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Meaning and/in Materiality: Learning and Making in Irish Communities of Craft


Meaning and/in Materiality: Learning and Making in Irish Communities of Craft

Gillett, Molly-Claire ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8064-4273 (2022) Meaning and/in Materiality: Learning and Making in Irish Communities of Craft. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis charts a path through the networked institutions, organizations, philanthropic initiatives, and government bodies that supported, promoted and monitored the crafting and design of Irish lace in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, then traces their impact on this craft through to the present day. This narrative highlights the craft’s development and cultural meaning – it is now practiced in contemporary lacemaking communities and proudly claimed as a part of Ireland’s intangible cultural heritage – as well as its interconnectedness with deeply politicized, gendered, and class-based discourses surrounding design, education and industry. I revisit little-studied texts and employ unstudied archival and material sources to connect such diverse stakeholders in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century lace industry as the Cork School of Art, British Department of Science and Art, Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and Irish Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. Weaving together a complex network of cultural, economic and social exchanges between these diverse actors in colonial governance, philanthropy, co-operative organization, and design education, this thesis tells the story of – primarily women – designers and makers at a pivotal moment in Irish history, whose entangled co-agency was a function of their skill, class, gender, and nationality. Concluding with a consideration of my own learning and making with Irish lace communities, I chart a shift through the twentieth century in the conception of lace design as ‘art for industry’ and making as an economic necessity to both practices as expressions of identity, creativity and networked, ‘storied’ and ‘placed’ community-building. In employing research creation as a methodological strategy, and learning localized, embodied knowledge from contemporary practitioners, I also draw attention to the primary nonhuman agent in this network, namely the lace itself, both to assert its material vibrancy, and to contemplate the actual experience and activity of lace designing and making women, historical and contemporary. This study addresses a gap in Irish craft and design history, as well as women’s and labour history more broadly, employing focused interdisciplinarity and the methodologies of materiality studies to suggest new paths and methods of inquiry for craft and design history and Irish studies.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies > Individualized Program
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Gillett, Molly-Claire
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Individualized Program
Date:20 January 2022
Thesis Supervisor(s):Cheasley-Paterson, Elaine and Richman Kenneally, Rhona and Vaughan, Kathleen
ID Code:990378
Deposited By: Molly-Claire Gillett
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 14:55
Last Modified:16 Jun 2022 14:55
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