Capturing the meaning of life in Connemara

This month saw the completion of a year-long project carried out by a group of parishioners and friends of Christ Church, Clifden, under the watchful eye of fellow parishioner and tapestry expert Tricia Willder, writes Deborah Watkins.

The initial idea came from Rosemary Evans, who had been part of a similar project while her husband Revd Stan Evans was serving in the Adare Union of Parishes a number of years previously.

The idea behind the project was simple – a kneeler was to be constructed for the church from individual panels woven in tapestry. These would then be sewn together in sections to create a long cushion to sit in front of the church communion rail. Each person was assigned a panel and given complete freedom to arrive at the design. There was just one requirement, and this was that each design should in some way capture for the individual the meaning of church or spiritual life here in Connemara.

I was among the 18 people assigned the task, which I took on with some trepidation given my total ignorance of the process of tapestry. Then there was the business of arriving at a design, which seemed more than a little daunting at first. I mean, how does a person get to the essence of something so intangible and rework it into an A4 size panel?

The key for me (and it would seem for many others) lay right in front of my eyes – Connemara. The marvel of this extraordinary part of the world, its ancient and powerful landscape, its flora, fauna and bird life, represent for many the essence of spiritual life here.

The natural world is strongly represented in the final tapestry and it is what makes this production so particular to Clifden, now and for generations to come. Other panels represent church life more literally through a favourite biblical passage or story, and the combination of these is a feast for the eyes.

Project leader Tricia guided each person carefully through the different techniques of weaving coloured threads through canvas to create an image. She deserves much credit for her unstinting commitment to the year-long project, in which she gave her rallying support to each of the crafters, many of us novices.

Tricia stretched each completed panel on a wooden board to straighten them before completing the side panels, adding each person’s initials in gold to the front of the cushions in a final flourish.

Aggie Freeman from Aughris then sewed the pieces together and filled each length to form the finished kneeler.

The participants in this project were Rosemary Evans, Jan Barry, Diana Canning, Liz Campbell, Sue Bowen-Colthurst, Bridie Conneely, Doreen Dowcett, Rosemary Gates, Anne Henning-Jocelyn, Gifty Lawson-Kearns, Caroline Kruger, Nicola Musgrave, Carol Passemard, Debbie Watkins, Sarah White, Mo West, Tricia Willder and Cathy Wolfe.

Revd Stan Evans would like extend a welcome to all of the community in Connemara to view this impressive and evocative tapestry in Christ Church, Clifden.