Canada Council for the Arts



Irish Linen Memorial Handkerchiefs 

Textiles metaphorically illustrate the violence and trauma inflicted upon the body, the loss of life and the rupture of social order which violent sectarianism involves. Cloth can act as a reminder of displaced persons, the migrant identity and, in a fabric's fragility, the plea for global stability.

Irish linen has been a part of Northern Irish life and the economy for both Protestants and Catholics for three hundred years.

Memorial Handkerchiefs, 2001 - 2004 

Artist's explanation: The names were originally printed on handkerchiefs in 2001.

Technically, they were printed in permanent paint through the stencilled oil boards (4 names per card). I want to thank artist Alice Dubiel for the use of her studio, Seattle. Thank you to Stan Gielewski. A 'wave' of bronze/ gold paint was added to 'ease the eye'. This was not the technique of a needleworker, I have always approached the memorial as a sculptor.

In 2004, after beginning my doctorate research in text annd textiles, I decided to embroider the names white-on-white because of my research on remembering and re-recording (memory and erasure) and needlework. My aunt kindly agreed to start this for me, as she had almost lost her father and brother to The Troubles.

The 2004 unveiling of the memorial contained 25 embroidered handkerchiefs or 250 names embroidered. Then, an elderly friend came forward, Edith Morriot (see photo) and was moved to tears upon hearing about the project. She tatted 3 hankies and wove in a lock of her red hair.

In late 2004, after further research, I decided to 'mark' each of the hankies with a spot of hair; this is still in process. The latter references Victorian mourning jewellery (death was more typical in that era due to infant mortality and the American civil war) and 'memento mori'; yet something crafted with a loved one's hair was / is also considered 'a love token'.

Any spot on linen, alternatively /additionally, represents violence (profanity) marking something sacred (the skin / the body / white eccesiastical linen). I also consider the spots on the linen to be akin to the 'iconic' freckles on the fair skin of someone considered to be 'typically Irish / Irish - British' (The latter is now up for debate in academic dialogue / academic art criticism in studies about 'Whiteness' as there is a 'new' intercultural identity of contemporary Ireland/Northern Ireland!).

The embroidery continues today ....there are about 1000 names still awaiting commemoration by hand...

Thank you to the labour of all the embroiderers, without whom this monument would not continue to be 'built'...

Font for Printed Memorial Handkerchiefs 

The font used to print the names on the handkerchiefs was created by using a mechanical device with a font wheel buried in the machine that had the letters all around the edge of it: A Model #1 from The Ideal Stencil Machine Co, Inc., USA, probably from the 1930's. The machine was loaned from the Sandpoint Naval base, Seattle, U.S.A.

Thank you to artist's assistants for the printing: Jasmine Folz (Anthropologist), Buddhist Monk Chong Do Sunim (formerly Geraldine Finegan) and Stan Gielewski (Designer - Engineer), June to August 2001, Seattle U.S.A.

Thank you to Hendrick Miller for his coordination, passion for the project and the use of his permises.

Thanks to Maureen and Robert Trouton for checking and re-checking the names and to Robert Trouton for hand - printing handkerchiefs and for hand doing all the names after 2001.

Lycia Trouton and Prof. Rev. James Haire, Gallery 1 opening, 2002.
Please listen to the speech below for more information (4:24). Thank you to Prof. Rev. James Haire, Belfast-Canberra.
Video & edit by J. Zutt

Exhibitions : 2001-present
© 2001-2010 Lycia Trouton   Updated 5th March 2010