About Us

The Golden Fleece Award is an independent artistic prize fund established as a charitable bequest by the late Helen Lillias Mitchell.


According to Lillias's wish, the Trustees of the Award include members of Lillias's family, professional fund managers and arts managers who work closely together to help run the award along the lines that she wished for. They are supported by a distinguished advisory panel whose knowledge and experience are invaluable in guiding the development of the Award. The panel comprises Patrick T. Murphy, Director of the Royal Hibernian Academy (Chairperson of the panel); jewellery designer, curator and educator Angela O'Kelly; graphic artist Robert Russell; painter Eoin Mac Lochlainn; and Ann Mulrooney, who is Director of TCD's Science Gallery Dublin.


This feature article by Ros Drinkwater about Lillias and her legacy appeared in the Sunday Business Post of November 8th 2015. Reproduced with kind permission of the editors.

Helen Lillias Mitchell 1915 - 2000


Lillias Mitchell was born in Rathgar, the youngest child of Dublin businessman David W Mitchell and his wife Frances Kirby, and sister of David and Frank Mitchell. As a child she showed artistic talent, and attended painting classes with Elizabeth Yeats and later, from the age of 11, with Lilian Davidson. Encouraged by Miss Davidson, she went on to study painting for two years under Dermod O'Brien at the Royal Hibernian Academy School, and also followed sculpture courses at the National College of Art. Then, in 1937-8, she spent a year in Switzerland, where she continued to study sculpture and modelling in clay.

Portrait of Lillias by Hilda Roberts

St Patrick

In 1940 she won second place in the RDS Taylor Art Award for her very fine statue of "St Patrick Struggling in his Soul for Peace".

The whole of her subsequent career bears witness to her enthusiasm for the practice and teaching of the arts and crafts. After the War, in 1946, she opened her own Weaving Workshop in 84 Lower Mount Street, Dublin, where she first developed her personal Golden Fleece emblem. From 1949 she also became a regular attendant of Carl Malmsen's craft school at Viggbyholm, Sweden, to study traditional techniques of spinning and weaving. Art students were soon attracted to Lillias's Weaving Workshop, and in 1951 she was appointed to open a Weaving Department in the National College of Art and Design, where she continued to teach the arts of spinning, weaving and dyeing until her retirement. Lillias was always grateful to the then Minister of Education, General Richard Mulcahy, for this opportunity.


Lillias practised and taught craft weaving using natural fibres and dyes. Over the years she visited and studied the methods of traditional spinners, dyers and weavers in Donegal, Connemara and Kerry. In 1975 she founded the Irish Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, and in 1978 she published the fruits of her studies in her anthology Irish Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing, followed in 1986 by Irish Weaving: Discoveries and Personal Experiences.


She maintained a lifelong involvement with the Royal Dublin Society, and its Arts and Crafts programmes in particular. In 1987, she founded the Lillias Mitchell Award which is offered every year in the RDS National Crafts Competition in the Textiles category. In recognition of her many contributions to the Arts in Ireland, she was made an Honorary Life Member of the RDS in 1993.

Lillias was an artist all through her life. She continued to paint and sketch actively until her 80s, exhibiting regularly at the Irish Watercolour Society. In 1995 she was elected Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, a fitting recognition of her lifelong dedication to art.


The setting up of a trust to fund the Golden Fleece Award was a project to which she devoted much thought in her later years. Her Letter of Wishes to her trustees says that:

"It has always been my wish that those with talent be encouraged to develop their talents, particularly in Ireland … I am very conscious of the fact that many artists cannot develop their talents because their art does not bring in a steady income for them and yet they need to support themselves financially … My wish is to give artists a 'boost' in times of particular need … I have set up this trust [for] artists in need who are interested in pursuing their careers as artists."

The Trustees of the Helen Lillias Mitchell Artistic Fund are proud to carry out these wishes to the best of their ability.