Fiona Harrington

“Fragile Economies considers how domestic activity often led to successful female enterprise. Like lacemaking, poultry keeping was once a stable source of income for women seeking financial independence. At the turn of the 20th Century, lacemaking was the second largest industry in the country, while rearing chickens provided a stable income and offered a number of career development opportunities for women right up to the 1970s.

“Historically, lacemaking was thought to be an appropriate pastime for women of high moral stature. However, it was also used to ‘reform’ those considered to be of low moral value. Women kept against their will in institutions such as the Magdalene laundries were required to work in the lace room without remuneration. Yet, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, when women had no right to vote, lace earnings provided independence and agency for some.

“It would appear that by making lace, women were both liberated and controlled. This is a fascinating contradiction and one which I examine through the process of learning and acquiring lacemaking skills. While attaining technical excellence is hugely important to a lacemaker, my interest is in applying those skills in a different format, presenting lace as something other than its original and intended purpose.

“Through my work, I challenge preconceived notions of what lace is considered to be and how lace is used. In doing this, I am creating a space for dialogue between traditional craft practice and contemporary art.”

– Artist statement by Fiona Harrington

Fragile Economies

Handmade needlelace and eggshells


Fiona Harrington is a visual artist who works with handmade lace. She studied fine art, textile design and lacemaking. She has been the recipient of the Thomas Damann Bursary, RDS Graduate Prize, National Craft Award, Eleanor Branchardiere Prize, Traditional Lacemakers Award and a Percent for Art Commission. Her work has been exhibited widely and she has travelled extensively giving talks and demonstrations on Irish Lace. She curated The Space Between, an international lace exhibition, which was part of Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture. She was selected to exhibit in Lace Paint Hair- a three-person exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland. In June, she will represent Ireland at Doily Free Zone, an international symposium exploring lacemaking in art. Most recently she was awarded the RDS Branchardiere Bursary which she will use to continue to develop and innovate her practice.

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