Going with the Flow in Listowel

Artist Residency

I will hereby try to capture some of the Irish Magic that I experienced on my Artist-in-Residency at the Olive Stack Gallery for the month of November 2021. I had traveled to Ireland several times before this – always to visit my Irish cousins (in Monaghan; Anagry and Belcruit and Sligo). And had been smitten by the Celtic spirit and energy ever since. This was to be my very first time in the southwest of Ireland and to have the gift of spending an entire month in one place, creating mosaics in a lovely studio space.

I arrived a couple of days early – and enjoyed the quiet, restful time. I found that my mind was clearing and opening the way for future creative work. I love getting out for long walks – and discovered the Sive Walk (aka Bog Walk) that first weekend. Apparently, I was walking in the footsteps of John B. Keane who found great inspiration for his writing there. I returned to the Bog multiple times during my stay – and enjoyed the vast, wild, expansive space; the smell of the turf; and the sounds and sights of nature along the way.

Sharing the residency with another artist was another gift. I learned about ceramic sculpture from Terry Shipley – and appreciate the steps that it took to get to the finished work. We gradually settled into our own creative rhythm – working in the studio day and night; taking breaks to visit old and new friends; enjoying studio visitors when they popped in; eating when we were hungry; heading out for walks when the sun was shining – heaven! This quote helped to guide us on our artistic journey: “Make each day both useful and pleasant – and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.” (Louisa May Alcott)

I also just had to visit a holy well or two while on my residency! I had chats with Brenda, the owner of Woulfe Books, about my interest and she suggested a well to two to explore. I first made my way to Lixnaw to visit St. Michael’s Holy Well. It was a powerful, positive energy place – and I made sure to do the rounds and collected some holy water to bring back with me. And Olive took me to St. Batt’s Holy Well closer to Listowel. It is a beautiful, peaceful and, healing place. One Sunday I decided to walk back to St. Batt’s Holy Well. I did this mindfully, wearing the high vis vest I was given, as after a while there are no footpaths along the side of the road. I am most thankful for the creative inspiration found on these journeys.

Walking along the River Feale provided further space for creativity! One sunny morning I spent several hours creating a Flower of Life pattern on the river bank from ancient willow leaves. I had seen this image posted on the internet – and felt inspired to explore and play with this sacred symbol. I also had an ongoing conversation with the person who had done the post – and they confirmed that “when you work with ancient powerful symbols, the effects can be amazing.” One thing led to another – and using materials found in the studio – I created this Flower of Life mosaic.

Upon arriving, Olive encouraged us to work towards a reception near the end of our residency. Would I have enough mosaic work completed to show? Would it be good enough? I found that by settling in – and showing up in the studio each day (and night) to do the work – and pushing myself to learn new things – that I completed much more than I expected and grew exponentially as an artist.

Interspersed amongst all of this – were the simple moments of living in Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland for the month. Lattes from Mary Lynch’s Coffee Shop & Bakery; breakfast by a portable stove being watched by an Irish Robin at Lizzie’s Little Kitchen; pain au chocolat from Halo Health; gourmet take-home goodies from John R’s Food Hall; special gifts for the wee ones from Coco Kids; meals at the Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant; and, of course, a Guinness or two at John B. Keane’s.

It was a joy to watch the Christmas tree lights go on in the Town Square. And to head out on impromptu road trips with Olive to the Beale Strand for a beach walk, Ballybunion to look for beach stones and, Killarney to visit Ross Castle. Loved our farm walk one day – visiting a working dairy farm and a day trip to Dingle Town – what an incredible landscape we saw along the way!

I enjoyed teaching my “Irish Pilgrim Path Yellow Mosaic Arrow” workshop as well. It was great fun introducing others to the joy of creating mosaics. And as always – I am looking forward to where ever my creative journey will take me next! @ChristineHumeMosaics

Welcome to Lovely Listowel

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Loving this adventure as an artist in residence at the Olive Stack Gallery! First time to Ireland, and what an experience. I live in a big city (Los Angeles/Long Beach) and work in a dense area with lots of people, moving fast and furious. I drive in traffic and travel busy sidewalks. I am constantly moving. I knew the pace and atmosphere would be different here, but had no idea how absolutely, wonderfully different. We arrived in Listowel after traveling over 5,000 miles, and were greeted by the lovely smile of Olive Stack waiting at the bus stop. Love my traveling partner and roommate Anne Marie Price, who has been a fantastic, adventurous partner.

Our first morning was a walk along the River Feale, which has become a frequent destination in the mornings. I have a keen interest in flowers and so take snapshots of every flower I find. I’m also an avid coastal bird watcher and have been delighted so far to see a blue heron and two egrets, although they have been very camera shy. A local gent gave me a tip to sneak through the back walk, behind the hotel, to catch a good glimpse.

We’ve explored this town to its fullest, especially enjoying the food! So pure and delicious. I’ve spent quality time at Lynch’s Bakery just across the street, and enjoy chatting with the staff and other customers in the mornings. The Horseman is a perfect spot to have a Guinness. Lizzy’s Little Kitchen has become a favorite of mine because of the fresh and light salads. The place is packed every time I go, standing room only. We’ve also explored every grocery store in town, checking out different snacks, which is fun.

My goal here, artistically, was to write, paint (watercolor) and use local materials to create mosaics. I love my routine of mornings downstairs, minding the gallery and writing, then painting and mosaics in the afternoons/evenings. My work is primarily pique assiette and makes use of repurposed ceramic. I came with only one small bag of bits, and so have stopped by every thrift store in town to find a few inspirational gems for my work. Previous artists in residence have left some great tesserae including quite a bit of local stone. There is enough to get a person going, yet keep you on your toes, creatively.

Sunset view from my top floor bedroom.

Loving the view out the front window, which looks out at the bustle of a busy town. No stop lights, few stop signs, people crossing streets at will, cars politely slowing for them to pass. It has all the busyness of a city, yet the easiness of a small town. The frantic pace is missing. Also love my view from the top floor bedroom, where I’ve seen some gorgeous skyscapes. One of my favorite scenarios: an older gentleman walking with his older dog, stops by the pub and the dog sits outside, waiting, no leash. He seems to know when it’s time to leave, as he stands up, looks in the doorway, out comes the man. They stroll down the street together into the evening. I’ve had several lovely conversations with locals, who have all been so friendly and kind. Love their welcoming nature and open smiles.

In our few weeks here, we’ve covered every inch of our new local town and each time there seems to be something new to see. We have stormed the Listowel Castle tour (excellent, excellent tour guide!), inked in the Writer’s Museum, and paid our respects to the local cemetery, rich with history and well-tended by caring relatives. I walked through the Horse Fair which happens only 4 times a year, enjoying the equine spectacle along with some chicks and ducks. Thanks to Olive, we’ve toured some of the local history and seen several ruins, including the Rattoo Tower (Rapunzel, Rapunzel!). We’ve traveled ourselves to neighboring towns including Ballybunion, Adare (where we saw the Desmond Castle from afar) and Killarney. The bus system can be a bit of a mystery at first, but works just fine to get you there.

There is so much more, but I’ll save for another time. This experience is such a gift, both creatively and spiritually.

Small Town Feels in Beautiful Listowel

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I arrived in Listowel July 1, 2019 for my month at the Olive Stack Artist Residency and I have to say…my time here has been more than memorable so far.

Listowel…this is the kind of town where it is absolutely normal to see two people nose to nose on the sidewalk talking and visiting. I can’t go 2 feet without seeing neighbors talking and they hardly notice me or that there is no possible room to walk past on these thin sidewalks in downtown Listowel because they really are genuinely deep in discussion. I make a point to walk around them out onto the street to not disrupt their smiles and most often very animated conversations. A car drives up to turn around a corner and someone on the sidewalk of course knows this person and must walk up to the car window and have a bit of a chat..while the cars behind patiently wait. Because of course the unspoken rule is time should be given to catch up on whatever so and so has been up to lately and to simply give a hello and how are ya doing. It’s simply just a given here. Everyone is very much on the same page. Like a school of fish or a flock of birds..where one goes..the others fall in line and just know when to pause or turn or scatter. And no one complains. No one honks their horns to hurry it along. No one gives a disapproving look or a roll of the eyes. This is just how it is and I imagine it has always been.

There really are some things that should not change. Some things are very much worth holding onto and I am just an observer marveling at the uniqueness of this small town and its ways. Maybe sometimes they know too much and not a lot you can get away with in such a small community but the upside is…they know you. And don’t we all just want to be known…acknowledged…said hello to once in awhile..validated. Made to feel we matter and not barely visible flecks against the landscape. You could hardly be invisible here. Maybe sometimes it is good to be in a big city where no one knows your name…going about your business..alone among so many. Other times it is good to have less distractions around and to genuinely be noticed. That’s what a small town feels like to me. It is an opportunity to connect. What feels like a rare human opportunity of connection these days of so much technology around us and busy, busy lives. Less can absolutely be more.

This has been my experience in this beautiful little town called Listowel. I won’t soon forget these many little observations and small town feels.

Anne Marie Price

Third Time’s the Charm

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Me, Diane and Olive painting just before dusk in Ballylongford.

I am the proud pig of the Olive Stack Gallery Residency and Listowel.

I’ve happily, piggishly spent more than 4 months in Ireland over 3 years, thanks to Olive who offers month-long artist residencies.  The residency comes complete with views of the  comings and goings of Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

View from Apartment Window

This year, returning with  a wonderful artist and traveler  Diane Pike!

After 3 visits, it is all the same and all different.  Still the wonder and enchantment of the first few days of discovery with another great friend, Laura McRae Hitchcock.  That was when, fresh off the bus, we met Damian Stack (“no relation to Olive,” he assures).

This third year, it is still Damian who reveals the best secrets of  Kerry in his now infamous wild drives off the beaten path. This week, we wandered Beara Peninsula way for yet more discoveries. The  thing about Damian is that guide-to-all-things-Kerry is his passion.  He also heads Stack Furniture and Carpets, organizes city-wide events and a million other projects and shenanigans. Okay,  shenanigans are his actual passion. This year, I was promoted to “adopted Stack status.”  The bad news is the status entitles me to S.F.A. (Sweet F*** All).

Painting-wise…the brilliantly designed and varied hues of the city’s facades still grab me. It’s always the first painting I do when I get here.This year, I took a walking tour with Vincent Camody who focused on the designs of Patrick McAuliffe.

From my favorite vantage in the square, the city’s charms are laid out. The centerpiece, St John’s Theater , in the Church of Ireland building hosts wonderful plays and currently exhibits the Listowel Visual Arts Week juried show, The Wild Atlantic Way.  I was humbled to have the painting Castletownbere Port accepted into this show.

Castletownbere 8 x 10″ available at DilworthArtisanStation

At St. John’s, I attended a performance of “Big Maggie.”  One of Listowel’s  John B. Keane’s wonderful plays. The role of Maggie,  the powerful and cruel matriarch, was so intense a,  the character physically  combats her own daughter.  The actress was in tears well into the curtain call. Some of this emotion may have had to do with the attendance of Keane’s children in the audience.  The performance fell during the 90th birthday of the playwrite.

I can always catch a glimpse of Mary O’Flaherty’s red and black tiled Chic Boutique in these city scapes. But even better is to be lucky enough to have an encounter with Mary or her mom, Pat.  Mary’s witty observations are the kind you think about later and BURST OUT laughing!

 

Seanachai Writers Museum

   The Seanachai Writers’ Museum was the site of many of the highly successful Listowel Visual Arts Festival Week events. This included my profanity laced presentation on the topic of the Affects of Travel on Artists’ work. Followed with an interview with Writer’s Week own Elizabeth Dunn.

It’s my own bathroom view that provoked a series of Butler Building paintings under different lights and times of day. Most of these will be on view at my exhibition (with Diane Pike) at Caldwell Arts Council on October 5

Painting available at Olive Stack Gallery

Painting  Listowel puts me in the grand position of being able to meet the “man on the street.”  I’ve given directions (“want to know your Irish heritage? Talk to Tom”,) met future FB friends, had laughs, discussed the weather “Isn’t it glorious?”and solved many world problems.

Party at Carol’s

One of my favorite Irish people is a transplant from Greenville, SC,; Carol,who has let us into her circle for endless hours of mighty craic. (I’m sorry–that word still doesn’t quite flow.  To this American, it still evokes images of plumbers bending over. But I don’t give up ).

Nun’s Beach,Ballybunion

This year, Olive, Diane and I took weekly ‘field trips’ to paint. CahirDaniel, Ballylongford, Ballybunion and of course, Ardfert Friary!

View of Lislaughtin, Ballylongford
Hydrangea and Landscape: Cahirdaniel
Ardfert Friary

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What I left out of this glimpse back: gathering with other Listowel Lovers (many

Francis Bacon Drawing (Dublin)

pictured in the party at Carol’s), the wonderful trip to Dublin with Tom, hearing Mickey McConnell’s music, hanging with Maura and Myra, our portrait painting of Mickey at Allo’s , the gin and tonic themes that recurred through the trip, meeting Fintin O’Toole,  evenings at John B’s, hanging with Emily Andress, Terry Shipley and company,  Dinners at Mully’s, River Feale walks, shopping and catching up with Clodagh at Taelane’s, meeting Barry, the Blasket Islands, teaching workshops, figure drawing, painting at the Farm, Book of Kells, Frances Bacon, Bloom Restaurant (Dublin) Paint Outs………

CahirDaniel

In short. The residency has enriched this little pig beyond measure(thank you Olive!). It has  become a key part of my own personal biography.  I’ve indeed scratched the surface of this wonderful community through a painter’s cloudy lens. But it’s gonna take a lifetime of returns to complete the picture of Ireland’s Listowel.

The Giving Season

Artist Residency

Today’s blog features art from Olive Stack’s exhibition, “The Giving Season.”  To purchase or inquire, please contact the gallery or visit the website.

​There is excitement building in the gallery!

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Wine O’Clock, oil on panel

Tonight is the opening of a new exhibition featuring work Olive created over the last sixteen months.  It is a pivotal time in the life of an artist, when a new body of work is framed, hung, titled and labeled.  For most artists (Olive included), this is the first time an entire grouping is viewed all at once – even by the artist herself.  Until the last piece is up, most artists will be holding their breath,  then stepping back, exhaling and opening their eyes.  This, this is the culmination of a year or more of work.  This is her creation.

How poignant to have this exhibition going up during the holidays…the year is drawing to a close and families are gathering together.  Each of us may ponder the year behind us, celebrating successes or contemplating loss.  To see a body of work dressed in its finery at this time of year may inform the next collection, to be started once the holiday lights are dimmed and extra long shop hours are ended.

It is the season of giving. Giving gifts, yes, but also giving ourselves a break from the constant push and pull.  Giving us time for reflection and rejuvenation.  Giving our spirits a chance to catch up with our feet, as a wise woman told me last week over breakfast (thanks, Mary!) and giving our feet a chance to rest.

It is the season for giving ourselves a pat on the back for a life well-lived, and for work well-done.  For an artist, it is the season for giving our art a chance to speak to hearts and delight eyes.  Giving the gift of art to the world, and hoping the world receives it with open arms.

It is a massive body of work, this new show.  Paintings, mosaics, watercolors and drawings in abundance.  There is a playful abandon in much of this work, a joyful embracing of life and color and form.  It reflects the freedom afforded by a successful residency program and the chance to spend time painting in Paris, France.

I’m feeling quite sentimental as I write these words.  To have been present at Olive’s last exhibition in 2016 was a delight; to be here for this one is an honor. Olive has created a home for artists around the world here in Listowel, and I am one of the lucky ones.  Congratulations, Olive Stack!  “The Giving Season” is a masterful exhibition, a bounty perfect for the month of angels singing, trees twinkling and hearts filled with joy.

Bram-alama-ding-dong

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I learned something incredible about Ireland today.

All this time, I thought Winegums and Penguins and Jaffa Cakes and Wagon Wheels and buns and eclairs and cakes and pies were just thoughtful ways to say “hello” to new visitors and “welcome back” to those of us who can’t stay away.  But no, not really, not at all!  Treats are for everyone, every day, all the time.

In the states, we might have a piece of fruit or a granola bar or some crackers for the odd snack. But here meals are sometimes eaten solely for the treats afterward, and treats are the snacks in between the meals.  Bridget explained it is the cold…and sugar is required to keep the body warm.

Bram the Curious

“Bram-alama-ding- dong” – acrylic on aluminum panel, 12″ x 12″

Workshops are no different.  Tea and treats can keep artists fueled all day long.  Our work table for “It’s Good to Be Queen” was as covered with treats as it was art supplies.  Struggling with your design?  Have a Penguin.  Deciding on a color? Try a Jaffa Cake.

Based on the wildly wonderful work these artists produced today, this method must be adopted immediately world-wide.

Young artist Olivia was so productive on this treat method – she completed one painting and was halfway with another before class was done.


Sweet Bridget brought millefiori beads, mirrors and baubles to make our queens’ crowns extra spectacular.  I think her adorable royal looks gorgeous in blue hair, floral gown and mirrored, beaded crown.

It was no surprise, of course, when Damian called at the gallery just before dinner IMG_9758offering slices of freshly baked apple pie.

Now I am exaggerating only slightly the amount of treats consumed here.  Sure, sure – some folks do not have a sweet tooth.  But what I see and love about this place is people eat.  Food is enjoyed.  I’ve yet to meet anyone on a diet.  There is no guilt associated with food..  But there is also very little obesity, unlike the states.  There is something delightfully refreshing about a culture where food is savored, not stressed,  and treats are included as part of life’s necessities.

Now where is that pack of Wagon Wheels?

 

 

 

Four Pounds

Artist Residency, Uncategorized

“Rainy Days and Mondays” (a diptych) – mixed media on yupo, each 8″ x 8″


When I grow up, I might want to be a farmer.

Farmers have cows, dogs, automatic feeding stations, TRACTORS (ooooooooh what fun!) and stacks of wood to be reclaimed by roaming artists.  They also have the most gorgeous views AND they are allowed to tromp through the mud.

A dear and precious Irish friend (let’s call her Bridget, shall we?  At least, that will be her name in the movie that is sure to be following this adventure) whisked me away first thing in the morning to experience a bit of farm life.  How could she have known it is one of my very own dreams?

IMG_9277.jpgRaising cattle (for beef and for dairy) in Ireland is very different than in the U.S.  The farm grass is harvested, pickled for silage and fed to the cows over winter.  They are pasture grass fed, rotating fields, during the warm months.  The manure is gathered for fertilizing, and the cycle starts over again.  Dairy cows rest during the winter instead of receiving hormones to boost milk production.  There is a rhythm to the process.  Some things are automated, but mainly it is a family operation, carried out year-round.

Imagine for a moment being so connected to your food source – to have invested your own labor, love and energy into a process intimately connected with land and beasts. There is such beauty and joy in this.  And a deep reverence for the circle of life.

Nothing is wasted.  Thank goodness.  Because the scrap heap was a joy for a prior artist who needed metal to weld, and the lumber pile was another Christmas morning for me!  I am giddy with press (cabinet) doors and odd pieces of hardwood piled in the studio waiting to be painted.

I asked Bridget how much one of these calves weighed…take the Red Friesian (a highly desirable breed) in the photos.  Bridget is not a fan of the technical details, so answered me (tongue in cheek) with “4 pounds”  The head farmer in charge cleared that up later (more like hundreds of pounds) but we had a great chuckle and “4 pounds” is now my answer for everything, including how many acres of land are on this incredible farm and how many layers of wool socks are needed for a farm hike.

There was coffee at the end, along with biscuits (cookies) and treats, including a Penguin candy which is my new favorite (move over, wine gums! I love these Penguins, too!) and the warm joy of a turf fire in the heating stove.  We simply must visit a bog together this trip, dear reader!

Top it all off with a lift on a tractor, a hike up the paddock road and the opportunity to twirl in a field, and there you have the ingredients for a halcyon day.  Sigh.  Ireland – it’s what dreams are made of.

Stop Elfing Around!

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“Queen Maeve” – mixed media on wood, 18″ x 6″.  Inquiries

I’d IMG_9025forgotten how boisterous the pub crowds are on the weekends.  As they pass underneath the windows of the flat, all kinds of unruly activities, conversations and occasional shouting matches take place.    Free entertainment!  And perhaps less sleep than I’d planned. Which means more time for painting.
So, right off the bat, the stack of wood provided by my favorite art enabler (Ann) is calling my name.  This queen, named after one of Ireland’s famous feisty royals, is the first finished piece.  Maeve (also spelled Medb), is known for insisting on equal wealth with her husband, and for starting the Cattle Raid of Cooley after discovering her husband had one stud bull more than she.

Sunday is a late opening day in Listowel, so there was plenty of time to grab coffee with Mary O Flaherty (owner of Chic Boutique) at Lynch’s Bakery in the morning.  The view from our table (which I like to think of as Mary’s annex office) was perfect, wouldn’t you say?IMG_9029

The big festivities for day two included the lighting of the Christmas tree in the town square, hours of being a rain-sodden elf, and a little stint involving elves in a dark alley and a clandestine furniture acquisition…unfortunately for you, dear reader, elves are sworn to secrecy on clandestine activities.

The excitement began in the afternoon, where I was the assigned elf at Woulfe’s, the local independent book store (read all about them in this article from Writer’s Week).  It made me think, “hey, this elf gig is pretty fun”.  So when Olive asked me to  elfabetize myself again in the evening, I was delighted.
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The crowds gathered in the town square at 5 pm, where a local hero and Dancing With the Stars celebrity was to officially light the tree.  Five elves gathered with baskets of treats, happily entertaining the kiddos and posing for photos while everyone waited for the news crew to arrive.

As luck would have it, the crew was delayed, the rain began to fall, and temperatures dropped.  But elves are made for frosty work (even in the jingly equivalent of bedroom slippers and layers of tulle) and so we made merry nonetheless.

Apparently, it is best to dance, mug for the cameras and act elfish only if you are NOT from Listowel.  Elves, you see, don’t get to be anonymous like Peppa Pig (also at the festivities).

IMG_9050.JPGAfter a beautiful rendition of “Hallelujah” by some talented local boys, the tree was finally lighted and we sailed off to the Lartigue Polar Express for a national television spot and fame and fortune.

The filming was hilarious, as one young kiddo giggled loudly every time they began to roll film.  Eventually, he took his giggles to another part of the monorail museum so the crew could wrap up their work.  But there is nothing quite like uncontrolled laughter to put everyone in the best of moods. 🙂

The elf costumes are now hanging up to dry until later this week, when the polar express will again delight and dazzle the young folks of Listowel and surrounding towns.  If you’re in the area, purchase your tickets here.  Santa wants to see YOU!

Today was just a tiny glimpse into the months of preparation, collaboration and coordination required for a small town to pull off a mammoth undertaking like this month-long holiday event.  There is so much love in the people behind this.  It is the best kind of art.

​As you follow along on this Irish adventure and find yourself smitten with Listowel, you might be wondering feverishly how on earth you’ll stay connected here once December ends…have no fear!  Follow the local happenings (including recent pics of all the fabulous holiday windows) by subscribing to the Listowel Connection.

Letterpress Poetry, an Irish Dairy Farm and an Opening

Artist Residency

 

Sunday in Ireland is quiet, reminding me of New York in the 1960’s when blue laws were in effect.  I’ve discovered nothing is open until church lets out at noon and no alcohol can be sold until 10:30 on weekday mornings and 12:30 on Sundays. Enjoying the slow pace, I steep a cup of dark English Breakfast and spend the morning reading and writing.  Once again, sunny weather is promised on the south coast, so I jump in the car and set a route to Kinsale, a picturesque town about 2 hours away.  Almost immediately, I miss a turn and am then routed onto increasingly narrow roads.  I have to laugh when I find myself on a single lane with tall grass in the center of the road.  I slow down to enjoy the ruined stone cottages, the hillsides dotted with white sheep, and a solitary aspect that transports me to the eighteenth century.  Right after I cross the county line into Cork, I am dazzled by an arching golden tunnel of oak trees followed by hedges of fuchsia flecked with carmine flowers.

Kinsale harbor

Kinsale Harbor

Many rural roads later, I arrive in Kinsale, a pretty town with a protected harbor.  Unfortunately, the sun has vanished, parking is tricky, and the town is full of Americans buying up woolens at the few open shops that line the Main Street.  Ducking into the Poet’s Corner coffee shop and book exchange, I order a large latte and slice of lemon cake.  In Ireland,  a wide selection of salads and vegetables seems to be in short supply but cakes, cookies and cream are abundant, catering to my worst instincts.  I luxuriate in a velvet wing chair, surrounded with bookshelves overflowing with poetry collections and novels and am served my coffee and cake by a cheerful staffer who leaves me to read and sip uninterrupted.  Unwilling to retrace my rustic route in the darkness, I leave Kinsale without exploring its massive coastal fort or sampling its legendary cuisine.  I make it home before nightfall and am happy to heat up leftovers and continue reading “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos”, an engrossing novel about a Dutch 16th century painting and contemporary art forgery, compliments of my good friend Mary.

Dingle letterpress

Dingle Letterpress

Via email I contact the Owner of the Dingle Letterpress and she offers to show me the press on Monday at noon.  I meet Camilla, the owner of the press and Dingle Bookstore, at her shop and we walk through the back alleys of Dingle to the small, skylit shed that houses this historic press originally owned and operated by Yeats’s sisters.  Her press operator shows me the process of assembling type and printing a page.  I admire their array of historic typefaces including an Irish alphabet and their impressive inventory of Gaelic poetry chapbooks.  I show them photos of my new press and we discuss opportunities for integrating more graphic art with their limited edition poetry.  Camilla takes me to Goat Street Social (what a name!) for a delicious lunch and we brainstorm a letterpress workshop and possible poetry/art affiliations.  Dingle’s beauty and Irish language attracts poets, musicians, artists and dreamers.  We part with hugs and excitement, and I drive home through lifting clouds, the sun lining a bright edge in the sky.

Dingle hills

Dingle Hills

Olive stops in on Wednesday morning and we confirm a Friday opening reception for my residency prints and make plans for dinner.  I’m suddenly madly busy juggling three prints towards completion.  Additional white ink  and translucent base arrive from London and I buy bags of rags and rolls of paper towels on a daily basis.  Joni Mitchell and U2 alternate with BBC radio to enliven the studio.  Finally, I see final prints emerging that match my original concepts.  I vacillate between exhilaration and despair, especially when I commit a rookie error and run a print backwards.  Evenings I hole up in the townhouse and fall asleep easily after a short call to Charlie.  I’m dreaming landscapes and prints.

Cows

Frisian dairy cows

Olive’s friend, Ann Harrold, offers to show me her family’s dairy farm and arrives breathless with baby Norah after dropping John-Joe and Margaret off at school in Halloween costumes.  Sparkly dresses and fairy wings are time-consuming to arrange and transport. As Ann drives she describes the farm as located near 6 Crosses that are actually only five.  We climb above town to the green pastures on single lanes lined with hedgerows and arrive at a large, gated stucco house where we change into rubber boots and set out in sunshine for the cow sheds.  Ann’s husband, David, and his brother own and manage the large heard of Frisian dairy cattle lowing in the outside pen.  The cows crowd the fence as we approach, mooing and flicking their tagged ears.  We visit the calves and are studying the soon to be beef steers when Ann explains she’s a vegetarian, eyeing the cattle and asking “how could you eat them?”

Farm fields

Farm Fields

Despite the time, Ann and I stroll out along the farm lane for vistas of fields in breaking sunshine.  We share stories of our lives before our children, Ann describing herself as a Dublin accountant in sharp suits and pointy heels with nary a flat shoe in her wardrobe while wryly showcasing her Wellies and jeans.  Time is the precious commodity we concur as we stop and share the morning light, slight breeze, and birdsong.  Ann breaks into rhyme, quoting WH Davies with “what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”, the perfect benediction on our time together.  I’m a few minutes late to open the shop but happily trade punctuality for this memorable morning

Cloghane print

“Near Cloghane” reduction print

Gloved and wrapped in a smudged apron, I’m pulling a bottle green ink layer across my Cloghane print when the shop bell rings and Maureen arrives.  She’s visiting Listowel from Toronto, tracing her Stacks lineage and contemplating buying artwork made by a distant relative for her new condo.  Friendly and effortlessly elegant, Maureen easily falls into wide-ranging conversation.  I discover she’s originally from Montreal,  a McGill graduate, is currently researching her mother’s Irish family and writing a book.  Invited to see my press, she climbs up to the studio, admires my prints and asks if I’m free for dinner.  Cheered by her company and encouraged by her affirmation we make plans for a late dinner.

Conocanoir

Sunset at Cnoc an Oir

Her SUV filled with children and “bribes”, Ann picks me up at shop closing and we race the setting sun to Cnoc an Oir, the highest hill in county Kerry.  I jump out of the car, phone in hand, running to capture the sunset over the Cashen river pouring into the Atlantic.  I’m amazed at the breadth of the rural landscape, spotting only occasional lights in the landscape.  Fog obscures the Shannon River aspect of this overlook and Ann tells me I must return for the 360 degree vista.  She drops me at the Gallery and I text my new friend Maureen.  We meet at Allos and share a splendid Italian meal and no end of stories and ideas.  Maureen promises to come to my opening and I end the day radiant with new friendships and experiences.

Gallery opening party

Olive Stark Gallery opening

Friday morning is a blur as I run around Listowel picking up flowers, hors d’oeuvres, string, tacks and wine before the gallery opens.  I discover Ireland’s time restrictions on alcohol sales when the grocery store refuses my purchase of wine at 10am.  I head to John R’s for olives and dip and am lucky they’re willing to sell me two bottles of wine a few minutes early, though I have to promise not to pop the cork and swill it outside their door.  At the florist, Liz quickly assembles a fall colored bouquet of chrysanthemums and lilies accented with a quirky orange butterfly.  I invite everyone along the way to the show and feel like the entire town has my back.  I spend the rest of the morning numbering and signing my prints and formatting a price list.  I’ve managed to string a line of prints in the storefront window and am fussing with interior wall string lines when Maureen shows up and offers assistance.  Maureen, like my sister-in-law Sharon, is a brilliant manager.  She helps set string lines, straightens prints, minds the store while I run to the printer, shops for napkins and pop, helps arrange flowers and food and uncorks the wine, pours two glasses and toasts me as the opening hour arrives.  Olive arrives and approves, people show up, prints sell and I’m so proud, relieved, and grateful.  Maureen and I close down the gallery after a few hours, clean up wine glasses and food and then head over to John B. Keanes pub.  I introduce Maureen to the 6-9 club of locals and expats and we celebrate a grand month in Listowel.  I’ve definitely got angels on my side and have debuted my prints in a warm-hearted and generous town.

Blennerville windmill

Blennerville Windmill

I’ve planned to track down Niall the Dingle printmaker on my last Saturday in Listowel.  Moving slowly after all the excitement, I’m still at the townhouse when Olive arrives to run the gallery.  We compare notes and plan on a final dinner before I leave on Monday and then I’m off to the peninsula.  I stop in Tralee to drop off recycling and finally discover the back route to the Blennerville windmill, I park and wander the harborside trails admiring the clouds mirrored in the bay and finding more material for my Round Kerry print series.

Tralee harbor

Tralee Bay

Niall is not to be found in Cloghane so I push on for a last visit to Dingle.  The views are shrouded by mist and rain and I’m glad for my previous trips in sunshine.  I return to The Pantry for another excellent meal and then do some final Christmas shopping, feeling flush with my art sales.  Returning, I discover I’ve missed Maureen, Carol and Jean who have all stopped by the gallery for farewells.  Starting this residency in solitude was a challenge, leaving having made such dear connections is a sweet sorrow.

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Bathroom window vista

Sunday the clock falls back and I appreciate the added hour as I strip the studio, disassemble the press, vacuum, scrub bathrooms, and pack prints.  The sun illuminates the hillsides and wet slate roof tiles as I’m finishing so I call Olive and tell her I’m ready to play.  We drop two large trash bags in the bin on our way to a late lunch in Ballybunion.  The beach is full of families and a lone hardy surfer.  We have a bird’s-eye view from our second floor table at Daroka, a newer farm to table restaurant above the beach.  Olive and I relax over excellent risotto and goat cheese salad and salute each other with French wine.  We talk about her coloring book project, the Christmas Express production, the residency, Paris, painting, and the superiority of Irish dairy products.  Ah, that Kerry butter is like pure cream only richer.

River Shannon from Cnoc

River Shannon from Cnoc an Oir

We finish with a drive up to Cnoc an Oir where I at last see county Kerry in the full 360.  The River Shannon glows in the twilight as tankers make their way along its broad channel to port.  A fitting farewell to this achingly beautiful place.

Storms, a Swedish Cousin and Studio Time

Artist Residency, Uncategorized

Preparing for my cousin’s visit, I spent Sunday morning cleaning the townhouse.  This involves vacuuming errant sequins, cleaning bathrooms and  arranging fresh towels and linens.  Intermittently, I check the storm track for hurricane Ophelia, worried I have invited my cousin into the eye of the storm.  Driving along the wide Shannon River to the airport, I had time to appreciate the stone castles and low slung walls lining the river road and to marvel at all the sheep cropping on the velvety green grass.

Eva accepted my impulsive invitation to join me in Ireland and arrives elegantly dressed and on time with minimal carry-on luggage.  Opportunities to spend time together occur infrequently over the years, so we have much to catch up on as we navigate our way home to Listowel.  Her praise for my left side driving in Ireland makes me feel like the independent adventuress of my imagination.

Listowel’s main square with its grey granite churches, brightly colored storefronts and flower boxes charms Eva.  We decide to venture out to the pub before continuing to dinner at the Horseshoe Restaurant.  It’s fairly quiet at both pub and restaurant as the entire town appears to be battening down the hatches in advance of their first Atlantic hurricane.  We enjoy the baked brie appetizer and creamy mushroom pasta all washed down with red wine and share stories of gallery openings, art commissions, children, parents, and rogue ex-husbands.  We’re happy to walk home across an empty square and have company for the impeding storm now labeled a “post tropic cyclone”  slated to hit county Kerry around 6am on Monday morning.

Storm at Ballybunion

Ballybunion during the storm

I manage to sleep through the early morning winds and wake to a blustery, gray day.  We test the weather by walking up the street for a latte and then around the corner to the grocery.  Everything is closed up tight, so we go home, make french press coffee and settle in to work in the studio, abundant daylight pouring in from the bank of skylights.  A few years ago, Eva sold her successful advertising business (Ikea and Miele were clients) and started painting watercolors and acrylics.  This past year, she’s had a gallery show and brings me a stack of postcards depicting her Stockholm scenes and one of her polka dot patterned palm leaf fish creations.  I introduce her to block printing and we spend a full day in the studio happily carving, inking, and printing in between a running discussion of history, travel, and our admiration of our fathers constancy and familial devotion.  Early in the afternoon, blue skies are visible through the skylights and we suspect we’re in the eye of the storm.  By late afternoon, the wind has dropped and we have cabin fever and daringly venture out to observe the waves at Ballybunion.  We agree to turn around if car is buffeted by the winds, but encounter few cars and no significant gusts on the 13 kilometer drive to the coast.  We’re almost blown over when we get out of the car to survey the tides, the sky dark and the beach empty.  Wild and lucky, we jump back into the car and creep home without incident to share celebratory glasses of wine.

Dingle Peninsula

Along the Dingle Peninsula

Tuesday dawns with brilliant sunshine and we discover the storm has battered Cork and Waterford to the east of us, dropping trees, roofs and leaving 360,000 households without power.  I thank God and my mother’s prayers for our grace and ease.  Eva and I are quickly off to fully explore the Dingle circuit, following now familiar roads over the hills to the peninsula.  We take a quick coffee break in Dingle, but decide to head out for the full loop and count on a late lunch.  The skies are clear, the seas aquamarine and frothy, the viewpoints uncrowded and the vistas breathtaking.  My blood bond with Eva is absolute when she declares her need to cry in the face of such beauty.  We discover a plaque at one of the overlooks identifying the view as the film set for the Jedi Temples featured in the latest Star Wars film.  Confirmation of this landscape’s otherworldly beauty, and no end of ideas for block prints.

Near Jedi Temples

We stop to admire abandoned stone cottages, imagining a summer sketching and painting this landscape.  I’m intrigued by the idea of walking the Dingle portion of the Kerry Camino, an 8 day holy walk across the peninsula.  Always a grand idea in warm, sunny weather.  Halfway through the loop drive, the Louis Mulcahy pottery studio merits a stop where we admire their selection of ceramics and the seascapes visible from the upper floor cafe.

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Restraining ourselves, we defer lunch until we return to Dingle where we park and enjoy an al fresco lunch at the Grey Lane Bistro.  My beet salad is tart, sweet and deeply satisfying.  Eva equally enjoys her cockles.  We drive home past the windmill, crossing rivers and pastures, everything illuminated in late the afternoon glow and our happiness.  We end our enchanted holiday with dessert at the Horseshoe and promises to schedule another holiday touring and sketching together.

Listowel bridge

Listowel Bridge by Lydia Aldredge

Then, once again, it’s a 4am alarm and drive through the darkness to drop Eva at the airport for her early morning flight.  On my return there’s time for coffee and a scone at John R’s before opening the gallery, but I am tired and a little blue through the long day.  I resort to making a tiny block print of the Listowel bridge after setbacks in my seaside series and am relieved to close up shop and crawl into bed at the end day.

Bathroom view

Bathroom window vista

As if to match my mood, the rest of the week is dark, drizzling and windblown.  The view from the bathroom window has the brooding atmosphere of a Bronte novel.  I bless Olive’s generosity in trading that golden Tuesday for a rainy Saturday.  I push on with three prints, struggling to capture the magic of the coast and the quiet beauty of Listowel’s river walk.  Gallery traffic is light, but I manage to sell one of Olive’s Listowel street scenes to a world-weary, wealthy American in search of a trip trinket.  The best interruptions are the visits from townspeople or Irish tourists.  Mary, the shopkeeper with the neighboring clothes boutique continues to stop by with sweets and stories.  We jointly bemoan the difficult client who terrorized both shops earlier in the day.  Anne, Olive’s friend, juggles her wide-eyed, pink suited baby and fills me in on the storm’s effects on the countryside while inviting me to visit her dairy farm next week.

North Coast of Dingle

North Dingle Coast by Lydia Aldredge

Peak experience of the week was a visit from Sean Stokes, a local farmer wanting an aerial photograph of his farm removed from the frame for reproducing and enlarging.  The frame and glass were old and dust speckled and I demurred, feeling inadequate to the task.  I studied the image and we started to talk about his farm, in the family for over 400 years and maybe lost to property division in the next generation.  He assures me he can remove the backing from the frame having delivered many calves without injury and disappears up the street.  He returns 10 minutes later with a smile, having successfully dropped the original photo at the copy shop.  His brogue is dense requiring careful attention, but I’m following most of the conversation when he breaks into a poem about my beauty, looking deep into my eyes before describing their color.  We grin at each other and share delight in the collision of city and country, art and poetry.