Fruits of Creativity and Parish Memories Celebrated at Crumlin Art Project
St Mary’s Church in Crumlin was a hive of activity at the weekend as celebrations took place marking the culmination of their almost year–long art project. Working with ceramicist Michael Moore, parishioners have had their memories and stories of the life of their unique church immortalised in clay.
Clay is a fitting medium for their work as their church is built using the last of the local distinctive yellow Dolphin’s Barn brick. The clay for these bricks came, as the name suggests, from nearby Dolphin’s Barn, and the bricks were fired in Crumlin. The art project was sparked by an online talk by Dublin City Council’s Historian in Residence, Cathy Scuffil, which Michael saw during lockdown.
In all, 10 parishioners unearthed their artistic skills during the project which was supported by a grant from Dublin City Council’s Neighbourhood/Voluntary Arts Scheme and Ulster University. They were Jean Bovenizer, Joan Dixon, Netta Edgerton, Joy Elliott, Lavinia Heasley, Ray Kaye, Thomas Lynam, Violet Twohig, Maud Williams and Peggy Worrell.
The parishioners, aged from 50 to 100 years old, took part in regular sessions with Michael. None had ever worked with clay before and many doubted their artistic abilities. Over time the group grew in confidence as they shared memories, stories and mementoes as the source of their inspiration for the clay tiles they created. These tiles mirror the small wooden carving on St Mary’s pulpit which reflect life in the parish at the time the ‘new’ church opened in 1942.
Over the weekend people came from far and wide to view the exhibition, attend talks and explore the unique church. The celebrations concluded yesterday (Sunday November 19) with a Songs of Praise Service attended by Archbishop Michael Jackson.
Lavinia Heasley explained that there were three main phases to the project. Initially parishioners gathered to tell stories, share their memories and find mementoes from times past. Then Michael came and outlined his vision for the project, much to the bamboozlement of the parishioners, Lavinia recalled. Their fears allayed, the parishioners entered what she termed the “factory phase” which involved them churning out tile after tile. “Central to all of this has been Michael Moore’s gentle skill and cajoling. It has been really appreciated,” she commented adding that their artwork will remain in situ in the church.
Michael Moore explained that he came to the project with a life–long love of clay and ceramics. He highlighted the importance of the church building. “Once the connection was made [between the building and the local clay] you could see that the community could be brought together making and learning new skills through their own hands. I pass St Mary’s every day and now I have a much stronger connection with it and know how strong the community is here,” he said.
The Rector, the Revd Ruth Noble, outlined some of the memories which emerged during the process and have been transferred into the beautiful ceramic tiles. One of the key memories for those who grew up in the parish was the Sunday School outing. This involved a fleet of double decker buses which brought children to the Hole in the Wall at the beach in Sutton for an afternoon of games and fun.
There were also reminiscences of Boys Brigade and Girls Brigade, and St Mary’s Dramatic Club and St Mary’s Musical Society who put on shows both in the parish and on tour around the country.
In his sermon, Archbishop Jackson commended the parish and community for the way in which they had drawn together memories. He attended the lecture in the church at the start of the project in March and was fascinated to learn about the building, its structure and its connections with the community. “This afternoon you have taken that further because through your ceramics you have expressed that sense of community,” he commented.
Drawing on Genesis 1.26: ‘Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness …’ he said that people had a responsibility to be creative. “It is, therefore, entirely appropriate that members of this parish of St Mary, Crumlin, have been creating their own memories of St Mary’s as a parish and as a community of faith and of neighbours, a community of people and of events by telling their stories – and have moved even further in creating these memories as ceramic tiles. The fruits of this creativity are everywhere for us to see on this evening of celebration and they will give a new sense and a new depth to our Songs of Praise. Our thanks and congratulation go to everyone who has participated in this project and to the equally wonderful ceramicist Michael Moore who has made it possible and made it happen by his personal skills and talents and generosity of teaching. To my mind, this is a wonderful way to draw together and to give expression to the voice of history in Crumlin Parish and to open this up to everyone to experience, to explore and to enjoy over a weekend in mid–November when bright colour is to be cherished,” he said.