See Us – Cló

Compiled by Oona Hyland, Co-ordination, Marjorie Carroll. Images, Ian Joyce

1st Visit: Ogham Project

Cló undertook a research visit to Skye, Inverness & Glasgow and developed the attached project proposal. Cló would especially like to thank the arts officer and staff at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for their time and help in researching the project.

Through the support of CeangalG, the Ogham project research is with reference to the Scottish and Irish Gaeltachts. Through the Malartú project, Cló were the first Gaeltacht based organization to set up a residency exchange program with Gàidhlig partners in Scotland and have now researched a possible 3 way artists’ exchange based around common cultural and linguistic themes. Through the visit, Cló researched future links for artist-in-residence exchange with Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist and potential sites on Stornoway, Tarbert and Carloway on Lewis.

Between 2010-2014, Cló initiated and co-ordinated 2 European projects supported by the EACEA with co-funding from arts agencies in the republic of Ireland with links in 5 countries. The research supported by CeangalG is built on this experience and envisages a Gaidhlig/Gaelic language basis for a trans-cultual and international art project.

2nd Visit: Cló undertook a research visit to Glasgow & Iona.

Through the support of CeangalG, we undertook research into a new arts and crafts initiative about to start up in Dunganaghy Co. Donegal. In the context of contemporary craft and arts initiatives in Scotland with a common language and cultural background, we researched ideas for printmaking, ceramic, jewelry and natural dyes.

In addition to sites in Glasgow, both contemporary and archeological, we also visited the Isle of Mull and Iona.

Aos Dàna is a craft enterprise, owned by the artist Mhairi Killen who we first met through the Great Book of Gaelige, An Leabhar Mór. Mhairi came on a residence. Cló hosted for a number of Scots and Irish artists and Calligraphers. Over the years we have kept in contact and in recent times we have become interested in developing a similar enterprise in Donegal. The work exhibited in Aos Dàna is of a very high standard and it is specific to the island as it draws its inspiration and source material from the ornate stone carvings found in the cloister of Iona Abbey dating back to the very early years of Christianity. It is difficult to find craft work that is of this quality and relates to its source in such a way as Aosdana’s work and this was one of the main reasons for our visit.

Aosdana has been in business for approx. 15 years and has become a well established enterprise; it is currently in the process of re branding and we had an informative meeting about the processes involved.

It is important to raise the level of craft work in Donegal and we feel our new outlet in Dunfanaghy can learn a lot from the high production values of this craft workshop, everything is made on site, but training and upgrading of skills is one constant aspect which needs to be outsourced. Work is made either for private commissions or in limited editions. Prices are high but not exorbitant for hand made, unique pieces, which are works of art.

Apart from the silver work Mhairi makes she also showcases other contemporary craft works by a limited number of artists, photography, prints woodturning and jewelry made from Iona natural stone, Serpentine and Baltic Amber which can be found on the shores of Iona including small green stones called “St. Columbas’ Tears”.

Oran and Iona Crafts

Two other craft enterprises were of interest to us on Iona. Oran is a gallery shop selling ceramics including Raku, an ancient Japanese technique, and Watercolour and Oil paintings of the landscape of Iona, by various artists. Oran is more similar to typical craft shops we have in Donegal such as An Clachan at An Chuirt Hotel in Gweedore.

Iona crafts is a community cooperative where they produce their own wool from Iona sheep and sell products made from it, mostly machine made brightly coloured hats, scarfs and jumpers, socks and gloves. We are in the process of researching natural dyes and seeking a source of natural un-dyed wools and fabrics currently so it was very interesting to see this enterprise, although we are trying to do something quite different ourselves.

Natural dyes

The graveyard at Iona Abbey has many ancient gravestones, which are covered in Lichens and we have been researching these various Lichens as sources of natural dyes. Sue Griegsons excellent book “The Colour Cauldron, Scottish natural dye plants”, has been a mine of information and we were pleased to find many rare lichens or Crottle on the grave stones which we recorded . These Lichens are also found in Donegal and were traditionally used for dying wool for tweed, shawls and rugs. Some of these lichens take many years to grow and need to be cropped frugally to maintain numbers, the diversity found on Iona is unique. Other dye plants we recorded on the island include Tormentil (red), Roseroot, Juniper, Woodsage, St Johns Wort, Ragged Robin, Eyebright, Monkshood, Self Heal and Bog Asphodel. The use of natural dyes is growing in popularity due to greater environmental awareness generally and an interest in local produced products specifically. In Donegal we have an abundance of these plants and a tradition of their use, which is almost lost. We have begun a dye garden at Cló and are undergoing training in the coming months in natural dye techniques, we hope to produce natural dyed fabrics and papers for artists and collecters to be sold through our Dunfanaghy outlet.

Iona and trees (in relation to Ogham , the language project.)

According to a medieval Irish tract, the “Betha Colaim Cille”, whenever an oak tree blew down St Columba would tell his followers not to chop it up till the end of 9 days and then divide it among all the folk of the place, good and bad, a third part of it to be put in the guest house for the guest and a tenth part as a share for the poor. It was from oak he built his church on Iona- he built another in Ireland by an oak copse. This may reflect a deep connection with trees from an earlier pre Christian period. The veneration with which the Celts regarded the tree, either singly or in groups, is amply evidenced by the number of shrines devoted to it and its close association with the standing stone, the focal point of many sacred places. Trees could also reflect the joining of the lower and upper worlds, their roots burrowing beneath the ground while their branches reached to the sky. For the Celts everything in the natural world possessed its own spirit. And, when Christianity came to them, many pagan deities slipped easily into the characters of the new religion.

Glasgow Open house Art Festival 2nd to 4th May 2015

We were lucky that our trip to Glasgow coincided with the Open house festival in Glasgow, an artists’ led, not-for-profit organisation. The festival provides a platform for artists both emerging and established, opening up their practices – and in many instances, their homes- to new audiences. By removing art from conventional spaces and embedding it within the very fabric of the city- its tenements, disused buildings, wastelands and other unsung spaces- Glasgow Open House Art Festival transforms the landscape of Glasgow, thereby offering a new perspective of the city to its inhabitants. We found this very interesting and viewed work across the city especially in the Gorbels area where we visited Laurieston Arches on Cleland Lane; these were a series of several disused derelict railway arches. The exhibitions were in the form of site-specific works and sound works, readings and performances involving approx. 17 artists. Most of the artists were post-graduate MFA students from Glasgow School of Art. We met a Catalan artist Cristina Garriga who was exhibiting a curated collection of artists’ books and we found a connection here as we are one of the very few workshops teaching artist book binding in Ireland, helping artists to produce artists books and creating them ourselves. The festival itself is inclusive, invigorating , experimental and exciting. It is inspiring to see how other cities and regions promote their arts, we can learn a lot from this.

The Highland Fusiliers Museum

We visited this voluntary run Museum near the Centre for Contemporary Art in Sauchiehall Street. Three hundred and forty years of history of this regiment vividly brought to life in a small museum with interactive exhibits which charts the history of the regiment.

Tenement House Museum

Glimpse of life in the early 20th Century in Glasgow, this is a faithfully restored four room house lived in by Miss Agnes Toward for over half a century.

MacLellan Galleries

Cyril Gerber Fine Art; Paintings ,drawings and sculpture by important Scottish artists.

Glasgow School of Art

We met with Donegal artist Aoife McGarrigle who is a lithography tutor at the school of Art and a leading printmaking artist and technician who has agreed to assist Cló with developing new photo-etching works for the outlet in Dunfanaghy.

Centre for Contemporary Art

Interesting bookshop and gallery (exhibition was being set up) ubiquitous café.

Report on CeagalG project, Cló, An Fearann Feasa/ Living Archive, Ian Joyce, Oona Hyland & Marjorie Carroll


Cló would like to thank CeangalG for their support, organisational as well as monetary for this research project. Two elements are referred to: a travel period from 6th – 14th April, 2015 and a second travel period from 27th April – 4th of May, 2015. At the time of the CeangalG project Cló is in a transition (May 2014 – September 2015) from a development arts company (1998-2013) to a not for profit charitable foundation. In 2013, due to cut backs in Arts funding in the republic of Ireland the company ceased providing employment and the founding directors formed a partnership to complete live projects, including the Úr project (2012-2014) supported by the EACEA and the Maggie Hughie Eoghan Scholarship (2014). Cló, An Fearann Feasa/Living Archive is dedicated to providing career opportunities for artists from the Gaeltacht and for artists from different cultures, internationally to have access to the language, landscape and environment of the Gaeltacht.

Since its foundation, Cló have initiated a number of project formats around the common inspiration of Gaelic & Gaidhlig. “Malartú” involved an artist in residence exchange between Taigh Chearsabhagh & Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc Teoranta; a project entitled “Faire” celebrated links between Scotland and Ireland through song and visual art. Singers Lillis Ó Laoire, Mary Smith (Lewis), Dominic Mac Giolla Bhríde & Cór Taobh an Leithid – along with with international visual artists participated in a documentary and performance project which took place in Gort an Choirce with a residency programme based at Mín an Leá ( Other smaller projects included an interdisciplinary art and performance piece and an artists’ book project.

With the support of CeangalG, Cló are encouraged to research and develop new links for the future around the following areas:

  1. Developing a new arts and craft initiative.
  2. Researching an Interdisciplinary art project.
  3. An international Artist in residence programme.

These areas became the themes of the research supported by Ceangal G. A initial visit to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was crucial to opening a network of contacts,in Skye, Lewis, North Uist, Oban and Inverness.

Encounters at Glasgow School of Art, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, the Advanced Textile Unit- Glasgow School of Art, Cultural and Tourism Centre Oban, and a visit to Aos Dàna, and other craft based sites on Iona have helped us to focus on developing new ideas. Further to completing the project Cló will contact the individuals and organisations who may be interested in co-fostering the following initiatives:

  1. Developing an arts and craft outlet at Martha’s Courtyard, Dunfanghy, Co Donegal. Ian Joyce and Oona Hyland will launch “Living Archive” on the 6th of June 2015. With the support of CeangalG the artists researched new craft and design ideas including Intaglio (printmaking), ceramic,silver jewelry and using natural dyes.
  2. Developing contacts for “Ogham” a multi-media art and performance project proposed by Ian Joyce.
  3. A 3 way Ireland Scotland residency exchange for Cló with focus on Lewis, North Uist, Iona and the Donegal Gaeltacht.