CULTURE, visiting hours

Flax of Life

I’m so cross at myself for not posting this a few weeks ago! Three Saturdays ago, my mum, granny, sister and I drove to the Flax Gallery in Newtownabbey’s Mossley Mill to see Aspects of the Lough; an exhibition by East Antrim Artists celebrating the Belfast Lough which they all live near in Whitehead.

Unfortunately, I just found out the exhibition finished last weekend! So I’m really sorry that I didn’t blog about this in time for anyone who hasn’t been to go and visit, but hopefully you’ll enjoy my pictures and maybe be inspired to visit this beautiful museum and gallery some weekend.

20130209_151819This is Mossley Mill. This beautiful collection of buildings once housed a busy flax mill, established in the 1700s, but which really thrived under the ownership of the Campbell family who bought it in 1859.

Co-owner John Campbell was responsible for expanding the mill and surrounding village, setting up a school and improving working and living conditions for employees.

Last century, it was amalgamated with Barbour Threads in Lisburn to become Barbour Campbell Threads, before being bought over again in 1993 by Herdmans Flax Spinners of Sion Mills and finally closed as a working mill in 1995.

Newtownabbey Borough Council bought the site in 1996, converting part of it for use as the Council Civic Centre and the other buildings becoming Theatre at the Mill, Museum at the Mill, and the Flax Gallery, to name a few.

Just out of shot at the bottom right of the picture above is a door which brings you straight in to the museum, in what was once the wet spinning floor of the Campbells’ mill. Imaginative pieces of art greet you from the very entrance, with the original, enormous flax loom providing the centrepiece of an informative and well stocked museum.

Giant daffodil at the museum entrance.
Giant daffodil at the museum entrance.
Community artwork, painted on to glass.
Painted glass artwork, depicting the many different uses of Mossley Mill today and in yesteryear.
The original looms.
The original looms.

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Museum exhibit.
Museum exhibit.

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Once you walk the length of the museum, a door at the end of the room leads through to the Flax Gallery, where Aspects of the Lough was (then!) showing. The artists had each created at least one painting, often several, exploring their emotional connection to their loughside homeland.

I was really impressed by the diversity on offer – there were the water-based landscapes you’d expect but also bold oil studies, atmospheric sunsets and clever mixed media pieces.

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Polly, Granny and Mum picking out their favourites.
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From top left, clockwise: Chain; Bollard; Anchor; Decaying Wood. All by Lorna Greenwood.
Vivienne Catling's textile based artwork is simply entitled Enbroidery.
Vivienne Catling’s textile based artwork is simply entitled Embroidery.
Annabella Noviello's Rope in Belfast Harbour. We loved the amazing texture and sense of light Annabella achieved on the rope.
Annabella Noviello’s Rope in Belfast Harbour. We loved the amazing texture and sense of light Annabella achieved on the rope.
Sunset 2 (part of a two-piece set) by Shirley Snook.
Sunset 2 (part of a two-piece set) by Shirley Snook.
Dramatic Belfast Blitz depiction from Joanne Campbell.
Dramatic Belfast Blitz depiction from Joanne Campbell.

Click here for a leaflet of upcoming exhibitions at the Flax Gallery. Email shirleysnook@hotmail.com with any enquiries about the East Antrim Artists.

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