The Winning Design

People’s Acorn / Dearcán na nDaoine

People’s Acorn / Dearcán na nDaoine

Rachel Joynt

Design Concept

The nut/seed determines the form of the tree and in turn the tree nurtures the seed. A wonderful universal metaphor for the cyclical journey of life from youth towards maturity. The acorn, I feel is a very appropriate and enduring symbol to commemorate the centenary of the birth of our National Independence and our aspiration towards growing with maturity, optimism and wisdom for the future.

Concept & Description of Artwork

Over the last 100 years children’s lives in Ireland have improved so much, as a state we seek to further cherish and value their lives, to provide equal opportunity and a healthy nurturing environment for all our young people regardless of background.

For this artwork I propose to place an enlarged cast bronze sculpture of an acorn seed in the mature woodland garden at the Aras. This large 2.8 meter long bronze ‘Sessile acorn’ will have a fibrous, organic textural surface and appear massive in proportion and somewhat mythically surreal, nestled comfortably in this mature woodland setting. As you get closer to the sculpture the viewer will notice thousands of life-size pencils subtly integrated within the fibrous texture of the nuts shell. Many pencils will have the first-name of their owner embossed in lettering on its surface. Having names of hundreds of people inscribed on 1OOO’s of pencils suggests the ‘voice of the individual to shine, and yet become an invaluable part of a collective.’ The integrated pencils within the texture will become smoother nearer the ‘tip’ of the acorn and be replaced by the embossed text of peoples writing/poetry.

INTERNAL; A seed is like a time capsule that carries its own history but it is also the kernel containing the beginning of the unknown future tree. The sculpture will have a ‘time capsule’ inside that will house many letters and poems written by two generations, today’s children and older people in their 90’s & 1OO’s, who were children during the foundation of the state. Children countrywide will be invited to write down their future wishes & vision living & growing up in Ireland. The older people will be invited to write about their memories of living and growing up in Ireland since 1916 and their vision for the future. All the writings will be housed safely in the time capsule.

EXTERNAL; A selection of people’s writing will be embossed into the textural surface lines on the bronze surface of the acorn radiating towards the tip where the access hatch to the ‘time capsule’ will be housed. Their pencils will be integrated with the acorn surface with their first-name included. Names such as Magda, Patrick & Ahmad will reflect the rich cultural diversity that exists among our young citizens.

I see these letters/poems as marking a small part in our history but more importantly they will represent a kernel of knowledge and a vision. The time capsule inside the sculpture establishes an internal invisible symbolic space that encourages personal contemplation and reflection.

On this scale the sculpture is instantly recognizable while walking or driving past and on closer inspection rich subtle tactile detail, mystery and meaning to be discovered. I see this work as providing a welcoming, playful yet enduring and relevant symbol, an acknowledgment of the momentous events a century ago with a positive vision to cherish youthful energy and potential into the future.

Concept Summary

  • The Sessile Oak is the National tree of Ireland.
  • On the historic map of the Aras the marshy arboretum area on the NE side of the site was called ‘Nut Island’
  • The Irish for oak is dara /origin of doras - door, that were traditionally made of oak for strength, as an entrance or exit, representing protection of the home and transition from one space or stage to another.
  • The Oak is a powerful symbol for potential, knowledge, growth, optimism & new beginnings.
  • Having the first names of the young & elderly inscribed on 1OO’s of pencils allows the ‘voice of the individual to shine, and yet become an invaluable part of the collective or whole sculpture.’
  • Having a time capsule inside the sculpture creates an internal conceptual or symbolicspace that encourages contemplation and reflection.
  • A selection of people’s writing on the external textural surface of the acorn radiating from the tip, invites curiosity and gives an indication to visitors as to what is inside.
  • There could be a plaque near the work with the title and short note about the concept.

Letters/Poems Workshops & Book

I am delighted that the poet Enda Wyley has agreed to collaborate with me on this part of the project. She will facilitate a series of writing workshops and will also help with compiling the material for the publication.

Here is a suggested structure to the Writing workshops but I would recommend to liaison closely with the Office of the President’s public relations department as I think it is important that there is a fair and open way for a cross section of societies citizen’s to be involved as is shown here.

As well as a poet, Enda Wyley is also a primary school teacher and has taught in The Holy Child, Sean McDermott St.

I would suggest 1- 2 Dublin schools and then four schools nationwide, allowing schools to apply if interested to keep it fair and open. I have purposely not had preliminary discussions with these schools in case the Presidents office would prefer another process to identify participants. I also hope to make contact with groups comprising older people.

Possible groups to approach;

  • Department of Education
  • Individual schools Children’s Books Ireland
  • Poetry Ireland runs a writer’s in Schools Scheme
  • Bealtaine Writers Group

Suggested contact hours for workshops;

5 - 6 x workshop in schools (two inner city schools and four nationwide)

5 - 6 x workshop with older groups (5-6 U3A groups throughout Ireland)

Total 10-12 workshops

When the sculpture has been installed on site it would be nice if the participants of the workshops could be invited to witness the sealing of the time capsule. This could also be documented and included in the publication.


I have budgeted for a 32-page limited edition of 500 publications.

I have an initial quote from Impress printing works. This would be a really nice way to document the writing/poems, the group workshops as well as the making of the sculpture and sealing of the time capsule. Enda Wyley may write a poem for the book.

Materials and Components

This hollow acorn will be cast in bronze with a shell casting technique that achieves extremely fine detail in the metal. It will be approximately 2.8 meter long x 1.7 meter high. The piece will be first fabricated in wax in my studio with subtly integrated casts of approximately 2500 donated pencils. A selection of the writing from the workshops and the participant’s first names will be impressed into the wax pencil surface using an alphabet of small metal stamps. The time capsule canister will be made of Stainless Steel with a threaded sealed locking system built into the bronze tip of the acorn. The bronze will be patinated varying bright brown colours with golden highlights.

Location and Landscaping

It will sit with a natural playful tilt as if it has landed from a high tree and will provide an easily recognizable and highly tactile landmark. My preferred location is on the far side of the meadow on the North/West boundary close to the new wild flower garden.

I have proposed a green pathway along the meadow to the sculpture from an existing path junction on the North corner of the site. Geo-Coastal ltd provides an integrated porous path system that allows grass to grow with good drainage and wheelchair access. I would plant perhaps 3 baby Sessile Oaks near the sculpture and I envisage creating a small meadow of Irish wild flowers in the close vicinity around the pathway & sculpture site.

Maintenance Plan

The sculpture will be lacquered with ‘lncralac’ to protect the patina & bronze. The foundry recommends cleaning and washing the sculpture and applying 2 coats of this lacquer every 3-5 years. The foundry regularly provides this service to public art features and can be contracted to carry this out.