Today is the 7 year anniversary of the very first time I shared some of my encaustic work with the public. I consider today my ART BIRTHDAY... and how grateful am I to have such a thing!
Almost ten years ago I had my beautiful second "light of my life" baby boy Isaac, a beautiful brother for our stunning wee Sam and the completion of our little happy family unit.... unfortunately, I was also made redundant and suffered a mini stroke within the space of 6 weeks...it brought me back to painting....
I stopped all creative activity in my life at 18years of age...I was hospitalised with a blood condition called ITP for near on 3 yrs and had a spleenectomy as a result...
After my junior certificate in school my parents allowed me travel on two busses a morning across the county and the city to attend Marino College in Fairview..we were living in Kildare at the time but Marino had an extended leaving cert program that incorporated (get this!!) drama, art, photography, broadcasting....it sounded to my young ears like 'FAME' that american hit programne from the 80,s with Leroy (who I fancied terribly) and the dude with the hair and the piano ( remember him??) My parents were cool about it. After all GAY BYRNES daughter went there. Lol!
I loved Marino, it really stirred in me a desire for a true creative outlet in my life, we did scriptwriting, lifedrawing (clothed-we were minors) photography shoots, lunch time pic-nics in the park across the road with cans of cola and a pack of fags....happy happy days! I even got to do my work experience in TempleBar Studios and Galleries..TWICE...it looked way different back then...but my art teacher was the rather fabulous Margaret Tuffy...I was smitten and ambitious and hungry and each day I walked into that building I buzzed!
Near the end of my two jam packed years in Marino I was struggling with the decisions ahead. Fine art or photography? I decided to stay on in Marino under the tutelage of the marvelous photographer Frank Barr and spend a year with the camera, before applying to NCAD to study fine art!
It never happened.. NCAD!
Shortly after completing the photography programne I was hospitalised with a blood condition called ITP...an autoimmune condition which sees your own body attack your platelets. This is basically your clotting mechanism, every day for 3 years my platelets were rock bottom ... risk of haemorrhage was ever present, if I crossed my legs they bruised. I remember having a completely black bruised chin for a week because I ate an apple....
My in-hospital routine was daily platelet transfusions and immunotherapy. It wasn't much fun but I found it where I could and used to hang out in the old hospital smoking rooms with the old codgers and what we used to call their handbags. (most of the chaps were prostate and cancer patients and often would have to walk around with a catheter bag- the humour was often very black and downright hilarious- humour is always my first line of defence and I do blame these chaps x).
I was 22 before my life resumed. My friends were graduating college starting new jobs launching themselves into real adult life.. and here I was frail, exhausted, confused eldest girl of a large family and feeling immense personal pressure to get a career and a job started, to move on, to adult! In no time at all I had completed a legal secretarial course and was working as a law clerk for solicitors within the court system...my brother somehow managed to get me work experience with Jim Fitzpatrick a fantastic guy with so much varied and interesting life experience, somebody who had had his own health issues and overcome them with a great deal of bounce and good humour, and no "poor me, why me" selfpity he was an inspiration to me. He still is.
Life moved on and I settled into having administration roles, wages, living a 9 to 5 life. I was living with girlfriends in harold's cross having a right old time when I met my future husband and within a couple of years are we living in France together, few more years England, later again we married in Cyprus and returned to Ireland to start our family and build our home at home.
it was only on our return to Ireland that I started to pick up a paint brush again, for some reason I bought a set of watercolours, I dabbled, painting little finches and birds, flowers. It was a nice relaxing past time and yet I always saw it as just that! A past time. My new life was unidentifiable from the one I had imagined as a child...but there was no deep strong stir in me for that creative outlet. YET!
Roll onto 2009, still dabbling with the paint brushes, I had discovered encaustic iron work...a gorgeous craft with an iron and wax and card, were you could build layers of wax into optical illusions that looked like images, landscapes, abstracts...I started to experiment a little I was quite excited about this new medium. But again this was a past time... My hobby..
All that changed with my redundancy the birth of my child and my mini stroke... Something in me decided that life was too short and too fleeting not to do the things that I wanted to do... I had to get out of my own way ...to try and grasp the nettle as they say, but more than that it became my therapy, my council and gave me a place to go, and say and feel what would not necessarily be socially acceptable to shout from the rooftops... And for the first time in years I saw that I didnt have to become a victim of my health circumstances, I was in control of my own destiny!
Now don't get me wrong the work was crap, and I was terrified, I was learning from zero up, and in a bid to control some of what I was feeling I was back to painting birds and flowers and trying to stay away from exposing any raw emotion... But the practice of sitting still and focusing and experimenting with colour and texture and layers and giving myself that headspace was incredibly cathartic.
I was beginning to share some of these little pieces of work on the internet on Facebook, and through social media.. friends and family were super supportive and in NO RIGHT MIND, when I was asked if I was interested in a stall at a local Christmas market I snapped at the chance. I was terrified but exhilarated... I was all ego and no skill whatsoever but I framed up those babies and went with my very warm sweater on, my scarf and my sister Nyree by my side and sold a lot of those early pieces....
Looking back now I feel I had no right to be there, but if I hadn't have taken the bull by the horns THEN I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing NOW.. I wouldn't have given space to my life in the pursuit of creativity.
In more recent years my health has been suffering again. This past 3 years has seen me with a lot of ups and downs suffering from chronic fatigue, endometriosis, thyroid problems, fibromyalgia.... Most recently with the help of an autoimmune protocol diet keto and paleo (read - super boring!) I feel my energy restore...after taking much of the spring and summer off this year to concentrate on reviving my physical self.. I'm feeling strong...
I have dyed my hair pink to remind me I'm alive and well enough to care about such things...
I am shifting things around in the studio.. there is a great itch in me to get going again...2017 was a good year for me... good work..great shows...a two location Solo...but I was mentally and physically exhausted and what it took out of me and away from the family to do so, was immence!
This coming year I want to further develop the body of print works I've been dabbling with, extend on the techniques that I'm using... 2019 feels full of expectation & opportunity, and I am starting the year in KERRY, in Cill Railaig on a residency I have been awarded... The most wonderful way to launch yourself into a new year.... And I'm full of optimism for 2019.
And so today I am SEVEN, and I wonder if this is the REAL first of my seven year cycles... Regardless it is giving me a moment to consider what has happened before, what might happen again and how I might approach it... Life will always throw us curve balls. I'm not naturally an optimist, more of a realist with a touch of 'glass half empty' tendency on a bad day, but if life is a cycle I shall continue to pedal along doing my best, and I am super grateful for the opportunity.
Thank you for supporting me along the way.
NAAS.....I am delighted to tell you im bringing my class to kildare this December...I put a wee video out on social media asking friends and followers 'where to next?' given the option of DUBLIN, KILDARE,WICKLOW OR WESTMEATH for a pre-christmas class on the final weekend I had available to me...the result was KILDARE. thanks to all who got in touch with suggestions and the names of several other areas my class would be welcome.
Now early in 2017 I had the honour if exhibiting alongside the marvelous Martina Caffery Shannon at Inspire Gallery in Dublin in a show calked "Wonky" curated by the very lovely Dino... and I was blown away by what Martina created, a stunning overflowing installation created from recycled factory waste...it was magnificent, beautiful and impactful and followed Martinas drive for eco art and earth friendly uses for waste materials...Martina has since developed a wonderful art hub in Nass called "Dross Evolution" a magnificent bricks and morter building from which she creates, teaches abd shares her fabulous ethos....the reason Im telling you all of this is because when I thought of a venue for my class in Kildare I immediately thought of Martina and her studio/shop and classroom space in Nass...with ample space, an arts focussed buildng, parking close by and within easy access to most of the county it seems perfect.
And indeed it is perfect, so its booked...hope to see you there as I teach the basics of encaustic hobby wax ironing in this beginners class....its fun, colourful and oh so theraputic..
All bookings abd enquiries please by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . max 10 spaces available and a deposit secures your space...share with your friends and family and I cant wait to see you in Nass for a wonderful day of fun and creativity. xxN.
I am delighted to tell you this week my work appears in the American online professional publication: Prowax Journal.
After 5 years of raising the bar in professional encaustic practice this is its final edition and I am honoured and privileged to have been curated into this final publication...it will be missed by those of us who excitedly and expectedly awaited it's quarterly release for news on the work of our contemporaries and the best interviews and commentary from its writers, contributors and invited curators.
Thanks must go to all involved for their years of voluntary commitnent to PROWAX JOURNAL and from my personal perspective a special thanks to Debra Claffey for including my work in her curation in this last edition.
Please use the link below to see the piece and through the same link you can read all previous publications....it is a feast for a hungry heart looking for wonderful articles on contemporary visual artists and their explorations in the beautiful medium of encaustic wax.
It's been a bit of a crazy week folks and its still only half way through but I'm finally back on line to share photos of last Saturdays wax painting class using hot irons.
We had a lovely group, seven in all and heads down we really cracked on, unusually for me only two of saturdays particpants had never experienced the craft with me before...the ratios normally swing the other way, but it made for a vibrant group with lots of good work produced.
The Garage Theatre really is a wonderful venue for a class like this, bright and airy excellent parking and easily accessed. I would like to extend my thanks to the team there and no doubt you will see us again.
In the meantime I'd like to gauge interest in an European Encaustic painting class in Dublin? I have had several enquiries of late and I'm very happy to go on tour if the demand is there, let me know what you think? I'm happily heading up that way again soon as I've been booked for an ICA craft day, these are huge events with numerous Guilds all coming together to enjoy a day of mixed art and craft and boy is it fun!
But for now I'm back to my laptop to focus on my own work and some writing that I need to do... Even for an artist administration is a never-ending task, so bye for now and we'll talk soon. X Niamh.
Fri 21st of september past saw me happily invited to participate in Culture Night at the wonderful venue that is Monaghans Garage Theatre.
I took over the large space at the top of the stairs known as the rehearsal room and for the night this large white room became my Gallery, Studio and classroom.
I started with a discussion about what it is I do, how I work from the very start by making my own encaustic medium and paints, print on heat to fine kozo papers and cannibalize those prints into my painting process.
I demonstrated the encaustic printmaking process showing monotypes and cold registration prints and adhered a completed monotype print to an encaustic coated panel describing the different options I could proceed with at that stage.. at one point there were seven or more children at the demo table accompanied by their chosen adult, many of them clutching dream catchers made earier in the evening at the Puca puppets workshop held downstairs. I did my best as they started making requests for drawings, robots and bug birds...it was super fun and at times - oh so cute!
Wiith the youngster's satisfied I stated the taster encaustic ironing sessions....17 people gave it a try and all went home having learnt the basics of a new skill and with a new understanding of some of the things I get up too....it was messy, busy and colourful...just what I expected and I loved it.
Thanks to all who joined me and a special thanks to Krista especially, and the team at the Garage for their support. An additional note of thanks to my lovely hubby who acted as my personal 'Roadie' on the night, with so very much stuff sometimes on tour you just gotta bring your own muscle!
PS: in case you weren't aware I am hosting an encaustic iron on card wax painting class in the 'Garage Theatre' this coming Saturday afternoon (29th September from 1-5pm and 55euro pp-all materials provided)..with only two spaces still available, do get in touch if you'd care to attend. Come and feel the creative flow in a medium you simply cant help but fall in love with! x N.
PSS: A wee treat today to add to this post....a link to photos from events held on Culture Night accross the county. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=255384218449884&id=109726819682292
I do hope this finds you well..Happy Friday, how's your week been?
Here, with both the O'Connor children heading back to school its been all go go go to return to a normal routine after what I can only describe as a long hot summer..gosh but it was good!
I think I mentioned previously I am chomping at the bit to return to the studio, the studio which is now back at home in the garden build, a little tidier then when I last looked at it and just itching to be used. I have stocked up on some new materials and have two new works, and happily a commission, currently brewing in my head ...and while I am simply waiting for Monday morning to roll round and free me of some upcoming commitments I have been looking at the diary for the winter season and all that is ahead.
As you may or may not know I am very much looking forward to presenting a full encaustic demo on Culture Night at the fabulous space that is Monaghans Garage Theatre...thats Friday the 21st of September for those of you who want to mark the calendar. As part of the night I have committed to a 'wee taster" session on the night on a FIRST COME FIRST SERVED basis which I am happy to share with the first 15 folk that sign up on the night.
In replying to messages and enquiries since posting these details I have decided to follow on from this by holding an EU Encaustic Class in Saturday 29th September again at the Garage Theatre...its a fun, creative and productive session which teaches the joys of painting with wax using irons on card. Its an Introduction class...you dont have to know how to draw or paint as no previous experience is required - if however you are a painter its still a great days exploration...so if you feel the need for colour and creativity this is the class for you!
Saturday the 29th September 1-5 pm is the date and costing 55euro per person including all materials and equipment its going to fill up fast...Do get in touch to book your place and until then go well .
I will be in the studio if you need me. Wish me luck.
Friends of this page will know that I love to bring my EU Encaustic on card, class around the country and just this weekend past I spent a very pleasent day with a wonderful class of ladies in one of my favourite venues 'The Marketplace Theatre and Arts Centre' in Armagh City.
Its a favourite of mine for several reasons, firstly the workshops spaces are big and bright, accessable to all and entirely fit for purpose, Secondly the staff are pleasant and helpful at every turn. Thirdly, I always meet the loveliest of people in class there and last but certainly by no means least, the Gallery always shows a diverse and varied selection of inspiring exhibitions...I always have a nosey when Im up and was proud to show my own work there in the past.
But on Saturday as distracting as the work on the walls was, I was there to encourage people to create their own..
With a full class of 10 we got straight to work with a brief intro into what Encaustic is, the techniques by which it can be used and had a wee chat about EU Encaustic Ironing being a gateway introduction to a medium with endless possibilities.
We had a ball, learned how to apply wax, create layers, created flowers, learned the techniques for creating landscape images using our iron as our paintbrush and they were off.
It was a super day, thank you for joining me ladies and for those of you who discussed visits to other counties do keep in touch, as I said I am alway happy to create a bespoke class just for you, just drop me a line xxN.
...as friends of this page will know I have participated in a number of Culture Night events over the past few years....and truth be told I've enjoyed each and every one! Now although our Clones Studio is under renovation and I wont be there this year to showcase my work and working practices I do however have plans and I'm excited to share those with you...With still lots to do in August and not wanting to wish the time away I suggest you mark your calender if you have an interest in the Art Techniques used with Encaustic and Wax...I'm excited to share it with you..... simply clink on the link below for all the deets!
See you there.
Friends, I am very much looking forward to being my Encaustic hobby class to Armagh this coming August 18th at the wonderful Marketplace Theatre and Arts Centre...its booking out FAST and rumor has it there is only ONE place left...snatch it for yourself and join in the fun as we learn how to paint with WAX and an IRON on card...contact The marketplace directly for details & booking xx N
\nThe Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre | Market Street | Armagh | Co. Armagh | BT61 7BW
\nCall: 028 3752 1804
Contemporary Visual Artist working in mixed media/encaustic based in the durmlins of Co.Monaghan. Ireland.