Sunday, 13 December 2020

Dance Season 2020: Isabella Oberländer

Our final Dance Season interview features Isabella Oberländer.



What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

 

Through dance, I find space, resonance and community - essential basics of being alive. Through movement, I find opportunities to navigate our worlds, our existence.

 

 

How have the recent restrictions affected your process? 

 

Rapture, Cancel, Pause, Adapt, Postpone…….……Question, Question, Question.

 

More than anything else over the last months, the continued tread has been about asking questions - the continued surfacing of quandaries and the seeking out of the space where these dilemmas may be worked with.

 

What is the future of dance as an art-form? 

How does one practice dance during a pandemic? 

Can dance and embodiment help us navigate these times? 

When will…..

 

Questioning and Dancing - Dancing and Questioning 

I allow the questions bubble up in my dancing and the dance bubble up in my questioning.

 

Move in the now, stay in the doing.

 

Reset

 

Keep practising!

 

 

In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching? 

 

‘Glisten’ offers an invitation, an opening into what is already felt but not yet visible. 

What does it take to imagine a realm for multitudes - a speculative future?

 

And what are your hopes?

 

 

For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them? 

 

Ever so often - just dance your heart out - even if you end up crying in your kitchen.

 

 

If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

 

I am currently working on a new homepage, which fingers crossed will be ready in early 2021. In the meantime, you can find me on https://www.instagram.com/oberlanderisabella/  to stay in touch. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Meta4 Dance Company

Our penultimate Dance Season interview features Meta4 Dance Company. 


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

Both myself and Lily started dancing at local dance schools from a young age. As far as motivation to become a dancer first and foremost it was a love for the art, but as we grew older it became more about the expression of ourselves, having a way of expressing ourselves physically was essential for us. For us both, dancing was something that we felt we were meant to do, it’s something we just enjoyed on a very basic level and just had a thirst to develop our skills, knowledge and make our own work. As we continue to work, we continue to stay motivated by each other and those around us. It’s important to look at other artists, get inspired but also see things you don’t like and ask why and how would you interrupt something.


How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

Well, they have changed things dramatically but thankfully we already do quite a lot of things that don’t restrict us. We tend to work on a small scale (just the two of us) which means we could still keep working on our own practice. The restrictions and slowing down in pace has allowed us to take a step back and really consider our process a little more and develop work with less time pressure. We have also developed connections with artists over recent times and explored different avenues for our work such as working with Marc Craig, an artist based in London. 


In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

This latest work was in partnership with a design company that we have worked with in the past, it was a brilliant piece to work with because it was the first thing we were able to do during the pandemic which was outside of the house we were in. It felt very freeing and a relief to perform again, we want people to feel the joy and alleviation we felt while dancing. The work highlights the freedom & fluidity within the building so we hope people resonate with that.


For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

We are still finding our feet in the dance world and think that you are probably always finding your feet in a world that can be quite turbulent. I suppose in our short period of experience we would say that you should take any opportunity you can as you never know what it will lead to. Go and meet people, if you want to work somewhere or with someone, just go and speak to them, if it doesn’t happen first time don’t be put off. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes, just try to learn from them. Nobody knows everything so don’t be scared to forget stuff, but equally take your time to plan. Measure twice and cut once. It will be hard but if you love it, its worth it.


If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

People can go to our website www.meta4dance.com or you can check us out on Facebook and Instagram by searching Meta4Dance Company. But equally, just send us a message or email, we like to talk about what we do and meet new people so feel free to just get in touch personally.


Friday, 11 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Mairéad Vaughan

Our featured Dance Season interview for Friday is with Mairéad Vaughan.


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

Sitting in school every day from 9 - 3pm, motivated my longing to move and for creative expression. I started to create choreography from a young age. The felt sense of the expression of the movements I created, supported an expression that I'm sure now looking back vented my utter frustration with the sedentary, one dimensional, academically oriented education model that sadly still exists today. 


Dance and choreography offered a form of embodied intelligence that supported me on many levels - creatively, somatically, emotionally and energetically. When I arrived home from school each day, I would turn on loud music and dance. I would feel a total kind of embodied connection with myself, that no other medium ever fulfilled. I am really interested in facilitating a creative dance practice I created called ‘Attuning' within multiple educational, health care and arts environments.



How have recent restrictions affected your processes?


Restrictions have given me lots of space and time to reflect, examine, write and create in new ways. My environmental dance practice supported me to move my work from an indoor (Uillinn studio space) to outdoor spaces which resulted in a short experimental video I created, performed and edited, called 'Attuning: Immersion’. This reflects my practice and directly felt sensation of body-mind-environment as one organising intelligence. I also went online to teach my Attuning classes I call which was very much an experiment with the Zoom platform of facilitation. I collaborated with other artists during this period both directly and indirectly in a variety of ways which I could not have pre-empted. Being an artist really makes you adaptive and responsive which helps during times of crises.



In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?


Present, Timeless, Open, Responsive, Porous, Effemoral, Immersed, Alive, Vibrant and most importantly... fully embodied in (my own) Skin.


I am interested in creating immersive performance environments so that audiences become part of the work rather than stay outside and ‘watch’. The act of ‘watching' is primarily ‘eye orientated and tends to objectify that which is being ’seen'. I invite audiences to use all of their sensory capacity - their ears, smell, touch, taste so that there whole body-mind system is activated. I also invite audiences to walk through the performance space, to sit and experience the work from different areas in space and witness what arises in their own bodies - what is their embodied response beyond primarily ‘seeing’. What sensations, feelings, emotions, energetic expressions arise for them - this to me is being present in ones body fully and staying with one's self, rather than having too many expectations of the other - the performer. The eyes seem to separate but the whole body or embodiment can re-unite and re-connect. 



For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?


Treat your body-mind with the utmost respect it deserves. Learn somatically ie through your own direct felt sense of something, rather than merely coping, mimicking or mirroring others. In my direct experience, this is where authenticity, creativity and true expression lie. This is where you find your own place within the sometimes very harsh world of dance. This is where you discover, explore, play to find your own unique individual and idiosyncratic flavour or way of expression.



If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

To my website:

www.maireadvaughan.com

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Tara Brandel

Thursday's Dance Season interview features Tara Brandel. 


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

I practically came into the world dancing. I remember wanting to dance since I was 3 years of age. The freedom of growing up in West Cork had a lot to do with it. Running around fields and just generally having space to move was a big help. 


Have recent restrictions affected your processes?#

They have. The big drawback has been having many of my performances cancelled but despite that, I feel lucky to have had the West Cork Arts Centre. While I couldn't perform, it was great to have a space where I could carry on researching and practicing. 


In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

Ideally, I hope to get people to think. I'd rather them join the dots themselves rather than telling them directly what it's about. In that way, the performance can evoke empathy and create an emotional connection. I'm hoping that any recognition discovered by the viewer can become something profound for them. 


For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

If you really love dancing and it's your passion, don't give up! Let your passion come through. Dancing has become the central joy of my life and I know if I had ever given it up I would have deeply regretted it.


If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

http://tarabrandel.com/

http://www.croiglan.com/about-us/

https://www.facebook.com/tara.brandel


Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Darragh McLoughlin

Wednesday's Dance Season interview features Darragh McLoughlin.


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

In my experience dance is one of the purest and most enriching forms of expression. Not in relation to art or meaning, but rather in being able to let go of the confinements of our body. To reach in all directions, to move every atom of ourselves all at once. When does movement become dance? Is the musician dancing behind their instrument? Juggling was my gateway into dance. It is a common trajectory over years of learning juggling to start exploring more and more complex patterns, to more and more complex movements, to using fewer objects, to letting go of the object and daring to move alone. Juggling has been heavily influenced by contemporary dance in the last few decades as it moves past technical virtuoso to an expressive language in itself. Our partner is our object who gives us opportunities to move - as we throw the ball we move to catch it and so the dance begins. It is a difficult step for circus artists to stop hiding behind our objects - but it is an important one. 




How have recent restrictions affected your processes?


The restrictions haven't affected my processes so much as I am used to, and often prefer, practicing alone. Even though the social aspect of meeting and collaborating with other artists has become more complicated - 2020 was also the year I developed my 1st large scale collaborative project. I feel for everyone who has had difficulties in these times, but I've also enjoyed observing people squirm with all this time they so desperately wished for - but now don't know what to do with. This moment in history has allowed more time to dive into ourselves and explore our internal world. Home is, quite literally, where the heart is. 



In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?


The basic premise of my durational work was to balance a stick on my sternum for as long as possible, and when it fell the performance was over. The audience was free to come and go and stay as long as they wanted. Several incredibly talented and diverse musicians accompanied me in half-hour slots with whatever sounds they felt they wanted to 'colour in' my image with. I lasted just shy of four hours.


This work is a very internal experience as I am unable to even glance away for a split second in order to keep the object in balance on my body. Over the duration of the performance I have to do a lot of problem-solving as, sure as rain, problems start to arise. Due to the 'one attempt' nature of the performance, this often adds a lot of anxiety in the beginning as I deal with my own emotions and ego while I struggle to not let the stick fall. In the second hour, I start to weep from lack of blinking and from getting a small amount of light in my eyes, and as I approach the third hour my eyeballs start to become extremely achy from straining a muscle in my eye I never knew existed. My ears open up to the room desperate to hear people's conversations (often about me) - just anything to distract me from the situation I'm in. The more I seek distraction though the more I start to suffer from the prison I put myself in. Sounds from the musicians become central to my experience as my body's balancing movement tends to sync with the rhythms in the room which often brings me to different emotional states - some help, some intensify, but all are welcome. And then amazingly after around three hours comes a great feeling of acceptance and all the pain and anxiety goes to the background of my experience and I start to almost enjoy it. With acceptance, I feel at peace and the prospect of the object falling stops to feel like it will be a failure on my part, but rather just an end. Then eventually that end comes and the sudden lack of movement causes waves of warmth and energy to flow through me.


I was amazed to find so many people still with me in the space - some even stayed the whole duration - enduring with me. I heard from other people's accounts that they both wanted me to continue and wanted me to stop in equal measures. Some people even experienced pain in their own bodies as they responded to my movements. There was also a lot of curiosity as to what my experience was. I could hear throughout the performance things like "I wonder what he's thinking..." or "do you think he's in pain?". There were several moments throughout where the stick almost fell and I could hear a lot of commotion in the room as they responded to it. I guess that meant they were with me! My favourite reaction was a group of people who left around an hour and a half into it only to return at the three and a half hour mark and were hit by the realisation of how they spent their time, and how I spent mine. The experience of time becomes central to my own, and the audience's, experience. 


For people eagerto get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?


Find the pleasure in learning. Don't only take classes or follow mentors but discover on your own. Find things you've never seen before - even if it's been done somewhere else in the world, this act of discovery by yourself is where real learning and growth can be found. When there are no new landmasses left to explore, we must still keep discovering. There is great satisfaction and purpose to be found in the search. 


If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?


They can check out my website (www.squareheadproductions.com

Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CieSquareheadProductions

or see videos at my Vimeo account (https://vimeo.com/squareheadproductions). 

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Taylor Graham

Our featured Dance Season interview for Tuesday is with Taylor Graham. 


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

Initially, it was my parents that got me into dancing but on a more professional front, one of my main motivations to pursue this as a career came from attending an intensive in Los Angeles called 'The Gypsy Project' in 2017. The mentors I met there (Tilman O' Donnell, Jermaine Spivey, Spenser Theberge, and many others) showed me a realm of movement based upon curiosity, creativity, and embodiment. I felt incredibly nourished working with them. I began utilizing movement as a way to understand where and who I am, to continuously be reminded that everything is changing and impermanent. So all I can do is pay attention. Dance is how I pay attention.

How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

I happened to be in my childhood home in New York when the first lockdown hit. This affected me pretty heavily as I felt I was just gaining momentum towards landing my life in Ireland. Reflecting on that period of time, I am grateful for it. I was able to recenter, to come back to myself and to reconnect with family in a more caring way. I got into a routine; ballet 3 times a week, yoga 2 times a week, Dance Church, rollerblading, biking, walking. Just getting to know my body more intimately. I spent a lot of my time outdoors connecting with nature. I wasn't in any creating headspace during that time, so I focused more on 'the schedule'. I arrived back in Ireland in July and began reacclimating. Things were very intense emotionally, so I started creating this piece. Overall I think I've been lucky within this pandemic event. I have a practice I'm passionate about surrounded by a very supportive community both in The States and Ireland. 


In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

When I began researching for this project, I was fighting through restrictions both physically and mentally. This work is about trauma, so it's deeply personal. There was unfolding of trust because I was working closely with collaborators on this very personal thing. I had to let them into this space. It was liberating to feel inspired by embodying my experiences. The three of us were really excited by ideas, particularly the fact that we got to create something that feels true to discomfort, confrontation, and absolute noise. There has been pain and joy in the process.

I'm translating my experiences with PTSD into expression through collaborating noise, writing dialogue, letting my body sound and words out as I move, etc. It may sound cynical, but I hope the piece invokes discomfort but simultaneously helps people feel seen and heard in their own experiences. 

For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

I'm an avid promoter of everybody being a dancing body. It's so fun. Looking at our bodies and being like "Wow! What can this thing do??". I recommend online classes. One I would highly recommend is 'Dance Church'. They are based in the States, created by Kate Wallich. That class encourages dancing for the joy of it rather than for a particular aesthetic or outcome. 

Additionally, I've sought so much solace in connecting with my body through the Body-Mind Centring school. They have courses available online, and there are plenty of people certified to teach that I'm sure have classes available as well. I'd recommend this as it's a gentle way of embodying anatomy and experience.

On a more professional level, I believe that trying to fit into other people's ideas can be a more comfortable experience after discovering your own sense of movement. Embodying myself in such a way informs me of my intrinsic self-value. It's a treasured thing to find a mentor that guides, encourages and challenges you to express yourself as you already are.


If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

My portfolio website will not be up and running until January 2021 but when it is ready the domain will be: www.tayelisegraham.com

For now, people can follow me on Instagram as that's the best way to look at my past, present, and upcoming work: www.instagram.com/tayelisegraham/

Facebook is also an option: https://www.facebook.com/taylor.e.graham.5

and Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA5yg-G8kO5s_jIDA07BU-w/featured?view_as=subscriber


Monday, 7 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Ruairí Ó'Donnabháin.

This week is Dance Season 2020 at Uillinn. I had the pleasure of speaking to all of the dancers involved. I asked them a series of questions aimed at giving you a brief insight into them and their work. Our first featured interview is with Ruairí Ó'Donnabháin. 


What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

I've followed dance as a material, like a form of sculpture, I've been really lucky to be invited into dance as a process and its fed me. I think its an incredible art form in how expansive its reach is and the power it has to deconstruct some of the dominant ways of thinking about expression, art or even being human. 

Sin cheist maith domsa mar níor smaoiním orm féin mar 'rinceoir' ach ar an lámh eile oibrím le ghluaiseacht, chorp, choreografaíocht srl. Cheapaim is daoine teicnicúil iad rinceoirí agus chaith siad alán am ag traeináil mar sin, is foirm é agus tá alán meas agam sa rinceoireacht agus táim teicniciúil fresin ach i dtreo difriúil; níl sé mo príomh chleachtas. Nuair atáim ag obair táim ag smaoineamh faoi choreografaíocht mar scríobhneoireacht, ach í spáis agus am, sin saghas coincheapúil ach practiciúil fresin. D'fhás mé suas i amharclannaíocht, bhí mé i grúpa dramaíocht óige 'Activate' thuas i gCorcaigh, tá staidear déanta agam i amharclannaíocht agus dramaí i Ollscoil Chorcaí ach bhí mé gafa leis an chorp sa léiriú bheo, chursaí fisiciúil. 


How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

Is ea é an rince atá i gcéist an aistear - an chorp ag ghluaiseacht amuigh faoin tuatha ag bualadh leis muintir iarrthar chorcaí ar an mbealach agus an nádúr, na bóthair chiúin 's na sléibhte chos fharraige. 

I suppose the main way that my practice has been affected is that I have had to change how I collaborate, to find new ways and new channels. I would say that the pandemic restrictions have also been an opportunity to refocus. Its affirmed things about the way I work that are important, like how important the live event is, how important the connection between people is. That's what choreography is doing for me when it's at its best, it's bringing people together. So, of course, I've had to change how I've done that, the live event with Aistear Riachtanach / Necessary Journey the work I am sharing was the walk itself and then there is this second layer which is like an archive or document of that live event. 


In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

Tuirseach! - bhí sé chrua ar an aistear, na céimeanna - an macnamh, na laethanta amuigh i mo aonar an lá ar fad. 

It opened something in me; this dance, it was a meditation. It was a gift as well to be able to move having been so still and stuck at home for so long, so it felt like a release. There isn't ever a specific feeling I want people to have, I hope it opens up something new in the familiar for people, especially those living here in West Cork who might recognise the places or the plants or roads and beaches. It helped me to see things differently, to find the medicine in our surroundings and our desire to connect with those we love and care for. 


For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

Yes - dance to follow your pleasure - move every day - even if it's just in your kitchen or garden. 


If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

Táim ag obair ar mo suíomh idirlíón nua ag an am seo - tá súil agam go mbeidh sé réidh san bhlian nua. 

I'm actually working on a new website as we speak, I hope it will be ready in the new year. You can find out more about my work through my residency at Uilinn in 2021 and at www.oileanair.com

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Material Matters- Jim Turner

For the third feature of our Material Matters series, I spoke with Rossmore based ceramic artist Jim Turner. Jim used to be a board member here at the West Cork Arts Centre, with several of his exhibitions also having been featured here. Jim specialises in clay but is also proficient with other materials. He has successfully exhibited internationally, from the United States to Germany and of course on Irish soil. Most recently with a successful exhibition in China. 

These days Jim focuses primarily on his and his wife Etain's studio, Rossmore Pottery. Jim and his wife have been makers in West Cork for 40 years. I asked Jim about his beginnings here. 

''I first arrived delivering a yacht into Crosshaven in 1969. The next 10 years were spent finishing my degree in London, working in various pottery's from France to Connemara, interspersed with yacht deliveries. I met my wife in the Alderney Pottery. Things were totally different back then really. My wife and I started off by buying a ruined old farmhouse and piggery, which we converted into the studio workshop. I was working on a building site at the time so most of my time was spent either working or renovating the workshop. Once the workshop was done, we started off by making chimney pots as there was a big demand for them at the time. We also made pottery for craft shops when we could. We made a name for ourselves through that work which lead to requests from places like Blarney Woolen Mills. Those businesses requested a range of pottery from us in all shapes and sizes as that was what was popular in the 80s. That kept us very busy for a long time. For nearly 20 years in fact. There were times where we just wanted to work on one-off sculptures but at the same time we needed to make money so selling in bulk kept us afloat really. With that money, we eventually were able to afford a studio in the 90s. Demand wasn't as high around that time but I was teaching Sculpture and Ceramics in Rossa College back then which freed us up to be more selective with what we worked on in our studio". 

Jim and Etain are still making things to this day. Etain adds designs to the decorative ceramics Jim makes. As he is now 'retired', Jim says he has more time to 'play around with materials and experiment'. This involves adding such materials as cellulose, perlite, vermiculite, sawdust, wood shavings, various organic materials and even cement and metals to different clay mixes, for making sculptural ceramics. Jim spoke about the level of demand for his work these days, especially considering the Covid-19 restrictions.

"I mainly do commissions these days. We don't make as much money as we used to but I'm a pensioner so that doesn't matter as much" Jim laughed. "I also have more time to play around with materials and to experiment. I'm in the 'danger zone', so I spend most of my time indoors anyway so the lockdown hasn't really affected me as much. Well, I was working on a show and that had to be postponed unfortunately but what can you do? I have had more time to research further into subjects I find interesting. Like at the moment I have been reading up on the scientist John Stewart Bell and am planning on making sculptures about him and his work. It's been really interesting and enjoyable to learn about him and doing it at my own pace has been great. I'll be continuing to research that and other subjects over the Winter so ill see what comes of that. I've also been experimenting with paper clay recently and I'm hoping to display some of the work I'm doing with that in the Members and Friends show in the Art Centre next year". 

Jim has often worked collaboratively. He has recently completed a collaborative exhibition with artist and writer Brian Lalor entitled 'The Fertile Crescent' which was on display in the Blue House Gallery in Schull. In this work, Jim and Brian turned their attention to the tragedy in the Middle East where the ruins of the civilisations of the past were being destroyed. For this exhibition, Jim made a series of cylinder seals, which involved inscribing a clay roller used to impress calligraphy on to a clay tablet. 

Jim's experience with creating is self-evident in his work. I asked Jim about what's different about being a maker these days compared to when he began.

"The whole thing has changed completely. The bad side of it is that you are now charged for having a studio. For example, I have a photographer friend that used to work out of a room in his own house for many years. Then one day all of a sudden he is being charged for that room as it is now classified as a studio. Then at the same time, I know some painters who arent charged at all so the whole thing seems totally arbitrary which doesn't make sense to me.

 On the positive side of it, workshops for makers in many different disciplines became popular in the 2010s which is great. We try to host a workshop every year, through the society of Cork Potters with an international leader. This helps with the running costs of the studio. Social distancing precludes the event this year. There are so many people doing it now. I like that there are more people interested in becoming makers because obviously, it's something I love to do. The work being created these days is of a far more artistic bent which is great to see".


To view any of Jim's past or future work please visit: 


http://www.rossmorepottery.com/index.php

https://www.instagram.com/potterywithjim/?hl=en

WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council



Thursday, 20 August 2020

Material Matters - Michael Ray

For the second week of our Material Matters series, we are featuring Castlefreke based visual artist Michael Ray. Michael has been connected with both the West Cork Arts Centre and the Arts for Health team for almost twenty years. He has displayed at the Centre many times and has also visited hospitals around Cork, working with patients to create a variety of work as part of the Arts for Health team.

 

Michael is renowned for his work with glass, successfully exhibiting his work around the world.  Yet, during the lockdown, Michael's primary focus turned to wood. I asked Michael what he has been working on recently.

"Well during the lockdown I suddenly got a really bad toothache" Michael laughed. "I wasn't able to go to the dentist with it so it became very difficult to live with. To distract myself from the pain I would go out to my shed and start crafting. Hacking away at the wood kind of took me to another place and became a sort of therapeutic relief. I wasn't making anything specific at first but I eventually realised what I was making looked like teeth and that's primarily what I have been working on lately".

Michael has an impressive ability to work with a variety of materials. Wood and glass are wildly different materials so I was interested to learn about his process with wood and what that feels like to work with.

 

"I first look for a piece of wood that is still growing. I like to work with greenwood because you're able to interact with it in interesting ways. It moves and changes shape dynamically so you have to be adaptable. I'll take a small branch, usually the size of a fire log, and cut it into an appropriate length. I strip the bark from it as I go. The making process starts by shaping the 'legs' of the piece which end up as the roots of the tooth. I'll rough out three of these using an adze and gouge. These legs can be anywhere up to two feet in length. Once I have those done I decide if I'm going to hollow out the main bulk of the tooth or leave it mostly solid. If I decide to hollow it out I’ll use a hook knife, which is sort of like an ice cream scoop but extremely sharp. This allows me to make curved cuts into the wood. Once that is done I'll apply a finish to the piece. I might use a blowtorch to create a charred surface to the piece, to make the wood split, and from there, apply metal leaf or a wax to keep it all smooth and sealed. I may also burnish the wood which presses the fibres down and helps the wood shine. The final product can look very animated, almost like it’s about to move off. It's a very organic process. You have to adapt to the wood and sometimes the wood can present unexpected opportunities such as knots and the directional changes in growth rings.

With glass, you have a very clear picture of what you want the piece to look like. You can’t be as prescriptive with wood which makes it a creative challenge but that's what I like about it. some of my process’s go against traditional crafting conventions of making something perfect. The destructive qualities of heat for instance, can turn the whole process on its head and allows for something new and unexpected to happen".

 

As the project is still ongoing, Michael isn't sure if this work will become public just yet but if you are interested in learning more about Michael's glass work, you can see examples on his website www.glitteringglass.com


WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council



Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Material Matters- Anne Harrington Rees

My name is Gavin Buckley. I work as part of the front of house staff at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre. I also write a weekly blog about the latest events happening in and around the Centre. Over the next four weeks, I will be interviewing four West Cork-based makers. All four are long-standing members of the West Cork Arts Centre and have a keen interest in the qualities of material and form in their work. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rossmore based designer Anne Harrington Rees.  Before ever meeting her, I knew that Anne worked with the Arts for Health Team for many years, working with the hospital residents of Dunmanway, Clonakilty and elsewhere. 

I had never met Anne in person until she invited me to chat with her at her stall in the Skibbereen Farmer's Market. Anne's stall bloomed with vivid colours across the variety of her collection. Neatly displayed there was a selection of tea towels, wall hangings and cushions. Besides the notable colours, what stood out were the designs inlaid upon them. On one item you would see an intricate pattern of leaves with a striking flower at their heart. On the next, a multi-layered and multi-coloured graphic of a moth spread radiantly across the material. I was immediately eager to learn more about the work and the person behind them so I asked Anne about her background with crafting. 

"I've always loved creating. I remember as a child my mother and grandmother taught me how to sew and I used to practice by sewing dresses for my dolls. Ever since then, and as I grew up, I've been making things. I even made my wedding dress for example. But besides crafting, I have always been interested in the environment and the nature we have around us. My passion for both is what has led to this current work". 

Anne would go on to tell of a life wholly immersed in both crafting and nature. In terms of education, Anne has a Higher National Diploma in Design Crafts as well as a degree in Landscape Horticulture. Some of her earliest professional endeavours were spent crafting small coiled hand baskets which she would later go on to display in her first exhibition. This was only the beginning of her success as she went on to win several crafting competitions both in Ireland and the UK. Besides that, she was a Horticulture lecturer in the UK for several years and even had her own garden maintenance business for a time. 

It was clear that Anne cares a great deal about the environment. I asked her what brought this about. "There were many influences. I was brought up in the countryside. I was always out hunting for blackberries or walking the dogs. We used to grow vegetables in the garden, and my dad would always know the names of every plant.  Besides that, my husband is an Ecologist and he used to work in a nature reserve where I would help him do bird surveys from time to time. Because I was involved in all of these things, I became aware of the problems facing the natural world. Today, I do my best to raise awareness of these issues because we need to mind what is in the world around us. I think if people don't know about the problems, then they won't know how to protect the environment around them and start doing positive things for it". 

Anne primarily focuses on selling at markets these days. I asked Anne about the process behind what she has been making lately. "Well it usually starts with me just going for a walk with my dogs and I'll end up spotting things. An insect on a leaf, a budding flower, things like that. I'll take a photo of whatever I find interesting. Later on, I'll lay out all the photos I've taken that day or from any day really. From there I'll sketch an image based on patterns I like in the photos. I'll then scan my sketch into my computer where I add colour using editing software. I also may add further layers on the computer, like the leaf patterns. Once I'm happy with the completed image I'll save it and send it to an Irish based printing company. I feel it's important to support Irish businesses. They then print my image onto the towels or hangings or whatever I like. It's all fair trade or organic materials too. Once I get them back I must fold them, package them and get them ready for display. That's it. They are then ready for selling at the markets".

Anne's passion for nature and crafting truly comes across in her wonderful work. To see for yourself, you can always find Anne on a Saturday afternoon in Skibbereen Farmer's Market. Alternatively, some of her work is for sale in Green Dot in Clonakilty. All of her work is also available for purchase at anneharringtonreesdesigns.ie

WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council



Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Sounds From Inside

This week I spoke to musicians Liz Clark and Justin Grounds about their efforts to bring music back into peoples lives despite the lockdown. While distinctly different musicians Liz and Justin have both worked for many years on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme as core artist team members and have community collaboration at the heart of their work. Liz a singer-songwriter, originally from Colorado whose work is folk-influenced, has originated projects such as Starling Song Project (http://www.artsandhealth.ie/case-studies/the-starling-song-project/) and is also director of Uillinn based Skibbereen Community Choir.

Justin is a classically trained violinist whose recent projects include Last Dance, (https://justingrounds.com/news/2017/12/19/last-dance-project-with-inma-pavon) with dancer Inma Pavon and Embracing the Universe, a new oratorio performed by a special Community Choir and 7 musicians at Uillinn this time last year, for Skibbereen Arts Festival.

I first spoke to Justin Grounds about what he has been getting up to recently. Justin is currently in the early process of composing new work  'Isolation 20'. While very much a work in progress, the plan so far is to first find a diverse range of 20 musicians from around Cork. Justin will then call them individually to discuss their experience of the lockdown and how they have been coping with it. After this discussion, Justin will ask them to compose a brief bit of music which attempts to capture their individual experience of the lockdown. Justin will then take those individual sounds and compose a melody from all of the collective sources to make a cohesive work. 

After composing, the work will be installed in the gallery. The idea is that you can walk into a space and see 20 separate speakers spread out across the room with a portrait of each project participant above them. The listener can then go up to each speaker and hear the individual sound or else stand in the middle of the room to hear the collective sounds harmonizing together as one. Justin intends the installation to be experienced by one visitor or one household at a time, to underline the feeling of isolation. All going well, this will take place at Uillinn in early 2021.

More generally, Justin spoke of the ups and downs he's had when making music during the lockdown. ''The lockdown has of course been challenging in some ways but it has also opened up more opportunities to learn. I've been able to make music with people from all over the world who have been missing creating music together. Unfortunately, the joy of playing live in a room together has diminished with the current restrictions but the collaborative element has been great. I've been able to see people bring their music together in really interesting ways''.


I was also able to speak with Liz Clark about her work with Skibbereen Community Choir. The choir has been around for 3 years now and has members from all age groups and backgrounds. Typically Liz will pick a requested song from one of the members and then organize them to meet once a week so that they can sing the chosen song. In the past, they have sung anything from Crosby, Stills and Nash, to Neil Young, to Joni Mitchell, and even The Waterboys. These meetups usually take place at the West Cork Arts Centre but recent restrictions have made that impossible and the Choir had to be put on hold. Then, not long after Covid-19 hit, Liz would hear the awful news that her mother had contracted the virus. This was naturally a huge concern for Liz but fortunately, her mother went on to make a full recovery. Even during such a scary time, Liz said music helped her through it. She missed making music, and the people she made it with. She decided to reach out to her fellow choir members and like many others, they took to Zoom. Some members of the choir were unused to the technology involved which prevented everyone from joining which saddened Liz as she didn't want anyone to miss out. The members that could join were initially faced with the impracticality of singing together over an internet call. Liz said the latency issue was a huge problem because the delay in receiving sound would have everyone's voices out of sync. Singing and hearing your own voice louder than everyone else's took adjusting to as well she mentioned.

A clever solution was reached where everyone would mute themselves except for Liz. She would then start singing and people would join in while recording themselves on their phones. The participants would then send Liz their recordings for her to sync up using audio editing software and once it was successfully edited, she would send it to everyone involved. Liz had prior experience in sound editing which stood to her but there was still a lot of time and effort involved. It was hard for me to imagine the difficulty involved in perfectly syncing up audio from multiple recordings. When I mentioned this to Liz she said ''it was never going to be perfect but that was never really the point. The soul of this choir is wellbeing, and the music almost comes second. Singing feels good, especially when we do it together. Just being able to engage with everyone again was wonderful. It might only be something small but being able to help people cope during these difficult times makes a big difference in my opinion.''



To keep up to date with Liz and Justin's work, please visit these websites:

https://www.westcorkartscentre.com/
https://www.instagram.com/uillinnwestcorkarts/?hl=en
https://www.facebook.com/uillinnwestcorkartscentre/
https://artsforhealthwestcork.com/

WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council

Isolation20 - This project is supported by Cork County Council through the Creative Ireland Programme - further information from creative.ireland.ie and ireland.ie