Cen Sceal is Irish for “what’s your (the) story.” These memory bags or story pockets are based on various cultural traditions but mostly on the Irish Traveller’s Beady Pockets. While traveling in Ireland I learned the people love a good story and would use the greeting expecting to hear a good story. As an artist and storyteller I loved this. So when I returned to Bisbee I applied to the Bisbee Arts Council for a grant.
Using artistic license I mixed my knowledge of other cultures and symbolism into the project. There is a page describing various embrodery stitches and the meanings of designs. A trading page where you can trade for charms and buttons or material and trim. The story page will hold the stories and Pockets made to tell the story. When you click on the gallery page you find various works in progress.
So let’s back up and find out more about the Irish Traveller’s Beady Pockets. Traveller’s often separated from family and friends for long periods of time created Beady pockets or bags. The design on the bag could tell about a journey, new baby, celebration or sad event, etc. Women wore the pocket under their skirt or apron and carried essential items such as money, comb or knife. When they met on the road buttons would be exchanged. At the end of the year when families and friends got together the bags might be gifted, exchanged or passed down to the next generation. Behind every button and charm is a story. The Beady Pockets were/are very significant to women. The National Museum of Ireland has lovely photographs and information on Beady Pockets.
As a side note there is a long history about women and pockets. Did you know that it was once forbidden for women to have pockets on their dresses or skirts? It was political! During the Middle Ages both men and women wore a bag hung from a cord around their waist. In the 17th century pouches or pockets were sewn into the clothing. Fashion changed and women had to carry a small bag as women’s clothing no longer had pockets. In the 1800’s campaigns for women clothes to have pockets and the 1910 Suffragette “suit” contained at least 6 pockets. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a very interesting history of pockets.