“Dreaming Vessels” Galway Chapter Woodturning Exhibition
James Hardiman Library NUI Galway
Here at the Galway Chapter we have very busy preparing for our largest and most demanding exhibition which will open on the 9th of February in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. This installation and exhibition will form part of the 15th annual Múscailt Festival, the theme this year being “Float Away”.
The concept for our exhibition was inspired by one of the iconic images of Galway – the Claddagh Hooker. Our concept was to use the motif of the Claddagh Hooker sails onto which we would mount bowls and platters and on the reverse side stage an exhibition of approximately thirty of our individual turned pieces.
Planning began in early 2014 as we knew that a project of this size would take a considerable amount of time to complete. The first stage of the project was to agree on a design for the installation. We had the physical constraints of the exhibition space and the method of construction for the installation to consider.
The limitations of the exhibition space and, to some extent our resources, dictated that a half scale representation of a Claddagh Hooker would be constructed. A maquette of our final design helped us to visualise and give us an understanding of the scale of the sails and the number of bowls and platters need to fill them.
The choice of material for the construction of the structure was considered next and we decided that OSB sheets would be suitable from both a construction point of view and also because the texture of the OSB strands would give a sense of the texture of a Hooker hull.
The construction of the structure has been completed in eleven sections in one of our member’s vast workshop. The use of Pete Fahy’s workshop allowed us to prefabricate and work on the installation over a period of months before it is transported to the Library building and assembled. I think that everyone who been out to the workshops would like to say thank you to Pete and his family for their generosity and hospitality.
Our first workshop was during the summer where we assembled a large portion of the structure and our next workshop was in November where more assembly was carried out. The base and sails were painted the distinctive black for the base and a rust / maroon for the sails.
The last workshop was in early January on a bitterly cold day. Our members turned out to give their time to finish the assembly and mount the bowls and vessels onto the sails. I hope (from the pictures) you can get a sense of the scale of the project. It stands at over 14 feet (4.5 meters) in height and so far we have over 160 turned bowls on the sails. The variety of turning on the sails reflect all stages of turning from rough turned bowls to finished pieces; from highly finished pieces to heavily textured pieces.
The method of fixing the bowls to the OSB sheets was solved by the ingenuity of Kevin Walsh and a router. Kevin asked that we leave a 3 inch (76 mm) spigot on the bowls so that he could rout out a dovetail slot into the spigot. A simple softwood slip with a matching dovetail profile and a bolt through it would then slide into the base of the bowl. With a hole drilled through the OSB sail the bowls can be mounted without any fixings showing. The smaller lightweight bowls will be hot melt glued to the sails to complete them.
Every boat needs a name and ours is no different. We hope the name given to her reflects the nature of our endeavours. Traditionally when somebody needed help with a large manual task in Ireland such as harvesting crops etc., all the neighbours and friends would come and give their time for free to help with the task.
This cooperative coming together by people to freely give their labour is called in Irish a Meitheal. It was both a necessity when the task was too big for one person, but it was also glue that kept communities together. It was a social occasion, with people telling stories, sharing news and simply enjoying each other’s company.
In this project, the Galway Chapter have had their own Meitheal by producing an installation that could only have come about by pooling all of the talents within the Chapter. All the vessels displayed here carry the dreams, hopes and spirits of the makers who pursue their craft with passion. With these thoughts in our mind, our Claddagh Hooker will be called An Meitheal Mór.
It is a credit to all of the Chapter members that their hard work and dedication for the past few months will be rewarded on the opening night of the Múscailt Arts festival and for the duration of the exhibition. We would also like to thank the Arts Office of NUI Galway for their generosity in inviting us to be part of their festival.