President Micheal D Higgins received members of the Glass Society of Ireland to Áras an Uachtaráin to view the The Keep Well Glass Quilt installation, entitled ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, in the State Dining Room on Thursday December 16th 2021.
The Keep Well Glass Quilt Project is a unique collaborative initiative, undertaken by the members of the Glass Society of Ireland during the third wave of COVID-19 and the subsequent 12 weeks of lockdown. Confined to 5km of their homes and studios, 50 glassmakers came together virtually to collaborate on a large glass quilt, making two pieces each.
The primary aim of this project was to look after members’ mental health and create connections within the glass community. Professional and amateur glassmakers are represented as well as all techniques of glassmaking, from traditional cutting, glass painting, kiln working, blowing, etching, engraving and lampworking. Made of individual rhomboid shapes, each glassmaker interpreted their own ideas around what the theme – ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ – meant to them. It will be in place in Áras an Uachtaráin until January.
Representatives view and discuss the collaborative Glass Quilt ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’
In attendance from the GSOI were Board Chair Róisín de Buitléar, Vice-Chair Alison Byrne, Board Member Marja Huhta, Eva Kelly, Marie O’Rourke, Evan Connon, Kathryna Cuschieri and Rachel McDonnell. Also joining the GSOI members were Bob O’Malley, who built the frame for the quilt, and Harry McKeon, a mutual friend of the President, Marie O’Rourke and the GSOI.
It was an immense honour for all the attendees, as well as all of the GSOI members involved with the Glass Quilt, to share this collaborative work with the President.
For the occasion of the President’s meeting with the GSOI representatives, the ‘Portrait of Harry Clarke (1889-1931)’ by Margaret Clarke from the National Gallery collection, was on special view for the GSOI. In addition the President displayed ‘The Raven Black Basket with Yellow Wrap’, 2015 by Dale Chihuly from the state collection. The Chihuly piece was gifted to the President on the occasion of his official visit to the West Coast of the United States in 2015.
Tea was enjoyed in the State Dining Room and discussions with President Higgins and Orla O’Hanrahan, the Secretary General to the President ranged from Irish history in the 1930’s to historical and contemporary glass.
The visit included a tour of the house and grounds, where a sculpture by GSOI Board chair Róisín de Buitléar titled ‘Taste the First Strawberry’, can be seen in the Sensory garden, as well as other sculptures around the property.
The entire visit was a thoughtful encounter, one which the GSOI representatives felt not only welcome to share their experience of collaboration, community building and their own varied glass techniques, but also the indelible joy that the medium of glass brings to those who are practitioners and those who are collectors and admirers.
This visit with President Higgins and the honour of displaying ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ in Áras an Uachtaráin is a historical experience and immense honour for the Glass Society of Ireland and all 50 members that collaborated on the Keep Well Glass Quilt.
We thank the President for affording the GSOI this special opportunity.