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Article: Mary Callaghan

Mary Callaghan
artist studio

Mary Callaghan

Mary is a multidisciplinary artist based in Clonakilty, West Cork. The rugged sea vistas serve as a source of inspiration, particularly in her print work. Between September 2016 and May 2017, Mary lived on Dursey island, which is accessible only by a cable car which connects to the mainland. This residency resulted in a series of 12 lino cut prints of the scenes and views from the island. We asked Mary to tell us a little more about her work and in particular her time on Dursey...

  • Tell us a little bit about what you make:

I’m currently making lino-cut prints. My work is inspired by nature, and the
landscape of my surroundings, especially the sea, so most of my work is
a representation of that in some form or other.

  • Could you describe your studio to us?

My studio was called the ‘good sitting room’ of the house I’m living in. The
house is a 200yr old farmhouse in West Cork. The ground floor is made up of
three rooms - the kitchen, the middle room and the sitting room. At some
stage, the sitting room was converted into an ensuite bedroom. The walls are
very thick and the window is low, so the sunlight never fills the room, but it is
warm and spacious. Half the room is my studio, the other half is a bit of a
dumping ground with three armchairs, musical instruments and lots of other
bits and pieces.

  • What is your favourite thing about the space and how do you get into the mindset of making?

My favourite thing is an old chest that was converted into a cupboard by
being turned on its side and having two shelves put in. It’s lined with old
wallpaper and is very deep, which is great for storing big sheets of paper.
To get into the mindset of making I need coffee and time! Once I know I don’t
need to be anywhere, I can relax and start creating. A steady flow of good
coffee helps too.

  • What is your favourite tool and why?

My favourite tool is a printing baren my dad made. He’s a great man for
creative solutions! I explained what a baren was, and using a large plastic lid,
a block of wood, wall brackets and the handle of a brush he created a
wonderful tool that has saved my wrists!

  • Can you tell us more about your Dursey Collection?

The Dursey Collection was the culmination of work from a nine-month stay on
Dursey Island off the South West Coast. There are 12 pieces in the
collection, all inspired by the island. Some are representative pieces - the
cable car (the only public access to the island), the signal tower and the
ruins. Other pieces are more abstract, of the sea, particularly the Dursey
Sound, the treacherous stretch of water between Dursey and the mainland,
which is why the cable car was built.

  • What inspired you to relocate there for a nine-month period?

I have always loved Islands and dreamed of living on a remote island
someday. I had been living locally in Beara for a few years, and had visited
Dursey many times and was struck by its beauty, the remoteness, the cliffs
and the history. I tried a few times to find a place to rent there -
(un)fortunately there aren’t many habitable houses there but I kept trying and
eventually found a wonderful lady who let me rent her house for a winter,
from September 2016 to May 2017.

  • How would you describe the experience? 

It was incredible. Not at all isolating or lonely, like most people assume, with
only two other full-time residents, and only accessible in the winter by limited
operating hours of the cable car. Being such a unique place, everyone
wanted to come and stay. I eventually had to put a visitor ban in place to get
some work done! Most days I went out exploring the island, as it was a very
mild winter, and only got stranded due to high winds, when the cable car
can’t operate on a few occasions. There was always some excitement on the
island - trouble with the cable car, cattle being moved, or one of the holiday
home owners were in for a few days. There was an open-door policy with the
neighbours and it was always useful to have some cake made!

  • What led you to choose this craft as a profession? What do you love most about it?

I think living in Beara for several years really inspired me to take art up as a
profession. There are so many outstanding artists tucked away in the folds of
hills, and something in the landscape that inspires creativity. I was living with
another artist and we had converted our sunroom into a studio, looking
across the fields and out to sea - it was almost impossible to not start
creating. Living in that community gave me the confidence I needed to start
putting my work out there. The lino-cut printing happened quite naturally on
Dursey. The strong lines of the print represented the landscape so well.
What I love most about lino-cut printing is a more general feeling I get from
being creative, especially at the beginning of a project when I may not be
entirely sure how it will turn out, but the excitement and possibility is very
energising. There is a lovely sense of achievement at the end of a lino-print
cut that is a little bit more immediate than some other forms of art, and an
element of surprise as you peel the paper back from the first print. There is
also the flip-side of one cut too many or a slip of the blade and you need to
start over again, at which point I’d make another cup of coffee.

 A selection of Mary's prints from the Dursey collection are available to purchase here.  









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