Alumni Stories - Fiona Harrington
"As a result of Covid-19, we are now all in a situation whereby we must consider how we can share our work. This is throwing up a lot of new ideas and may even result in a greater number of people who are able to access the arts due to digital technology."
Name: Fiona Harrington
Current Career: Artist - Lacemaker
Graduation Year: 2013
Discipline: Textiles – Lacemaking
What career path did you want to follow as a child?
From about the age of 13, I wanted to be an artist.
Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
I initially returned to education (to NCAD) as a mature student to do a degree in education, as I had been working as a freelance arts educator for the previous ten years. I realised within the first three weeks of the education course, that it was very much designed towards becoming a secondary school teacher. There was very little emphasis on developing personal practice, so I switched and moved to Textile Design. Even though my first course of study had been Fine Art, I’d always had an interest in textiles, so it seemed like a clever move.
How did you develop your career towards your current practice?
I became interested in lace in third year of my undergraduate degree, but as lacemaking was not taught at NCAD, I researched places I could go to learn the techniques. I found the Kenmare Lace Centre in Kerry; and spent four months there learning how to make handmade lace. I returned to Dublin and completed my degree in 2013, specialising in handmade lace. Following this, I set up a small lace business on the Beara Peninsula in west Cork, where I designed and made a series of Irish Lace collections. This work was about trying to re-position handmade lace within a gallery/design context and move away from the idea that lace can only be used as a fashion fabric, or a fabric for soft furnishings. This work was two-dimensional framed artwork, that drew inspiration from the rugged west Cork landscape and rural Irish life. I have continued to develop my practice as well as research and up-skill. I now split my time between making my own work, exhibiting, and giving talks and demonstrations on both my own practice and Irish lace.
What is the one experience during your time at NCAD that has informed you most in your work to date?
I attended a lecture on contemporary themes in craft delivered by Dr Anna Moran who spoke about an exhibition in Birmingham called ‘Lost in Lace’. I decided to go and see the show as it seemed so fascinating. This was the beginning of my love affair with lace. I have dedicated all my time and energy since then towards the development of a contemporary lace practice, preserving the tradition and educating people on both the history and the skills of lacemaking. I also wrote my undergraduate thesis on lace. Dr Jessica Hemmings was my thesis tutor, who was an incredible support and made me realise my potential for academic writing.
If you were chatting with current NCAD students today what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
Be sure to attend any available seminars that teach you about academic writing. These are invaluable and make you realise that writing a thesis isn’t as a colossal task as you might initially fear.
Given the global turmoil and change accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what in your opinion are the opportunities for those in creative industries?
As a result of Covid-19, we are now all in a situation whereby we must consider how we can share our work. This is throwing up a lot of new ideas and may even result in a greater number of people who are able to access the arts due to digital technology. It also means that training opportunities/lectures/conferences that in the past could be very costly to attend are now more accessible to young and emerging artists, as many are available online. I feel the creative community is a lot more connected now as we realise the importance of maintaining those connections in whatever way we can.
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