Canada Council for the Arts




CENTRE FOR IMAGE, PERFORMANCE AND TEXT, University of Wollongong 2002
CORRYMEELA 2007 and 2008

Please see and hear: Opening speech by Prof. Rev. James Haire in Canberra 2002.

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, embroidered from 2002 - 2009

Thank you to the hand labour of all the embroiderers.

Artist's explanation:

The following is not the technique of a needleworker, as I have always approached the memorial as a sculptor.

The names were originally printed on handkerchiefs in 2001. They were printed using a set of stencilled oil boards (4 names per card). Black paint was used, with some bronze / gold paint throughout, to 'ease the eye'.

In 2004, after beginning my doctorate research in text annd textiles needlework, I decided to embroider the names white-on-white because of my research on remembering and re-recording (memory and erasure). My aunt kindly agreed to start the stitching.

Then, in 2004, an elderly friend came forward. Her name was Edith Morriot (see photo) and as she was moved to tears upon hearing about the project, she volunteered to do some sewing and also she tatted 3 hankies and wove in a lock of her red hair on handkerchief number 1.

Eventually there were 50 women and 1 man from around the world who embroidered all the names, over five years. One name took approximately 1 hour to embroider in chain stitch.

In late 2004, after further research on contemporary textile and installation artists (Doris Salcedo, Colombia, and Anne Wilson, Chicago USA), I decided to 'mark' some of the hankies with a spot of hair. The latter references Victorian mourning jewellery and the idea of 'memento mori'; also, something crafted with a loved one's hair has also always been considered 'a love token'. Any spot on pure white linen, could also represent violence ( the profane) or marking something sacred (the skin / the body / white eccesiastical linen)? Perhaps 'beauty' spots on the linen are akin to the 'iconic' freckles on the fair skin of someone considered to be 'typically Irish or Irish - British'?

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. Thanks to artist Alice Dubiel for the use of her studio.

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.

© 2001 - 2024 Lycia Trouton