Despatches from Derry

Over the weekend, members of the Aibítir team arrived in Derry~Londonderry~Doire to hang Aibítir: The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art exhibition at The Playhouse. The preparations and the opening of the exhibition coincide with the annual Apprentice Boys’ parades in the ancient walled city. In order that we can all get a flavour of the atmosphere, Colette Roberts and Oonagh Phillips are providing us with ‘despatches from Derry’:


Colette Roberts, Mary McInerney, Megan and Liz Prendergast enjoying some sightseeing on the city walls of Derry~Londonderry~Doire


Liz Prendergast and her daughter, Megan, pose for a photo with some of the friendly Apprentice Boys

The Apprentice Boys march commenced just outside The Playhouse, as we worked inside.   The grey smoke of the dying embers of the previous night’s bonfire drifted over the ancient city walls in the direction of Artillery Street, the Lambeg drums pounding out their relentless annual message, and the boys marched past with ‘No surrender’ on their black tee shirts. The girls had never seen anything quite like it before, and we have a great photograph to prove it, all good fun. There was no trouble and although celebrations went on into the night it didn’t affect us in any way.

The exhibition looks great, I took photographs of the work in progress, and the completed display.  In the main entrance area we hung the alphabet starting with Liz Prendergast’s Aiteann gallda (gorse), and in the main room, which looks great, the other two alphabets were hung, starting with two ‘As’ one top and bottom with about two inches between each painting, name ID to the side and about 4 inches from the base. Each painting was cleaned and checked to make sure they were all at same height and spacing, and that we had the correct artist’s name on each.

The ‘five extras’ were hung, three top and two bottom on a separate wall, and also look good. All the signage was hung on the wall to the back of the sales table, with pride of place going to the huge information poster with the photo of Wendy Walsh and Raymond Piper. We are ready for the preview on Monday.  Many, many thanks to Liz Prendergast and her daughter, Megan, for the professional way in which they hung the paintings.   

Photographs will be taken again once we set up this afternoon (Monday), and Oonagh has arranged a photographer for the evening. Publicity is good  (thank you Betty Christie), and Oonagh did an interview on Radio Foyle about the ‘Aibitir’ exhibition last Friday. Much appreciation also goes to Keith at The Playhouse, who was tremendous help, and provided us with storage for all our bits and pieces. 

Everyone worked hard and it took us every minute from 10am to 4pm to set up, though we did have an hour for lunch.  The weather was glorious, the B&B good, and we had a hilarious meal later that evening. 


The Apprentice Boys’ parade near The Playhouse

Watch this space for more news about the exhibition, and if you happen to be in the Derry~Londonderry~Doire area between the 11 and 24 August, do drop by The Playhouse and view this wonderful visual celebration of Ireland’s native language and some of our indigenous plant species.

A Call to Arts: ISBA Foundation Meeting, 1 March 2014

On 1st March 2014 at 11:00am, the Foundation Meeting for the Irish Society of Botanical Artists will be held in the Visitor Centre of the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin. Anyone with an interest in becoming a member of this new Society, either as an artist or a friend, is invited to attend the Foundation Meeting.

The Society aims to facilitate interaction among those interested in botanical art in Ireland, to foster and inspire their creative development, and raise the awareness of botanical art.
Botanical art is the merging of science and art in the depiction of plant life, and is enjoying a resurgence in recent years. There is a growing number of practicing artists and aspirational beginners in Ireland, and the proposed new society has arisen from this trend.

In anticipation of its official foundation, the group has laid the groundwork for its inaugural exhibition, “The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art”. The exhibition will first open for public viewing on 2 May 2014 at the National Botanic Gardens, and then travel to The Playhouse in Derry from 11-24 August, and on to The Waterfront in Belfast from 2-25 September. By joining the new Society, members will have the opportunity to support this and similar projects in future.

Full Membership (Fee: €50)
Entitles you to sit on committee (once resident in Ireland), vote (once in attendance at meetings), exhibit in Society exhibitions*, participate in Society events, pay less to attend events organised in conjunction with other bodies and to receive the Society’s yearly publication.
* Participation in exhibitions organised by the ISBA is a benefit of membership but may incur an additional cost to artists. These costs can include, but are not exclusive to, postage, framing, hanging, invigilation etc.

Friend Membership (Fee: €25)  
Entitles you to participation in Society events other than exhibitions and to receive the Society’s yearly publication.

As some people may not be able to attend the meeting, or if you want to arrive with paperwork completed, a Membership form in PDF format can be downloaded from the bottom of this page. All who have signed a membership form and paid the appropriate fee by close of business on March 1 2014 will be considered Founding Members of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists. This can be done on the day paying by cash or cheque, posted previous to the meeting at the address above or by using Paypal (please see instructions on membership form).

For further information, please email Jane Stark at



Botanical Art in Bloom

This week’s blog is written by Liz Prendergast, with photographs by Shevaun Doherty.

Now that the first Bloom Exhibition of Botanical Art has been dismantled and much of it is on its way to Claregalway, I will give you all a quick–and very personal–impression of the occasion from the perspective of one who was fortunate to be asked to contribute.

The lead-up to the Bloom exhibition was a call to artists to submit paintings for inclusion. Rebecca Dunwoody was the initial exhibition co-ordinator. The judges were:

  • Brendan Sayers of the National Botanic Gardens
  • Belinda Northcote, a botanical artist who had an exhibition stand in the Crafts Council area of Bloom
  • Patricia Butler, historian of botanical art in Ireland.

The judges were looking for artistic merit and also botanical accuracy: with this in mind, those who did not make it this year are encouraged to try again next year.

For the exhibition itself, the paintings were wonderfully arranged by Lynn StringerHolly Somerville and Yanny Petters. The space was limited in size and yet they created a very effective and pleasing display of beautiful work.

Yanny Petters hangs a painting

Yanny gets to work

Holly Somerville hangs a painting

To the right a bit, Holly

An invitation from Bord Bia to attend the Botanical Art in Bloom Exhibition was sent to everyone and the launch was held on the afternoon of Sunday 26 May. It was a lovely gathering of artists, their families and friends, as well as representatives of Bord Bia, who have been very supportive throughout the whole venture. The exhibition was held in a room in the OPW Visitor Centre in the Phoenix Park: this popular meeting place is just beside a lovely lunch venue and would attract much interest through the whole period. The exhibition continued until 10 June.

Admiring the art

Opening day: admiring the art

Looking at art in the exhibition

Having a good look!

Bloom itself could be summed up, for me, as starting with a slightly shaky sensation of tripping over crowded plastic and aluminium pathways, hot stuffy tents and sensory overload, all combined with a permanent feeling of not quite knowing where you were on that strange little map of the tent village.  That was after you had queued to get into the car park, to get food and coffee and of course those queues for the porta-loos! That’s what happens when 80,000 people come to an enormous temporary show in a field in a park for a weekend.

By contrast, the Bloom Botanical art exhibition was a cool sanctuary housed within solid stone walls. The outstanding feature for me was the amazing range of gifted Irish botanical artists with such different styles and yet all accurately capturing the character of their chosen plant or flower. People were delighted to step into this relaxed calm space and chat and maybe purchase some cards or prints. The sale of paintings, despite the overwhelming interest, was not marvellous.

Artwork on display

Some of the artwork on display

Post mortem – Next year we will have to put much larger signage up around the show because I think many people did not know we were there. The opening of the exhibition is normally a very good opportunity to do some serious selling and this may be better on a weekday evening (say,Thursday) where serious collectors expect to be invited and maybe should be. With that said, it was a very impressive beginning for the ISBA exhibition calendar and a credit to everyone involved in its organisation. The responses in the guest book were very positive and many people were interested in going to workshops and classes. The many people I talked to were all very interested and enthusiastic about the formation, at last, of a botanical artists’ society in Ireland.


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