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Collaborative project and performance at Barraduff National School

This project revolved around O’Donoghue’s childhood memory of a visit from the local parish priest to the girls’ knitting class in Barraduff National School. The priest asked the artist if she would knit him a teapot, if he gave her some steel wool. The idea of the existence of some sort of magical wool that one could use to knit sculptural items occupied the artist’s childhood imagination for years. Recalling the event years later, the artist also remembered gender issues in her childhood education. Girls went into a separate room to learn knitting and sewing, while the boys did extra Maths and English. O’Donoghue hated knitting and sewing and was constantly asking the teachers why the girls had to do knitting and not the boys.

The performance, Knit, Knit, Knit, centred on gender-based questions, posed by the girls in the knitting class. The work involved the artist returning to her old national school, where, surprisingly, the same tradition of only girls doing knitting still existed. The girls’ knitting class participated in a collaboration to make a dress from steel wool, which was worn by the artist during the performance. The design for the dress was taken from an embroidered cushion the artist had created in school, featuring a lady wearing a big fancy dress. Her mother had chosen the cushion design, as her grandmother had embroidered a similar cushion, and she wanted her to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. The performance involved the artist wearing the dress and using it to wash text off the ground. The text referred to gender-based questions posed by the girls and the inadequate answers provided by the teachers, in order to keep the girls in the classroom.