Rebecca Devaney – An Irish artist between poetry and femininity


Meeting with an Irish embroiderer, Parisian at heart, who explores our vision of Women.

Photos – © Rebecca Devaney – photos protected by copyright – thank you
Interview Claire de Pourtalès

Rebecca Devaney is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin (Ireland), with a specialization in Textile Arts. After traveling and working as a teacher for 10 years, she returned to Dublin to complete her studies in Textile Arts, and finally to enroll at the Lesage School in Paris where she obtained the title of Haute Couture Embroiderer.

The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire

Rebecca is primarily interested in male-female roles in society, and in particular their implications for women, social ideals of beauty, and the construction of femininity – both internally and externally. She is inspired by literature, poetry and the history of costume that describe the female experience. She uses the evocative yet controversial effect of the dolls to explore and expand upon these themes.

Rebecca Devaney – Ecole Lesage, details

The artist fell in love with fabrics and embroidery as an artistic tool the first time she was asked to create samples in college. The possibilities seemed endless to her: with just one small stitch she could explore and experiment with textures, scales, tones, colors, repetition, materials and backgrounds. A piece of fabric could be folded, gathered, creased, worn, used, rubbed off. To respond to her new passion, Rebecca learns traditional needlework, free machine embroidery, digital embroidery, textile manipulation, weaving, techniques of natural colors, screen printing, pad printing, and clothing construction. She combines all these techniques to sculpt, embellish and embroider her works.

She remains fascinated by the power of embroidery and how fabrics and clothing evoke memories and emotions. She is thus inspired by contemporary artists such as Lise Bjorn Linnert, Mr Finch, Yinka Shonibare or Zoe Buckman. Erica Wilson‘s books, Rozsika Parket and Sheila Paine teach her the history of embroidery, its techniques and the evolution of styles. Fashion drawings and paintings by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, François Boucher, James Tissot, Henri Matisse and Gustave Klimt remain unlimited sources for her research in fashion, the creation of silhouettes and styles, the use of materials and colors. The Fashion Theater by Christian Bernard (1945) and the marvelous Haute Couture embroidery by Charles Frederick Worth and Christian Dior are the creations that led our artist to enroll at the Lesage School.

The dolls
Each series of dolls is inspired by a poem. After which comes historical, literary, artistic research. Rebecca also researches what were the fashionable trends and embroidery techniques of that time. She draws her sketches, then explores materials and colors, tries techniques and finally begins to create each doll and her dress. The framework is made up of wire or miniature mannequins that seamstresses usually have. The dresses are made following the patterns of the period, usually found from Janet Arnold.

Shadow Doll ,  inspired by Eavan Boland’ poems

A response to Shadow Dolls

This series was inspired by the poem Shadow Doll by Eavan Boland, a poem that resonates strongly with our artist. The poet reflects on the experience of a woman who must submit to what society expects of her, in her relationships as well as in her marriage. Can she fully realize herself, define her individual identity under these conditions? What are the repercussions, consequences and sacrifices that this entails? The series can thus be seen as a visual story of a metamorphosis aimed at liberating the woman as she moves away from beauty, elegance, complicated wedding dresses, to reveal the repressive crinolines that hide underneath. Little by little these restrictions disintegrate and the woman frees herself from all these oppressions. Little by little, a hippocampus emerges, a strange compromise in the establishment of gender roles. Rebecca incorporates hand and machine embroidery, manipulates fabrics, sculpts wire, paper, adds pantyhose and wax.
For each doll, Rebecca uses a garment from the women of her family: the mesh curtain of her great-grandmother, the baptismal garment of one of her grandmothers, her mother’s lace shawl and her aunt’s blouse.

Disintegration of the dress and the crinoline – the hippocampus appears …
Shadow dolls – details
Drawing of the hippocampus

A response to the poem by WB Yeats, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven (Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven)

This poem is widely seen as dedicated to Maud Gonne, a magnificent actress, both feminist and revolutionary, the object of Yeats’s passionate and unrequited love – and the subject of an endless number of his poems.

A response to the poem by WB Yeats, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

In this series, Rebecca explores the different manifestations of love under the intense gaze of men. Her dresses bear suggestive names: The Archetype of the Goddess and The Ideal Feminine. Here Rebecca uses hand embroidery, machine embroidery, digital embroidery, digital printing, silk flowers, beads and recycled or found materials, finely decorated. With Acceptance, she works with ceramicist Sarah Wegersma to find out what the woman who would be loved for who she is, seen as she is, would be after all the social constructions fall and that her full transparency is revealed. How does the man look at her then? The gold present on each doll signifies the construction of the woman like a trophy, seen as an inanimate object. As the destructuring takes place, this gold also becomes detached.

This series is part of an upcoming movement as there are still many themes to develop around these ideas.

The Archetype of the Goddess

You can find further details, descriptions and images of Rebecca’s work via This link.