My name is Mary O’Neill, originally from Tullow, in Co. Carlow. I was extremely lucky to learn the basics of Carrickmacross Lacemaking at the age of 12 from Sr Paschal Richardson of the Brigidine Convent in Tullow, County Carlow.
For many years I had a great interest in the lacemaking as a hobby and over time developed a passion for all things lace.
I then began designing my own patterns and researched the techniques of Carrickmacross Lacemaking, developing my unique contemporary style.
However in 1998, I set up a small lacemaking business “Arduin Lace Collection” which was based in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, operating from a little whitewashed cottage, on the Skellig Ring, just off the world famous Ring of Kerry. I taught local women’s groups the traditional craft. The business name changed to “The Lace Gallery”, and relocated to Carrigslaney, Kilbride, Co. Carlow, in 2003.
I now operate from my studio in Carrigslaney which is situated 4 miles from Tullow, 3 miles from Ballon, 2 miles from Ardattin village and within 1.5 miles from Carlow’s number one tourist attraction Altamont Gardens, Kilbride. Tullow, County Carlow.
Concentrating on smaller pieces of lace, in order to make them commercially viable, rather than reproducing the labour intensive, intricate pieces of times gone by, every piece of my work is signed, dated and numbered. In addition to the traditional technique in the lace making, I graduate the picot edge (looped edge) to my designs and have copyright on this.
Throughout the years, I won several national awards at the Royal Dublin Society Craft Awards, including the Eleanor De La Branchardiere award on two occasions, for innovative design. These awards were a great endorcement for my love of lace.
All my work is presented as wall pieces that make innovative use of Carrickmacross Lace and sensitively chosen paper.
The wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William in 2011 brought Carrickmacross Lace to worldwide attention. Kate’s dress was designed by Sarah Burton who was the creative director for the late Alexander McQueen. The lace was made by the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. Kate’s choice of lace has inspired, influenced and awakened the passion of the art and craft of Carrickmacross Lace all over the world.
The Lace Gallery also has a collection of other handmade lace so that visitors can see different techniques used. The collection includes: Kenmare Lace, Borris Lace, Clones Lace, Torchon, Tatting, Venetian Needlepoint and various bobbin laces.
In recent years I have mastered the art of Borris Lace, a local lace which was revived in 1991.
I am a member of the Guild of Irish Lacemakers, OIDFA, the international bobbin lace and needle lace organisation and also registered with the Craft Council of Ireland.