Since starting my embroidery kit business Rosie's Rags, I have started to use the technique in my own artwork. Here are two portraits, the first is of my husband musician Wayne Soper. Hour Glass and is a portrait of Grace Gifford. Grace Gifford married rebel leader Joseph Plunkett the night before his execution in Kelaina Jail. I got married this year 100 years after Grace and Plunkett and I found a resonance with her story as she was also an artist and studied at NCAD where I am currently completing a masters in art education. Grace went on to spend time in the same jail herself for creating political cartoons for a radical newspaper. I felt compelled to pay tribute to this strong woman. The piece represents the last ten minutes Grace and Plunkett were given together before his execution. The rising sun represents the rebellion; the clouds show the uncertain future Ireland would rise into. The shamrocks represent the Irish cause that they believed in so much they were willing to sacrifice their lives. 

The third portrait here is my short-listed piece "Quiet Revolution" for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2018, it was exhibited at the National Gallery of Ireland. I choose to create a portrait of doctor, mum and campaigner for T.F.M.R. (terminations for medical reasons) Siobhan Donohue. Siobhan was diagnosed with a fetal fetal abnormality and had to travel to the UK for an abortion. I first heard Siobhan speak at the Repeal march on International Women’s Day, her story brought tears to my eyes. I met Siobhan just three days after the referendum result at the National Gallery after making contact with her on Twitter. We decided to meet after the result so the portrait could be appropriate to the outcome. I took some photographs that I worked from to create the piece. The portrait captures both her strength and her relief after the result. The portrait was completed in just two weeks of constant stitching. I choose the hand embroidery technique as it was originally associated with a past time to keep women busy in the home. The style in contrast is reminiscent of masculine painters like Lucien Freud. The process is similar to painting, but with the mixing of colours happening on canvas by blending of threads rather than on a palette. The intersecting and overlapping strands of colour are evocative of the complexity of the struggle for women’s rights in Ireland. Here Siobhan and the thousands of individual stitches represent all the women affected by the 8th amendment and those that fought to repeal it. I am so happy that the portrait was able to acknowledge and commemorate these women on a National platform. Thanks so much to everyone who encouraged me along the way, it really meant a lot to me and kept me going through the physical pain of creating this peace in such a short space of time! Huge thank you to Siobhan Donohue for agreeing to be part of this project and for helping to make Ireland a better place.

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Dublin, Ireland.


© 2020 by Sarah Bracken