Dr. Helen McAllister


Head of Applied Materials
Dr. Helen McAllister

Helen McAllister’s practice is rooted in Embroidery, that now positions the materiality and process in the Applied Arts. The practice has been a constant dialogue between the shoe–derived form, historical Venice, and the crafted artifact outcome. The work investigates notions of the narrative, symbolism and metaphor that are interdisciplinary within the maker discipline, through Design processes and thinking with that of Material Culture. The engagement with the viewer and the ‘display’ of the made artifact propels the work in new contexts, having new audiences and new teaching situations.

Dr Helen McAllister | CV




2006                 PhD Practice-based Design - (Embroidered textiles)

                         National College of Art and Design, Dublin Ireland

1999                 MA Design – (Embroidered textiles)

                         National College of Art and Design, Dublin Ireland

1986                 ANCAD – (1st Class) (Embroidered textiles)

                         Commendation in History of Art & Complementary Studies

Teaching Experience


2014-present   Head of Department, Applied Material Cultures

                         National College of Art and Design, Dublin

2009-2014        Head of Department, Fashion and Textiles

                         National College of Art and Design, Dublin

2014-2015        Coordinator, MFA in Design


Professional Activity


2020                 External Examiner, MA art practice based

                         UL Limerick

2013-2017        Judge, Golden Fleece Award

                          Helen Lillas Mitchell Trust, Dublin Ireland

2013-2017         External Examiner, Textiles Undergraduate program

                           St. Anne’s College, Sligo Ireland

2011-2014          External Examiner, Textiles Undergraduate program

                           G.M.I.T. Galway Ireland

2009                   Peer Review Panellist, QA Undergraduate Degree p

                            London College of Fashion. London England


Special Projects


2012                 Innovation Voucher | Polio Society Ireland

                         Then and Now Fashion Event Project Manager,

Grants and Awards


2011                 An Post | Crafts Council of Ireland Collaboration Stamp Collection

2002                The Golden Fleece Award  | Overall Winner

1986                Taylor Award, RDS Craft Award




2020                 Equality – Invisibility Series – on line exhibition and sales 

                          raised money for ALONE charity through COVID


2017                 Shoe making Kit (travelling show)

                          Knit & Stitch, Olympia, London | Edinburgh, Scotland

2016                 Adaptations

                         OPW Gallery, Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin

2015                 Shoe Making Kit (solo show)

                          R-Space, Lisburn, Co Down

2014                 Interlace

                          National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny

2013                 CultureCraft – Culture in the Making (UK City of Culture)

                         London Street Gallery, Derry

                         Art & Style

                         Brown Thomas window, Dublin


International Academic Conferences


2021                     CIVAE3rd Interdisciplinary & Virtual Conference on

                             Arts in Education   


2019                     Equality  Symposium |Curator / Presenter

                             NCAD, Dublin (published papers)

                             Women in Design |Seminar

                             N.G. o A.A. Dublin

                             D-Tex  | Conference  

                             Univ. Lisbon – Lisbon


2017               Crafting Education iJADE

                       NCAD/ Dublin Ireland

                       Making Futures (on-line publish.)

                       Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth, UK



2013                 More for Less | Cumulus (on-line publish.)

                         Dublin Ireland

                         Objects in Focus| Seminar

                          N.G. o A.A. Dublin

                          Design learning for Tomorrow | DRS/Cumulus,

                          Oslo (published)

                          Knowing (by) Design

                          Sint-Lucas, Brussels (published)




2020                 Equality  |compiled / edited / contributor


2018                 Iterations – Design Research & Practice Review Issue 6 Feb

                         Institute Designers Ireland

2013                 CultureCraft - Reclaim | Repurpose Catalogue Introduction

                         UK City of Culture Derry

2012                 Textile Surface Manipulation | Co-Author with Nigel Cheney

                         Cheney/McAllister, Bloomsbury London




                         Design Crafts Council of Ireland

                         Venice in Peril

                         The Belfast Natural History & Philosophical Society


                         (edited CV 2021)


Artistic Practice
Artistic work has always been visually inspired by Italy and in particular Venice resulting in small to large wall hangings. For a number of years this created a ‘recognisable style’, but questioned the need to ‘re-brand’ the practice.  The completion of a MA Design (embroidery) shifted the work from ‘decorative’ outputs to that of an in-depth inquiry of Venetian 16th Textiles and ‘Chopines’ with 3D outputs.  The artistic practice formed a platform to question notions of a creative practice, the made art artefact and the interdisciplinary of the field of study resulted in the completion of a practice based PhD (embroidery).

Themes and Influences

The research inquiry questioned the fundamental definition of what constitutes a pair through shoe-derived forms.  Prown states that ‘artefacts are in addition to their intended function, unconscious representations of the hidden mind’. This seemed particularly apt when considering the recognizable, iconographic object of the shoe. Research has been grounded in the practice of making art artefacts, dovetailing with Venice for visual, historical, and societal themes. The artistic practice has come from textile processes and discursive thinking that now locates the work in the field of Applied Materials. 

The ‘pair’ is still the vehicle to question duality, identity and materiality; reflecting on the made and its manufacture, aligning meaning to making and private to public engagement. Venice has been the single most important influence not only for visual references but as a metaphor of a carefully ‘crafted’ creation of itself that conveys complex duality and dichotomies.  Venice, as an ‘entity’, has allowed investigation of pairs, pairings, binary oppositions, of duplication, counter praxis and co existing duality of tensions and torsions.

The shoe form narrates, becoming portrait and protagonist. Often misconstrued as an object of adoration, therefore superficial in meaning, belies a more complex relationship, even perverse, where the shoe form conveys different meaning from interactive wearing with that of passive gazed upon artefact.

Current work focuses on the shoe making process in a large body of work called the ‘Shoe Making Kit’, this reflects on a brief historical moment that saw female makers and sellers of shoes.  The ‘Shoe Making kit’ series also conjures up the secret hordes, the fetishism of collecting and coveting such objects.

(PROWN & HALTMAN (2000) ‘American Artifacts; essays in material culture’ (edited) Michigan, Michigan State Unv. Press Page 13)


  • Shoe making kit exhibition 143

    Shoe making kit exhibition 143

  • Robertmclean robtakephoto.com 20141124 0041

    Robertmclean robtakephoto.com 20141124 0041

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    Img 2660

  • Adaptation ireland 16  50

    Adaptation ireland 16 50