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Blanket Stitch

Arts for Health, West Cork artist Bénédicte Coleman has organised a series of exhibitions Blanket Stitch throughout the month of May at Castletownbere, Dunmanway and Bantry Libraries, sharing a series of freehand embroidery works exploring the idea of ‘home’. Preloved blankets form the base of the works by participants on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in Bantry Day Care Centre, Castletownbere and Dunmanway Community Hospitals, since June 2022.

Artist Bénédicte Coleman developed the idea for the Blanket Stitch project with the aim of including people from a broad spectrum of physical and cognitive capacities in a colourful and exciting textiles adventure.

Bénédicte describes, ‘The project has been a huge creative leap for some participants as they are not presented with a pattern or template – inspiration for the work comes from their own imaginations. The idea stemmed from conversations which took place during the Arts for Health 2021 Ways & Means postal project, when the old Foxford blankets came up as strong memory trigger – those blankets with the pink, blue or green stripes that were a feature in most Irish homes. The subject of darning and mending came up a lot too, and so the Blanket Stitch project emerged, with a view to turning what was once a habitual chore for Irish women into a joyful celebration of creativity. A lovely aspect of the project is that men have been stitching too, a process from which they were largely excluded in the past.

In a series of workshops facilitated by Bénédicte, old blankets were cut into circles and embroidered using a large selection of coloured wools, and freehand stitching to create small images within the circle of an embroidery hoop, exploring texture, colour and line in imaginative ways.

Staff members have been amazed at the level of participation, and have been enjoying helping out and rediscovering their own sewing skills and creative impetus. Visitors have also enthusiastically turned their hand to stitching – this has truly been a collaborative project, including participants, staff, family and friends. Bealtaine 2023 is but a stage in a journey as the project is ongoing and developing new ideas with every session.

Justine Foster, Uillinn Programme Manager added, ‘A huge thank you to each of the county librarians in Bantry, Dunmanway and Castletownbere who have supported the project with a unique exhibition in each town celebrating the art work by the many participants involved,’ and a response from Michael Plaice, retiring County Library Executive, ‘The libraries involved are delighted to be part of this too. Bantry especially as an Age Friendly town library.’

The exhibitions are included in the national Bealtaine Festival, celebrating creativity as we age, organised by Age & Opportunity.

To see the work please contact your local library for opening hours @corkcocolibrary


IMAGES by Bénédicte Coleman and permission courtesy of Noreen and her daughter, 2023