”When I grow up’


Karena Ryan’s textile artwork “When I Grow Up” has been inspired by a vintage photograph of her aunt’s on a beach in County Sligo in the 1960’s. Karena believe we can all relate to this child and /or “mother figure”, we all had hopes and aspirations as children and relied on the guidance of family however their pathway in life was very much mapped out for them in this decade as it was a hostile environment for women.


In her current practice she is exploring the personal journeys made by women before- some privileged others not so much. She sees photographs of her mother as a child and wonders what road she would have travelled if her dreams had not been halted or paused because of the time she lived in. Her personal journey to becoming an artist was often diverted but she feels she is finally on the right path and is being guided by the resilience of the strong women that came before her. Her mother paved the way for her three daughters to become the women they are today.


This piece features hand beading, embroidery and free motion stitching onto a vintage Foxford woollen blanket, these nostalgic blankets were a staple in Karena’s grandparents’  homes. The iconic blanket was as resilient as the people who owned them – a strong comforting presence that connects her to her childhood.


Materials: Textiles – vintage Foxford woollen blanket, Irish linen, glass beads, sequins in an oak tray frame. Dimensions: 24 x 30 cm


Artist Bio

Karena Ryan is an award-winning Visual Artist living in County Galway.

Textiles and fibre form the basis of her practice. “For me, textiles and fibres, in particular vintage heritage fabrics, hold an invaluable narrative with the warp and weft holding the memories of untold stories”. 

She is inspired by the past, everything that relates to innocence and nostalgia and draws inspiration from literature, the history of a place and ancestry with current work rooted in women’s place in society. She is passionate about repurposing materials and working as sustainably as possible in her practice and her work features Irish fabrics (tweed, linens) and vintage Foxford woollen mills blankets.  She has memories of said blankets in her Grandparents home in Mayo and feeling comforted and cocooned by them. 

Karena’s professional art practice embraces hand embroidery, free motion stitching, paint and print.