The Clootie Wall

An Interactive Installation

I first came across a clootie well on a visit to a friend in Ireland. Visitors to this sacred well would bring a shred of cloth, dip it into the well, and tie it on a nearby tree: the idea was that their troubles would leave as their cloth disintegrated.  The clootie well was sad yet hopeful, and I found it very moving. This idea resonated with me: it summed up for me exactly what I was going through - worries and sorrows, mixed in with celebration and hopefulness. It seemed the perfect way to express the many changes in my life at the time. I created an interactive installation I called The Clootie Wall. The installation has been exhibited several times now, and changed a bit with each showing.

The original installation took place in a small room in Beacon Artist Union. I constructed a womb like structure of deer fencing and hundreds of rags tied onto the mesh.  The rags were mainly used clothing and linens that were dipped in indigo.  The viewer was to write their wish on a rag, and enter the chamber in order to make a wish.  I left no instructions other than write your wish on a rag and tie it on, but an interesting thing happened.  The viewers created their own parameters for the experience.  For example, they dutifully formed a line, and entered the room one at a time.  If a couple went in together, they turned their backs as their partner placed their rags, giving them privacy, and a few people sat inside the chamber for long periods of time when the gallery was not busy.

The next showing of the installation was in a more conventional setting so I opened up the chamber to create a long wall. Doing this made it a less precious space, but also made the piece more open and hopeful, and more community oriented.  Instead of hiding their wishes, people now willingly shared them, and showed them off to total strangers. What began as a very private, almost sacred experience has morphed into a celebratory sharing experience, and I am thoroughly delighted with the way the piece has evolved and continues to grow.


clootie in berlin.jpg
New York Meets Berlin,
Kunstleben Berlin Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 2012
Back to Back,
Galerie Kunstwerkberlin, Berlin, Germany, 2019
ABC – Assemblage, Book Arts, and Collage,
Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT

The Clootie Wall has been exhibited in several configurations, from a single panel to wrapping an entire building (Material Consequences, Gallery X, Castle Hill Center for the Arts, Truro MA 2014). Scroll through to view images from the various installations of the wall.


A twelve foot clootie wall commission for a rustic Adirondack wedding in September 2018.

The wall now hangs in the happy couple's home.