Meet The Makers - Our Master Weaver Connell
We are excited to introduce a new feature that we will have on our blog every month - Meet The Makers! Our garments are produced by the most skilled craftspeople and we look forward to sharing these interviews with you in 2022. In this week’s opening edition, we have one of our longest standing members of staff, Connell! Our master weaver who is no stranger to anyone that visits the store and having grown up with weaving for the past 50 years, we sat down and asked him a few questions about his weaving journey.
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Connell Gavigan, I live in Glenties and have been working in the Triona Visitor Centre in Ardara for the last 25 years weaving.
How did you get into weaving?
My father died in 1960 and there were 10 of us in the family so we had no other option but to head out and work. I was 15 when I started weaving and filling bobbins in the mart for two and a half years. That’s where I gained my first insight into how it operated. I quickly realised it was tiring work but at the same time, loved every minute and haven’t looked back since.
When did you start working in Triona?
I started with Triona in 1998 as a weaver and have been with them ever since. One of my favourite things is seeing the bus tours arrive. You get the chance to meet with so many people from around the world and I’ve had some great conversations with people down through the years. They always enjoy the weaving demonstration that I do and learning how the garments are made. It is a big part of their visit to the store and we missed this interaction throughout Covid. Thankfully things are starting to come back to normal again.
There is a group photo of your younger days hanging on the wall here in Triona - can you give us an insight into the story behind this photo?
Oh yes, that was in 1960. At the beginning, the Visitor's Centre was only used for selling and buying wool or tweed. There were no visitors and now, it is hard to imagine that as people arrive from all parts of the world but back then, it is just how things operated before Dennis took over the business. In that photo, there are 32 weavers and we all started around the same time. 4 were bobbin fillers, me being one of them and I am still in contact with them today.
What does weaving mean to you?
It’s something I have enjoyed all my life and there was such excitement when you saw someone wearing an item you had woven - almost like a sense of pride. I was the 4th oldest child and the only one who was interested in weaving but it was such a big passion of mine and I’m very happy to still be weaving today.
What is involved in the weaving process?
At the minute, I am mainly making womenswear so first of all, you have to set up the loom. Then you beam the web - this is to get off the warping bars. You have to beam it, set it through the heddles and then through the reed. There is 2 threads per reed and for example, if I'm weaving herringbone, it has to be set up for a herringbone cloth. I work with 28 picks per inch which is essentially 28 threads per inch. Tie it up and then you are ready to rock!
What is your favourite thing about being a weaver?
Seeing a customer wearing the item - there is no better feeling and it almost feels surreal sometimes! This could be a customer walking down the street or someone from a bus tour, it all depends but either way, it provides great satisfaction because you look at them and think ... I made that!
Have you passed on the weaving to anyone else?
I surely have. I taught everyone who currently works in Triona and also some of the staff in our Visitor Centre in Ardara. There is a certain technique to the process and it takes time to take someone through it in detail. It could take you a few weeks to pick it up and others a few years but everyone here caught on very quickly. I’m sometimes asked if there is such a thing as a “good weaver” and the answer is … most definitely. Developing the skill of weaving takes time and with anything, practice makes perfect but I can confidently say that all of our staff are excellent weavers!
Tell us about your favourite cloth or pattern
It would definitely have to be Herringbone, it looks very nice on the cloth (in my opinion). I don’t have a favourite garment as such but in all my years weaving, purple and blue are the main colours I have used. At one stage, I was weaving the colour purple for 10 months! You can see this shade injected into a lot of our blankets and capes which are some of the key products here at Triona. I’m actually wearing a purple shirt today too!