Patricia O’Dowda moved to Westport from Wales in the early1990’s. She had been an active member of the Glamorgan Quilters and in an effort to stimulate interest in patchwork and quilting in her new home area she held a one woman show during the 1991 Westport Arts Festival. In the following months 7 other interested ladies joined Patricia for weekly get togethers. We met in a variety of venues and finally found a home in the Town Hall. The room we used was called the Octagon room and hence we became the Octagon Quilters. Over the years the group has grown to about 20 members, who still meet on a weekly basis, and we have just celebrated our 20th anniversary with an exhibition in the Custom House Studios, Westport.
Patricia had joined the IPS and encouraged the rest of us to follow suit. She enjoyed the company and stimulation of other quilters at the monthly meetings of the Western Branch in Galway. She joined the Western Branch committee and was its Chair in the mid ‘90’s. She also served a term as Education Officer of the IPS.A great believer in education Patricia set about teaching the techniques of patchwork and quilting to the members of the Octagon group. Visiting teachers were brought to Westport several times a year to pass on their knowledge. She never passed up an opportunity to visit an exhibition or take a trip to visit other quilt groups. We had one memorable trip to Northern Ireland where not only did we meet with local quilters but also had the opportunity to see quilts that are normally held in storage at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. She encouraged us to exhibit both locally and nationally as it was all promotion of the craft.
Patricia’s own work took on a local flair. Her home, some miles outside Westport, looked out on Croagh Patrick or the Reek as it is known locally. The winding path to the top was clearly visible on fine days. She drew up a pattern of the view from her home and used it as the centre of a medallion style quilt. As a member of Westport Country Markets she displayed this quilt in the market and was inundated with requests for more of the same. She made many of these quilts as wedding gift commissions and being the skilled needle and machine woman that she was she incorporated scenes from the intended couples lives into the surrounding blocks……….farming scenes, pets, hobbies, etc.Patricia embarked on a number of personal projects. She appliqued and machine embroidered Brighton Pier and the curved sweep of listed buildings in the town. Another project was a wholecloth quilt documenting the history and activities of her family. Her attention to detail and search for the correct fabrics and threads was part of every project. Her home was a veritable treasure trove. One room contained all her works in progress…………and they were always many. Each project was boxed with all the details written on the outside so she could put her hand on any piece in an instant.
From an early age Patricia loved to travel and it was fascinating to listen to her stories which ranged from cycling through Europe in the 1940’s to her visit to China with her son David in the late ‘90’s. We all received pieces of silk which she encouraged us to incorporate in a piece of our work. Her visits to her daughter Kathy in France always resulted in her returning with some local fabrics to be incorporated into yet another projectDue to failing health Patricia moved back to the UK in recent years but she still relished news of Westport and quilting from visiting friends. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her.
Marea E Mulqueen