Belfast Telegraph

Wedding dress made out of willow goes on display in Portadown

By Claire McNeilly

A Co Armagh artist has branched out with a rather unique creation - a wooden wedding dress.

Dwyer McKerr spent more than 20 hours designing and crafting the exquisite piece especially to put in a new exhibition opening at St Mark's Church in Portadown last night.

The 49-year-old painter from Lurgan said Portadown Men's Shed showed him a picture of a wooden dress and asked if he could emulate it.

"I said yes and then immediately started to worry about how I was going to make it," he said.

"I decided to use willow rather than processed timber because it's very flexible, very versatile and it's very cheap, so it seemed to be the perfect sort of medium.

"I started working on it four weeks ago, for a couple of hours at a time, but once the deadline started looming I had to really buckle down and take a few half-days at it."

Yesterday, he added, was "the final decoration and swagging of it, draping artificial flowers on ivy just to fill in the gaps between the lattice-work of the willow itself".

Dwyer is rightly proud of the finished product but there is one small drawback for any blooming brides-to-be who may take a shine to his handiwork... because it's doubtful you could don it.

"It's spiky and you'd need to be as tough as an old boot to wear it," said Dwyer.

Nevertheless, he admitted that it's "right up there" with his finest work, adding that "it's the first type of sculpture I've done that way because I'm primarily a painter so it was a good challenge".

The Church Unveiled Wedding Dress Festival at St Mark's in the town centre pays homage to the special frocks worn by brides down the years, including one worn during the First World War.

A total of 25 mannequins are on display inside the church with each wearing wedding dresses dating from the 1920s to the present day, having been carefully and creatively put together by volunteers.

Visitors can hear the stories behind each of the exhibits and feast their eyes on more than 30 contributions that come in an array of colours including white, grey, blue - and even red.

The rector's wife Helen Orr, who came up with the idea alongside her husband Rev William Orr, said the exhibition tells the story of God's love for His people right from creation to the present day.

"It has been a lovely all-inclusive project for the parish and I've thoroughly enjoyed bringing people together," she said.

"We're part of a growing church and this exhibition has given us all a real buzz and it has been really special.

"Charity shops have been so good at lending dresses and so have our parishioners - and we've even had a contribution from the Portadown branch of the Men's Shed in the form of a gorgeous willow dress!"

The exhibition, which opened at last night, will run until Sunday and culminate in a Thanksgiving service at 7pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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