Walsh drawing Karen Crossen, City shirt factory, 1991. (photo by Brendan Mc Menamin)
Background to original public sculpture competition; site and context.
In 2005 a Government agency, the Department of Social Development, advertised a two stage public competition to commission a public sculpture in Derry.
The brief sought a site-specific commemorative piece to celebrate the city’s female shirt factory workers at a site nominated by the artist.
Walsh’s proposal was selected in January 2006.
She chose the site and devised the sculptural installation to work across the particular context and landscape of the Waterside area, generally regarded as a culturally underdeveloped part of the city. Yet the work was also to be viewed from the “Historic Walled City”.
The sculptural installation took in and would have exploited the physical attributes and formal landscape of the site. The sculpture was to be placed at this major gateway to Derry, to span a main road, reaching down a grassy slope towards the riverbank.
The panoramic views afforded by the location ensured the installation was to be widely seen and also experienced as a viewing position.
Development and design of previous pieces for Harbour Square Site. 2009 - 2012. Please click here to read about the next phase of this project.
Celebrating Female factory workers; context and consultation.
Traditionally, women’s work has been domesticated, and in that process silenced and devalued. Part of that devaluation of women’s work has been a tendency to associate such work with an image of our bodies.
Walsh does not use literal representations of the female form to commemorate the factory workers. The skill and energy that produced such a volume of commodities are conveyed in public symbols, rather than yet again using women’s bodies to minimise and confine. The extent of the women’s contribution to Derry City’s culture, economy, society and history is celebrated in the large scale here.
Because our bodies are routinely objectified and trivialised, Walsh uses the visual language of “tool” (the sewing machine) and “product” (the shirt) to make several monumental interventions into the physical landscape. These everyday symbols of the industry are magnified to capture the sheer cumulative mass of local industrial shirt production over the course of 150 years.
At competition stage Walsh had to negotiate a delicate balance between the brief’s emphasis on a preordained design and her wish to include the factory workers themselves, to make visible the range and depth of their experiences and to maintain systems for them to have some creative input or agency within the project.
An equally important part of the project therefore, is the series of recorded interviews Walsh have been conducting with women of all ages who worked in the factories.
Louise Walsh is half way through talking her way around various individuals and groups of local women factory workers. Recordings of interviews, reminiscences and conversations with workers, have been transcribed and archived in collaboration with the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry.
Further public consultations are taking place to choose what inscriptions and texts should be woven through the scrollwork designs that make up the gateway arch of the needle panel, which is effectively the frontpiece of the artwork in Harbour Square. These quotations or information will contextualise the public Sculpture and include the actual voices of some of the women workers into the piece.
Louise Walsh January 2012.
Photographs of some of the women shirt factory workers, who were consulted and interviewed by Walsh as part of the process.
Contact Louise Walsh:- email@example.com
For Details of the three Derry projects;
Or, scroll over female shirt factory workers project derry 2006-2012 menu in left panel.
Walsh was awarded the commission for the Waterside site, in January of 2006.
Walsh took unpaid leave from her job and spent 6 week in March/ April, and 10 weeks over the Summer resident in the Verbal Arts Centre, working on this project in 2006 and continued to work on the project to be sited on the Waterside until mid 2007 when the site was withdrawn.
She has been trying to resolve the delays and obstacles to the redesigned work going up in Harbour Square since 2008.
Many women are awaiting the result!
If any shirt factory workers would like to contribute to this archive and be interviewed, please email;
Above are some of the women whom Walsh interviewed in 2006. These conversations were recorded and transcribed at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry.