The Branchardiére Bursary is awarded annually to an Irish artist working in lace and is funded by a bequest made in the 19th century by the self-described ‘authoress and designer’, Mademoiselle Eleonore Riego de la Branchardiére. Born in England in 1828 to an Irish mother and a French father, by the time of her death at aged fifty-nine, Branchardiére had published a mere seventy-two books. From her first, Knitting, Crochet and Netting, written when she was aged eighteen, she revolutionised the world of needle-point work, greatly influenced Victorian fashion and became a wealthy woman, with an address at New Bond Street in Mayfair.
Branchardiére’s design books on ‘tatting’ – a handmade lace with knots and loops made of thin thread – were used to make everything from doilys to veils and introduced new ideas to the craft still in use today. Her patterns were adopted in Ireland and aided a cottage industry in producing lace products for export from the time of the Great Famine. Branchardiére never forgot her Irish roots and her bequest established the award.
Branchardiére’s patterns were adopted in Ireland and aided a cottage industry in producing lace products for export from the time of the Great Famine
In collaboration with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, this year the RDS Lace Branchardiére Bursary is worth €8,000 and has been awarded to artist Fiona Harrington. Harrington’s mother made lace and previous generations of her family were hand-weavers. She employs the traditional Irish lace techniques of Carrickmacross and Kenmare needlepoint in her pictures and sculptures, the latter which were exhibited in the National Gallery of Ireland last year. With the bursary monies, Harrington hopes to continue to innovate in her practice and ‘strengthen the profile of Irish lace worldwide’. In June she represents Ireland at the international lace symposium ‘Doily Free Zone’.
Harrington’s inspiration comes from her home on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, where she still sees ‘an almost reverent beauty in the trees, flowers, animals and hedgerows’.