Mary O’Neill, originally from Tullow, in Co. Carlow, was lucky to learn the basics of Carrickmacross Lacemaking at the age of 12 from Sr Paschal Richardson of the Brigidine Convent in Tullow.
For many years she had a great interest in the lacemaking as a hobby.
Mary began designing her own patterns and researched the techniques of Carrickmacross Lacemaking, developing her own unique style.
However in 1998, she 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. She 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.
Mary now operates from her 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.
Mary makes smaller pieces of lace, in order to make them commercially viable, rather than reproduce the labour intensive, intricate pieces of times gone by. Every piece of her work is signed, dated and numbered, and she designs all of her patterns. In addition to the traditional technique in the lace making, Mary graduates the picot edge (looped edge) to her work and has copyright on this.
Mary presents her work 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.
Mary is a member of the Guild of Irish Lacemakers, OIDFA, the international bobbin lace and needle lace organisation and is also registered with the Craft Council of Ireland.