I’ve grown up with the work of Elaine Callen (who happens to be my aunty). My earliest memory of enjoying her work was when she painted a mural onto a heating pipe in our conservatory, it was the talk of the close we lived in and friends still remember it! My parents are keen collectors of her work, from early huge colourful oil on canvas forest canopies to subtle mountain and moss pastels inspired by the Mourne Mountains.
Who or what most inspires your work?
My work is inspired by the landscape around me. By the wild beauty of mountain, moor and bogland.
What’s a typical day in your life as an artist?
My day begins with tea in bed and a chance to recapture dreams before the day intrudes. A brisk walk on the beach awakens and consolidates ideas and designs. Back to the studio for coffee and contemplation of work in progress before getting absorbed in painting till the need for tea overtakes. By the afternoon I could be working on tapestry designs for The Big Weave community tapestry project or perhaps cycling to the harbour to help out at The Front Room Vintage/Craft pop-up shop. I like to paint in the evening, in the gloaming, till the last of the light goes.
What’s the piece of work you’ve created that you’re most proud of?
Any piece which captures the feeling of place and a little magic.
Where can we see more of your work?
The Front Room Vintage pop-up shop
65 South Promenade, Newcastle, Co. Down, N. Ireland
Whats the best thing about being an artist?
Tea in bed!
In the seaside town Newcastle, at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne, artist Martin McParland finds his inspiration and source materials (quite literally – he collects lots of materials for his work scattered along the beach in the form of driftwood!). He’s just returned from a trip to the northwest Inner Hebridean Isles where he was on the hunt for mountains, Rum ponies and whiskey and water to inspire the sketch pad. I caught up with him in Newcastle and managed to persuade him to allow me to take some pics and ask him a few questions. I wanted to know what it’s like being an artist in an area of outstanding natural beauty and how he ever manages to get any work done!
Who or what inspires your work?
Mostly nature and travel. I think also, since time spent living by the coast the sea and the unpredictability of the weather are an indispensable combination of inspirations.
What’s a typical day in your life as an artist?
As a resident artist at Shimna Integ, I see my two groups of A level students and work with them . I also teach painting at two weekly classes. In between I normally go for a cycle with camera in tow. I find that is the best way to find that workable image which could start a new series of work. Finishing up with a walk up the beach foraging for that elusive washed up piece of magic driftwood..!
What is the piece of work that you most proud of ?
I collected about 200 pairs of dockers and ship builders gloves that had been preserved in the oil soaked waste ground where the Titanic centre now stands. I had started collecting them around 1993 when I was at University doing my Art Degree. I had them in boxes for a few years really struggling with what to do with them. About 1997 when I was now at Queen St artist studios, I had the opportunity to exhibit in Mostar, Bosnia. The exhibition was entitled No-bodies Children, reflecting upon the Serbian/croatian conflict which tore the country apart 5 years earlier. I had remembered watching the horror unfold on tv back then. I decided as the gloves now had a working title “lost hands”, I thought that an installation on the walls of the newly refurbished Gallery in Mostar with the gloves covering all the pillars throughout the building in and outside (incidentally), the gallery was the only building really left standing. I left the piece titled “Untitled 1887/97″, reflecting on the date I traced the earliest glove id number, which was a riveters glove, to the present day opening of the show.
Where can we see more of your work?
Nowhere at present other than private collections or hanging on sheds & trees with blue tits nesting in them!!
What’s the best thing about being an artist?
Probably being able to express myself beyond words through the art I create and altering others perceptions by challenging and provoking responses. Also not taking any crap from over paid mediocratic athocratic nitwits who have nothing better to do with themselves other than be self servient.
In the lake-side town of Taupo in North Island New Zealand, I found a lovely art gallery-come-studio owned and run by artist Graham Moeller. Located right in the heart of the town on a busy high street, I was really intrigued to hear how Graham succeeds in opening up a commercial unit to use as studio and gallery space. He encourages artists to follow in his footsteps and take on shop premises to open as artist-owned gallery spaces, bringing art to the forefront of the high street and making local art accessible for residents and visitors to the town. I asked him how he plucked up the courage to make such a bold move and take on such a huge responsibility.
I guess the best way to tell you is that it was by accident really. Me being of a retail background and knowing the benefits of retailing in a main street location, it seemed an only natural thing to do as the main problem facing artists is where to display their work.
If you do the math on marketing and advertising costs to get buyers to visit a private gallery, then it is a very basic win/win to have a gallery in a retail position. There are no advertising costs as the buyers are passing the gallery all the time…24 hours a day if you like.
In my experience that is the reason my little gallery is reasonably successful for me.
And successful it certainly is, there were lots of people popping in and out to have a look while I was there, and sales are a regular occurrence too – the gallery wouldn’t survive if the paintings didn’t sell. Graham enjoys sharing his artworks and love for beautiful New Zealand scenery, and the gallery unit provides a perfect platform for doing exactly that. For me as a visitor it was a special and unique experience being able to go into a gallery owned by the artist himself, in a central location right on the high street, where I could see a local artist busy working away, view a large collection of his work in a professional setting, all in the same place. It felt extra special because I didn’t have to make any effort to find the place, I just stumbled across it (most of the customers are passing trade attracted by the signage) and had a lovely time looking at Graham’s paintings inspired by New Zealand landscapes, watching him paint and chatting to him about life as an artist in New Zealand.
Graham is really keen to share his experiences of opening up a gallery as a solo artist, so if you would like to talk with him about the process and hear some great tips, he is very happy to share! Visit his website www.taupoartgallery.co.nz
If you are visiting Taupo soon make sure you check out Taupo Art Gallery and pay Graham a visit:
Taupo Art Gallery, 5 Heu Heu Street, Taupo, New Zealand
Tucked away down arty Harbour Street in Oamaru, South Island New Zealand is Flocked and Fleeced – a wonderful hat shop owned by Anne Nijland, Hatmaker.
I’ve always been told I suit hats so was pleased to have the opportunity to try on a few beautiful handmade ones! Anne keeps herself busy here and when she’s not inundated with coach loads of tourists, makes hats and accessories in the shop which doubles as a beautiful airy studio space with high ceilings and natural light streaming through the sash windows. I caught her during a quiet spell and so was able to have a little chat with her about her work and why she decided to set up her hat shop.
What inspired you to start making hats?
My Grandmother, Aunts and my Mother wore hats as I was growing up, so I was interested from an early age. My parents took us to see musicals in Dunedin and I loved the costumes and hats. The old movies also inspired me, and I was given my Aunts hat blocks and books.
Later I studied Craft Design and learnt basic Millinery skills at Fashion and Design College and have gone on from there. Setting up my shop was accidental actually but it has turned out well for me. I set up for Easter weekend in the Stables in Harbour St last year with friends and through that I realised there was a genuine interest in my hats so when a premises came up in July I took it over and that’s how I began my shop in Oamaru.
The hats are so beautifully textured and sculptural – do you have a favourite material to work with?
It’s hard to pick one medium but probably my favourite is wool to felt and block into hats plus feathers to adorn.
What has been your most unusual creation so far?
A commission for a construction of a feathered bird headdress and mask, for a celebration involving modern dance. I love the sculptural aspect of a hat.
Flocked and Fleece also sells funky Inspired By Jewels jewellery created by Anne’s daughter Louisa Lee.
Go and have a look around and enjoy beautifully made hats:
Flocked and Fleece, 12 Harbour Street, Victorian Precent, Oamaru, South Island, New Zealand. Call 0212344621.