The Traveller ‘Beady Pocket’ is a cultural garment that gives a lot of information about Traveller culture and identity.
The artist in residence at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Róisín de Buitléar – in collaboration with the Museum, Pavee Point and TravAct, Coolock recently worked with 22 women, Travellers and settled, to examine the culture associated with ‘Beady Pockets’ and look at ways of exploring contemporary responses to this intriguing object.
The Traveller ‘Beady Pocket’ served as a generous bag and useful holder for essential objects needed for a life on the road. Items such as a knife, money, jewellery and a needle and thread, hidden in the seam were common objects that were kept in the deep pockets.
Worn under clothing for added safety, the decorative pocket also served as a memory bag. The pockets were decorated with small buttons and beads which were exchanged between women, on leaving a site or moving on to a new location.
The project brought together a diverse group of women who worked in a collaborative way to discover more about the Beady Pocket and also to discover more about each others lives and experiences. Sewing and talking allowed for many genuine exchanges to take place.
Research work was also undertaken and visitors to the project were able to bring unique perspectives on and to the The Beady Pocket.
The National Museum historical textile collection was also a great resource for the project as was material from the Museum’s handling collection. Museum curators and educators helped the group to investigate ideas on portable safekeeping of objects, secretive clothing, remembrance textiles and pockets.
It is planned to continue the work of the project and hopefully present some of the work of the project in the near future. Thanks to all the contributors, organisers and supporters.
Project Participants and Contributors
Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre:
Winnie Mc Donagh
Kathleen Mc Donnell
Lisa Mc Donnell
Margaret Mc Donagh
Anne O Leary
One day visitors
Maria Simmonds Gooding
National Museum of Ireland
Róisín de Buitléar – Artist in Residence
Aisling Dunne – NMI Documentation
Helen Beaumont – Education Outreach
Lorraine Comer – Head of Education