I quilted each one and we used recycled ribbons to tie them together. We talked about the connections between people, communities and interests and how this makes life interesting. I love creating something new with the help of young artists like these.
Cruthú Studio is owned by artist Elaine Cunningham and Culture Night saw the studio come alive with face-painting, millinery, mixed-media art, music, poetry, stilt-walking, paper-craft and textile art. What a vibrant arts community we have!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pop Up shop at Cruthú Studio, Claregalway: 
every Thur, Fri, Sat in August 2015

A number of local artists have come together for a pop-up shop at Cruthú Studio, Claregalway for the month of August. Pop in and see the range of work available for sale.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Country Wedding

I enjoyed helping to decorate this barn for my friends' wedding. A mixture of old and new embroidered table-cloths, patchwork quilts, wall-hangings, bunting made together with the 'hens' over a glass of wine and the result is casual country style. Perfect backdrop for the organic feast and dancing that followed. Great memories!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 Finding inspiration for colour choices

This simple arrangement of Sweetpeas and Sweet Williams in a jam jar is my starting point for a colourful lapquilt. Watch this space for signs of progress. But I warn you..... it may take a while!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Notebooks for sale at the Fancy Nest in Claregalway

Delighted that some of my work is available for sale in this beautiful interiors store in the heart of Claregalway (next to Supervalu). Pop in and take a look at the gorgeous selection of gifts available.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Some new notebooks on their way to Galway Crafts and Collectables

Just some of the new notebooks on their way to Galway Crafts and Collectables in the Corbett Court Shopping Centre, Galway this week. This is a great shop with some lovely handmade gifts from Galway makers. Pop in for a look!