7 Years Down, 46 To Go!

Artist Residency
We are both looking in different directions…Olive was just smart enough to wear dark glasses!

How do I sum up these 7 since years since Olive and I met? Manomanoschevitz! I don’t have a clue! I would recommend sitting down to read this because it’s going to take a hot second. Since meeting Olive and discovering Listowel, my life has blossomed into more than I could have imagined and I have an awesome imagination. I think about the first time we blew into town (Kerry and I were the first for the residency and we were foolish enough to rent a car), hopped the curb, threw the car into park, and said ‘ We’ll walk from here!’ You can read about it here: https://exciraanddelira.wordpress.com/page/17/

I like to think Kerry and I were a wonderful way to break Olive in to the insanity that welcoming artists from all over the world would inevitably bring to Lovely Listowel. However, I had no idea the affect meeting Olive would have on me. Since that first day when we skidded into town, I have done 2 other residencies (it would have been 3 but we’re not going to talk about 2020), and have come back for Listowel’s visual arts week, and other events because I couldn’t resist. In 7 years (and this includes missing the year that shall not be mentioned) I have been to Listowel 10 times and Olive has been to Charlotte 4 times.

Since that first year, I was inspired to buy a derelict building in Mount Holly, right outside of Charlotte, because the vibe was like Listowel and it fulfilled a career long dream of opening a gallery and offering affordable studio space for artists. It was a labor of love restoring the building and Olive was there before the first nail was driven. Olive also helped me start the Annual Mount Holly Lantern Parade and received the key to the city to boot! We have been in newspapers here in Ireland and on live TV programs in Charlotte together. We shared a month long residency in Paris with 4 other fabulous aritsts from Charlotte and, yes, I did what I feel no other has ever provided for Olive by doing nightly sculptures on her pillow; my medium of choice being pistachio shells.

During the 2020 lock down, she cheered me on as I did a mural on my dining room walls that I had wanted to do since I was a child and I stood astounded as I watched her become a truly artistic master at stone masonry. I’m not kidding. She’s remarkable! (we won’t mention where she got the stones or that she collected each one painstakingly by hand and still takes me on expeditions to find more because now it’s not so much a passtime during a lock down but more of a deeply disturbing obsession.) Speaking of disturbing, I have secretly put in my will that, when I go, I want my ashes to be mixed with pigments and turned into a portrait of me for my children to share. Each getting it for 6 months out of the year. The best part? Olive has agreed to paint it and is also named in my will. Now THAT is true friendship. OMG, imagine their faces when the will is read. It kills me every time!!! This is my inspiration for a pose:

Back to Olive: She has introduced me to her friends in town and they have become my friends as well. It’s like living a double life for me. I wonder if this is what it’s like when a man is married to two women and has a family in two different places? I’m thinking yes. Oooh! I feel uber renegade right now! FABULOUS! But it is like coming home whenever I’m here and this has happened in 7 short years (including the year that shall not be mentioned). I can walk down the street and run into friends or go into a pub and be greeted with Welcome Home! It’s extraordinary!

But here is the best part of all: Listowel is truly becoming my second home because Olive the Magnificent, the Inimitable artist Jean Cauthen, stone carver/sculptor extraordinaire Ruairi Dennison, and I have purchased a derelict building a stone’s throw from Olive’s gallery (not that Olive would ever throw a stone because they are precious and needs to be in her pockets her preshhuuuuussss…I digress)! Two Irish Artists and Two American Artists coming together to make something extraordinary out of a boarded up building that has stood empty for 25 years. That sounds oddly like what I did in Mount Holly. I’m beginning to believe in parallel universes and the four of us have somehow been able to navigate in and out of both. That sounds way more plausible than the cheating husband scenario from above and it also gives me the opportunity to dress like Neo from the Matrix which is awesome because I love to wear black. But that is what we are doing! We are creating something marvelous together that we will share more about very soon!

The reality is, since meeting Olive, my life has taken these wild leaps forward in the most wonderful ways you can imagine. This newest adventure is not only going to be something extraordinarily special but it’s one of the most meaningful collaborations of talent I’ve ever been a part of (I know I’m dangling that participle. Sue me). I’m not sure how I can explain how incredibly grateful I am for these friendships and how wonderful I feel that Olive began this residency 7 years ago and I was lucky enough to be first! She is an inspiration to all of us and has brought even more vibrancy and art to the town we all love so much!

So here’s to you, Olive Stack, oosg, to 7 years of an amazing friendship and, if I live to 110 like my Irish grandmother, here’s to 46 more!

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It’s Good to be Back!

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It’s been a long time since my last residency… 5 years, in fact. 

I was supposed to be here in 2020, but we all know what happened that year. So, this week, I found myself arriving in Listowel on the #13 bus, almost in tears, my heart aching with anticipation. 

In a way, it felt like I’d been gone for so very long, and in another way it felt like only last year that I was here, painting every day, having a scone and coffee at Lynch’s Bakery, take out lunch from Lizzie’s, a bowl of soup for dinner at The Horseshoe and a Guinness at John B’s. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up with what life has been like here in Listowel during covid and beyond. 

Enjoying a bit of “Window Theater” and a lovely treat from Mary

The great news is that things seem to have returned to (a relative) normal. The streets are busy with traffic and shoppers. Lynch’s Bakery opens a whole hour earlier (yippee!)  I have noticed that places are closed more than they used to be, so I’ll pay attention to store and restaurant hours. But boy, am I glad to see them all again! 

Already we’ve seen lots of good friends as they’ve popped into the gallery to say “Hello!”  And Mary popped by to bring a yummy treat! Yesterday several people called and messaged to tell us the quarterly Horse Fair was going on up on Market Street. What a treat! There were horses, ponies, miniature horses, a donkey and puppies!

It’s so very special to be welcomed back this way! I am always amazed by how much people go out of their way to make sure we experience all that Listowel has to offer.

This year I am here with Terry Shipley. She’s hard at work in the studio right now, creating gorgeous ceramic beauties…stay tuned for updates on her creations!

Terry working hard in the studio!

I will be diving deep into my Thin Places series. I’ve been working on this body of paintings since I came home from my very first residency in 2016 (Can it really have been 6 whole years ago?)  To deepen my understanding of Thin Places I took a 12 day tour of ancient sacred places in Ireland and came directly afterward to Listowel. It was such a moving and introspective journey through Sligo, West Meath and Doolin, spending time with several Cairns, Ring Forts, Holy Wells, a Brehan School ruin, St Colman’s Hermitage in The Burren and many other beautiful, ancient sacred places. I hope to find more here in Kerry. I bet we all know who might be able to help… Ahem, is Mr Damien Stack, world renowned Listowel and County Kerry historian and most extraordinary furniture store owner, around this month? I sure do hope so! 

Until I catch up with him, and everyone else, I’m in the studio, writing and painting. 

Can’t wait to see everyone! 

Hey Ya’ll, I’ve missed you so much!

We’re back, and we’ll see you soon! 

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.