The Sheelin Irish Lace Shop and Museum confused me for many years as a teenager. Why did Bellanaleck have a lace museum? What was it doing here? Later on, I learnt that if a shop is specialist enough, it doesn't need to pay high rent fighting for passing trade, because consumers will already be looking for it. Businesses often place themselves along major transport routes rather than at the destinations for the free advertising as thousands of people go by. And this place is very specialist indeed.
I finally made a commitment to visit last Christmas, when I had a looming deadline for a module in which I had to review exhibitions. When we got there, it was closed for the season, but as I made slightly panicked alternative plans, I decided I'd return.
The wait was worth it. Because it's a shop, everything had a price tag attached, and I will admit that part of the marvel was standing among a small fortune. It was like an Aladdin's cave of lace, both in terms of wealth and aesthetics. The more I looked at each display, the more there was to look at. What a wonderful analogy for lace itself.
I imagine, due to the nature of the place, it is difficult to to put up display boards explaining individual exhibits. But in a way I am glad for the lack of information. It gave us chance to form questions about what we were seeing, and to become more curious. Once we got to the back of the room, where there was more information, everything I read answered a question I was already asking. As an illustrator, I was interested in the designs on each garment. Once I had been told they were heavily influenced by berries, flowers and leaves it became a lot easier to pick out individual motifs.
Overall, the visit has opened my eyes to the world of antique lace, and has encouraged me to consider new ideas in my own work, both in the illustrative stage and in terms of expanding the mediums I use. It's definitely worth a visit, and a follow of the beautiful Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages. I didn't take any photographs myself because I knew I couldn't top them.