New £500,000 craft bursary

A new annual craft bursary worth £15,000 per year has just been announced by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the newly formed Rosemary James Trust, thanks to the generosity of a local pioneer and patron of the arts.

Originally from Belfast, Rosemary James had a lifelong commitment to the arts and following her death in 2010, bequeathed over £500,000 to help artists and craft makers pursue their careers.

The fund, which is now open for applications to the Rosemary James Trust, will award one bursary of £15,000 per year. This will assist craft makers to investigate, develop and exhibit a body of work which would otherwise be unattainable. The Rosemary James Trust will manage the fund and Arts Council of Northern Ireland will oversee the application process.

The Rosemary James Bursary is open to all NI-based craft makers steeped in practice using material singly or in combination such as fired or glass; fine or base metals; textiles using any kinds of applications; wood; plastics; paper or other materials where the emphasis is based upon the transformation of materials through the use of sustained practice towards a series of critical outcomes.

Noirin McKinney, Head of Arts Development, commented: “This generous donation from Rosy James demonstrates the power of philanthropic giving in creating impact and leaving a lasting legacy.  Thanks to Rosy’s passion for crafts, particularly crafts in Northern Ireland, she has left an incredible legacy where her great enthusiasm for the arts will live on in her memory through new works produced by Northern Ireland artists.”.

Alan Kane, Chief Executive of Craft NI, an organisation which supports and promotes the craft industry in Northern Ireland, welcomed the new scheme, saying: “This new bursary scheme generously funded by Rosy James will provide an ongoing, annual opportunity, for the development of exciting new work which probably would not otherwise be created. It will provide successive generations of makers with a vital resource to push the boundaries of their practice and therein influence the future direction of the whole industry in a very positive and inspirational way.”

About Rosemary James

Rosemary James was born in Belfast in the mid-1940s and attended the Ulster College of Art from 1966-1971 where she studied Textile design.  Following her studies in Belfast, she took up a teaching post in Birmingham, later settling in Cambridge where she continued as a teacher of Art and Design until 2007. 

She maintained her close connection with Northern Ireland throughout her life, with regular visit to her father, Dr James Ford Gillies OBE, former principal of the Belfast College of Technology and an important figure in the establishment of the University of Ulster.

Rosy maintained a lifelong commitment to the arts as well as to her birthplace of Northern Ireland.  In life she was an outspoken and colourful character.

Lynette Collard student and lifelong friend said of Rosy:  “The inspiration and commitment to her chosen profession inspired all of us in our Art Group at high school, each one of us have gone on to be teachers. Rosy had the ability to leave a little joyous part of her with you each time you said goodbye. All who had the pleasure to meet Rosy were left with wonderful vibrant memories, stories and the true feeling that there is and was only one Rosy James.”

Towards the end of her life, with typically idiosyncratic humour, she stated that she had every intention of living until she was at least 130 years old, of spending all her ‘dosh’ on travels and luxuries, and of returning to haunt those who failed to comply with her last wishes.  Rosy achieved only half of her intended longevity; however, thanks to the generosity of her bequest and the natural eagerness on the part of the Trustees and the Arts Council to fulfil her last wishes, artists, designers and makers in Northern Ireland and will be the significant beneficiaries of Rosy James’ substantial legacy, through the establishment of ‘The Rosy James Bursary’.

Applications for the Rosy James Bursary are now open and will close  at 4pm Friday 28th March. To download an application form visit contact Patricia Curran , tel: 02890 02890 385 227. Please note applications will be accepted in hardcopy form only.

Image: Pictured at Craft NI celebrating the launch of the award are local sculptor Eamonn Higgins and Dr. Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council.


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