– Lace Matrix – Headford’s lace sculpture causes ‘surprise and delight’

The bobbin lace heritage, unique to the Headford area, was dramatically celebrated through the creation of the impressive Lace Matrix sculpture in the city of north Galway.

The sculpture, designed by internationally renowned artist Róisín de Buitléar, in response to a commission from the Headford Lace Project, surprised and delighted locals, visitors and passers-by in the city center.


The sculpture is a permanent public installation and work of art and is located in St George’s Square. The aim was to celebrate the lace tradition of the Headford region, which in August 2021 was officially recognized as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ireland’.

Lace Matrix is ​​shaped like a Valentine’s Day heart and is based on the first lace sample discovered attributed to the history of Headford lace.

Drawing inspiration from ideas from the vernacular agricultural hardware store and eager to employ a local manufacturer, Róisín de Buitléar worked with local blacksmiths, Pat Monaghan and Simon Harte, from Forge Metalworks in Caherlistrane, to create the frame.

The heart-shaped frame allows the sculpture to be filled with different lace patterns. The metal loops surrounding the frame echo the picot edging found on the edge of the lace, which is used to hold the intricate lace patterns together. De Buitléar and bobbin lace professor Jackie Magnin worked together to evolve the artist’s design – an array of flowers and diamonds, scattered over a honeycomb pattern, known as the background tea towel.

Lacing marathon

Last week saw a six-day lacing marathon where more than two dozen volunteers, ages 10 to 80, and very experienced lace-makers to passers-by, working the interconnected patterns using heirloom techniques with a very modern twist.

Unlike traditional bobbin lace, created on a pillow over the knees or on a table, Lace Matrix requires vertical work rather than horizontal and uses thick parachute cord rather than the thin linen threads typically associated with lacing.

Two kilometers of rope were used to fill the two-meter-high structure, which took over 190 (wo) hours of work. The fact that it was laced on the outside provided a connection to the town’s women in the 1750s who made bobbin lace to supplement family income. These women often worked outdoors due to poor indoor lighting and often worked in very limited circumstances for limited pay while their lace was sold for profit to the wealthy elite.

Headford lace continued in the city until the early 20th century, after which it was almost forgotten, until 2016, when a small piece of bobbin lace was discovered, leading to the creation of HLP who has since worked to research, revive and reinvent Headford lace making.

HLP has since trained more than 80 apprentices in the intervening years and has collaborated with a variety of individuals and groups, both nationally and internationally, in the fields of classical music, film, drums, community theater and fashion design.

The future of Lace Matrix

The current lacing on Lace Matrix is ​​expected to be in place until summer 2022. HLP plans to work with different artists, artisans and community groups to ensure that the lacing within the sculpture changes and evolves in new ways.

The project was funded by Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, and was one of the last projects to be completed under the Small Cities, Big Ideas stream.

Comments are closed.