Last Thursday we made the journey from Upperlands down to the original beating heart of Linen manufacture in Northern Ireland- Belfast.
Belfast referred to by historians as ‘Linenopolis’ was once famed the world over for its skill with Linen. Home to some of the world’s biggest mills and foremost experts on weaving and developing the raw flax into the finished material. Although times and the industry has changed since the city was ‘Linenopolis’, this legacy lives on in the city’s streets and the hearts of its people.
Ireland’s passion and appetite for modern uses of Linen within design was evident at the ‘Linen Futures’ display on last Thursday at Belfast’s Ulster Museum. Linen Futures is an exhibition curated by designer Jane McCann. It is a display that truly showcases the modern and innovative design currently being practised by some of Ireland’s finest designers. Clean, contemporary pieces’ merge in a beautiful space to create an atmosphere that transcends both the past and the future. There was an atmosphere of excitement, a sense of creative purpose and yet to be reached potential in the room as designers and mill owners talked.
Hosted by Jane and supported by Valerie Wilson, textiles curator at the Folk and Transport Museum. Ten local textile practitioners and ten Celtic neighbours in Wales were brought together to create something different for Linen Futures. Old techniques melded with new, felt making sat beside digital printing, heritage and contemporary were woven together in a celebration of the past, present and future. We couldn’t help but be swept up in the excitement of it all and felt that we are going to see a rapid increase in the use of Linen in the 21st Century. In our ongoing ‘Living in Linen’ blog series we have already met and heard the hopes and aspirations of many of the young, lauded Irish designers who are using premium Irish Linen at the centre of their collections. Seeing and meeting new designers confirmed the desire to see the material widespread.
The afternoon was a great opportunity to network, connect, reminisce and look to the future. We caught up with some old friends and made some new friends, it was great to see Deborah Toner, Loft Trading, McBurney and Black, Maria Cárdenas and many others from the linen community.
All great communities are built around a central idea or theme that binds them together. Strengthening and creating outlets of opportunity for collaboration and building relationship. The Linen community in Ireland is built upon two pillars: heritage and change. Jane’s exhibition showcases this. Each piece in the collection links linen’s past and its future, through a combination of techniques that together have created prototypes that are something else entirely. These new creations demonstrate the versatility, durability and sustainability of linen as a material. Designs that are timeless and evidence that Linen will continue to be a major player within the global market. We are proud to continue to develop this incredible natural fabric here in the country that made Irish Linen what it is today.
If you have yet to experience Linen Futures there is still time. The exhibition will be on show on the Ulster Museum until the 29th of May. There are a number of workshops and talks that will be running alongside the exhibition and times are viewable on-line here. Keep a lookout for future events and talks that will be taking place at the R-Space Gallery and Irish Linen Centre in Lisburn later this summer as part of Northern Ireland’s Craft Month.
If you want to see some of our fabrics or learn more about Linen and its uses, please use the contact details below.