The Kenmare Lace and Design Centre
The Kenmare Lace and Design Centre can be found upstairs over the Tourist Information Centre & Heritage Centre. It is accessed by the door to the left of the Tourist Information Centre.
The Kenmare Lace and Design Centre is a treasure trove of many things. It is not just a museum or a craft shop. It is a centre for the promotion of Kenmare and many other Irish laces. It is a meeting place for lace makers from all corners of the world. When lace is being demonstrated there are no language barriers. The art and craft of lacemaking is its own form of communication. Here Kenmare Lace and other laces are displayed, demonstrated and sold. An added bonus is the extensive array of lacemaking materials and general haberdashery available at the centre.
Demonstrations can be conducted on demand where demonstrators are available. Group demonstrations must be pre-arranged.
At the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre you can see a beautiful display of antique lace from the Convent of the Poor Clares Kenmare. This is for display only and not for sale. Small pieces of locally made Kenmare Needlepoint lace can be purchased. Most other items in the Lace Centre, except for the demonstration pieces, are for sale. You can also buy some antique and vintage pieces although we cannot always guarantee their provenance. These are sourced mainly from around the local area.
For those who would like a souvenir, but whose pockets do not stretch to a piece of handmade lace, we have a limited selection of Irish machine made hankies, tablecloths, etc. The rest of the lace is handmade and mostly made locally. Anything handmade but not made locally we source mainly from members of the Irish Lace Guild. All is made in Ireland.
Lacemaking materials and kits can be purchased at the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre.
About us at The Kenmare Lace and Design Centre
In 1989, when Nora Finnegan got involved with Kenmare Lace, it was no longer in production, and had not been for some time. She soon discovered however, that there were only three nuns familiar with the techniques at St. Clares’ Convent in Kenmare. As the 1980’s were an economically depressed time in Ireland, a local development association was formed in an attempt to improve matters in the area.
Nora’s involvement in this project led her to St. Clares’ convent where she asked Sr. Frances to teach the lace to a group of interested local women. Sr. Frances declined, but said ‘I will show you and you can pass it on’.
After each lesson with Sr. Frances, Nora taught the other local women what she had learned. From this a local co-operative was born. It’s aim was to revive Kenmare Lace as a tourist attraction, while also creating employment. The co-operative’s efforts were quite successful. Soon Kenmare Lace was being made again, and the co-operative was selling local handcrafted products at the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre on the town’s main street.
After 3 years the co-operative had run its course. Nonetheless, Nora and the lacemakers from the now defunct co-operative continued to build on their skills and make lace. Around this time the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre moved from the main street to Kenmare’s newly renovated Heritage Centre building where the lace is still made today. The output is small, but the team of local lacemakers love their craft. Over the years lacemakers like Siobán Thoma, Sinéad Hennesy, Rachel McLaren, Emer Finnegan, Fiona Harrington and Patricia Marsh RIP, have been wonderful supporters of the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre‘s efforts.
“Each day the exquisite work of the Poor Clare nuns inspires us all. We sell Kenmare lace, Irish Crochet Lace, Limerick, Bobbin and Carrickmacross Lace. In addition examples of Tatting, Mountmellick work and Borris Lace can also be viewed at the Centre. We pass on this wonderful art form through winter classes, through demonstrations of the aforementioned lace techniques, by engaging with local schools, and through lectures and lessons conducted nationally and internationally.” Nora
Nora’s children became part of the Kenmare Lace story too. As they grew up they manned the lace Centre at the drop of a hat, demonstrated lacemaking, and shared it’s history with locals, and visitors alike. Shane, Denis, Emer, Sandra, Niamh and Nora’s husband Declan have been her biggest supporters.
“I feel that the lace was passed on from the ‘Poor Clare’ family to my own, and I feel so privileged that I have been given the responsibility of carrying the torch. It is my hope that this beautiful industry will continue to live on into the future”.