Goldworx – Sorcha O’Raw

Sorcha O' Raw Kerrygold

Goldworx with Hattie McGill

Its featured artist time here at Goldworx! Have you heard of Sorcha O’Raw?

If you haven’t, let me introduce you this Dublin based embroidery artist. Sorcha (pronounced Sor-sha) is a super talented crafter and goldwork specialist. I first stumbled across her work when I saw her Kerrygold piece on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her work and noted her as someone to watch.

Sorcha stitching her ‘Tayto’ piece.

After graduating from college (studying Textiles and Visual Culture) she got an internship at Hand and Lock and this is when Sorcha discovered goldwork.

“I got the opportunity to sit in on an embellishment class and one of the things we covered was cutwork. It was only for a few minutes but I was hooked! I’d been doing embroidery for several years at that point and I thought I knew how it all worked but goldwork was so different, so many new rules and materials.”

I caught up with Sorcha to find out more about her incredible work and what inspires her.

Tell me about the main basis for your work?

Before that Hand & Lock class I would never have considered goldwork. I thought it was too old fashioned and even when I started getting into it there were so few artists to look to for inspiration. The real basis of my work is to modernise goldwork embroidery.

Usually, with other types of embellishment, I try to envisage the final effect and then work back towards the materials or techniques to best achieve it, but at the moment my work is very material led; I’m trying to learn all the techniques of goldwork and that influences how designs are put together. I’m getting more ambitious and confident with each piece as I learn more about how the materials behaves and what I can achieve.

Sorcha O'RAW Tayto
Tayto in Goldwork

What are your favourite materials/techniques to work with?

My favourite goldwork material is definitely cutwork with pearl purl (that’s when coiled wire is cut to length and laid over string padding). Although getting the right angle so the whole shape gets covered neatly can be very frustrating it’s very satisfying when you get the piece the right length and it sits so neatly.

My favourite non-goldwork isn’t really a material, it’s the technique of tambour embroidery. I first learned it about three years ago and disliked it because it takes a lot of practise to get anything out of it let alone anything good. But I picked it up again this year and I’ve started to crack it. It’s another example of embroidery with extra rules I’m excited to be learning. I’ve started using it for silk shading and it’s very effective.

Sorcha O' Raw Kerrygold
Kerrygold by Sorcha (worked in Or Nue with Jap and cotton thread).

What are you working on at the moment?

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Group Hug via Daily Squee

At the moment I’m working on a series based on iconic Irish food brands. While researching goldwork I realised I was seeing a lot of military and ecclesiastical pieces. Goldwork has always been used as symbols of wealth and power, two things the Irish have historically lacked. I decided I wanted to do something that celebrated the culture of Ireland, no Guinness or leprechauns. I remembered seeing Irish meat and dairy sold as premium products overseas and the foil wrapper on butter was perfect for goldwork!

The response to my first piece, Kerrygold butter, was overwhelming. It was clear I was onto a good thing. I started thinking about other Irish foods, the things people miss when they go to live abroad (a common occurrence in Ireland). Everyone I spoke to about it had a suggestion and now I have a list as long as my arm! I’ve already done Tayto crisps and I’m currently working on Brennans bread.

I can’t wait to do an exhibition of them, the pieces will be for sale once the series is finished and I’m hoping to get prints of them done as well.

And that’s all for today, come back next month for more goldwork goodies. If you want to see more of Sorcha O’Raw’s work (and she’s definitely one to follow) you can find her on instagram here.

Until next time!