Layers 800

Artist Name(s) Caroline Schofield
Artwork title Layers 800

The brief for this commission was to create a sculpture for the new space in Kilkenny Courthouse. The Courthouse space is a three storey-high public entrance, glazed on two sides so the sculpture is also visible from the public realm of the street outside. The sculpture also forms a focal point for the entrance zone and a link between the external public realm and the new four storey high public atrium. The sculpture is visible internally from different vantage points and levels in the atrium, including windows, balconies and bridges across the volume linking the old and new buildings. 

There were three contexts in which the art project was to be considered – historical, social and physical. Historically, the site has been occupied for at least 800 years. The earliest recorded building is Grace’s Castle, built in 1210. In 1566 the castle was sold to the Crown and rented to Kilkenny Corporation for use as a gaol. In 1752 and 1792 further works hid whatever remained of the castle and added a courthouse and another gaol to the complex. The Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, added the present classical front elevation to unify the appearance of the buildings in 1824. He also created the Georgian entrance hall behind (possibly an amalgamation of different older rooms).

The site to the rear of the courthouse was archaeologically resolved in 2008, and the dig yielded extensive finds, many unique in Kilkenny. About 30 burials were found, probably mostly of prisoners, and possibly one from medieval times. As the site falls to the River Nore and so is very damp, the archaeologists found many very well preserved items such as a child’s toy, wooden spindles, even shingles of wooden medieval roofs about which little had been known. The rare “wet” archaeology also revealed seed and pollen samples, allowing experts to trace the history of vegetation and food on the site over a thousand years. 

The social context is that of the administration of Justice in an open, transparent and equitable manner, and the image projected by the sculpture should enhance this context.

The theme of the artwork was Layers. The site and buildings already comprise a disparate collection, to which we are adding another series of elements. These ideas have led to the layering theme for the project’s sculpture. The old building is made up of layers of manmade interventions; the ground beneath the new building is made of layers of soil and human detritus, the new building is a series of layered spaces.  

Schofield considered the heritage of this historic building – the physical building with its soaring atrium space as well as the human endeavour associated with it over the centuries. Archaeological works uncovered human bones and a spindle there, so its past has included a wide range of human activities from crafts to the civic activities of the courts, which were held there for 200 years. Schofield is particularly passionate about the empowerment of people through group action, both civic and creative, and she wished to capture this aspect of the building’s heritage in her proposal.

Layers 800 Years is a group of twelve life-size human heads, floating above the atrium space, made of fleece with hemp strings trailing from the busts. The heads have no features but do have a backbone. This group represents the power of the people working together to create a just and fair society. The unravelling hemp strings give the figures a fragility and vulnerability, also a theme of the artist's work. The hanging mechanism is a frame, which allows the figures to float above the atrium space.


An article about the work was written for British Embroidery magazine, Embroiderers' Guild. 


Caroline Schofield originally from Kilkenny is a graduate in Fashion & Textiles of the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. Specialising in woven textiles, she learned that she loved working with her hands but did not want to do product driven work when she spent a year after college in Kilworth Craft Workshops (CCoI/FAS Business Course). She was lucky to find work as an art facilitator with REHAB and then the Health Board working with people facing mental health issues in their lives. She became fascinated by the healing effect of working together with the hands: how the resulting calm enabled trust, openness and deep communication and a release of creativity. Working in a group has become a key part of the process of Schofield’s work.

Caroline became a member of Endangered Studios in 2008 exhibiting with them in Arts Week Strand 2 for the past 2 years. She is also a member of Filament, a group of Textile Artists who exhibit together. In 2009 she was invited to participate in the Artists Working Studios at the Knit & Stitch Dublin and in Harrogate. Her work has been selected for Sculpture in Context in 2008/9. She was selected for a bursary from the Arts Office, Co. Kilkenny to Tyrone Guthrie in 2009. Also in 2009 she was selected to participate in a public art training project by the Arts Service of Kilkenny County Council and Chrysalis (a Public Art Training and Development Agency, UK)

Caroline's work has been selected for a Textile Exhibition in the Knit & Stitch in October by the CCoI/GANS. In May 2011 she will be exhibiting in the house & gardens of Airfield in a group Filament show which will include public art.

Commission Type OPW
Commissioner Name OPW, Kilkenny Court Services
Commissioning process Limited Competition
Project commission dates February 1, 2010 - July 31, 2010
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission start date 01/02/2010
Project commission end date 31/07/2010
Location Kilkenny Courthouse
County Kilkenny
Street Address Parliament Street and Market Yard
Content contributor(s) Caroline Schofield
Relationship to project Artist 
Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Architect, 3 feltmakers, Nail to Nail Art Installers, fabricator



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