Despite the prevalence of knitted woollen products in Ireland’s tourist industry, Irish sheep wool offers little return for the farmer since exports to China’s carpet industry ceased. The absence of suitable scouring facilities resulting from historic trade legislation, also means that Irish wool sent abroad for scouring can be mixed with fibres of other origin, rendering it unmarketable as ‘Irish wool’. For Armand’s Carpet, wool sourced from the farmer (traditionally tied and in storage waiting for its value to rise) and merchant’s wool (freely given but of questionable quality) was scoured, dyed, and hand-tufted in Ireland. Incorporating a synthetic dye (pink) and its natural colour, the remaining colours of a rug were attained through repeatedly adjusting mordants in a series of Buddleia dye baths. Named after Fr. Armand David, Buddleja davidii was introduced from China in the late 1800s as an ornamental garden plant. Whilst being a magnet for biodiversity, It now synonymous with waste ground and derelict sites. The rug is created from wool and Buddleia, materials in abundance yet widely associated with waste or of little value, its design referencing the traditional layout of an oriental rug, though fragmented to articulate continuously changing land-use and industry. The floor piece is accompanied by a framed key of wool samples, noting the recipe details for each section of the rug.
Armand’s Carpet was made with thanks to Tommy Varden, Michael Donnellan, Ethna and Richard Gillespie, Ceadogán Rugs, S-Twist Wool, and Cushendale Woollen Mills. It was funded by an Arts Council Project Award 2018 and developed during a Dublin City Council Residential Residency supported by Galway City Council.