Creative Islanders: Fiadh Durham

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The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

There is such an allure in textile design and weaving for me. Seeing a manual loom in action seems like I am travelling back in time to something ancient and wise, and hearing the loom heave back and forth has a meditative lull for me. I’ve never studied weaving but have much admiration for those who can spin myriad treads into such wondrous patterns while making sense of the what looks like a complex piece of equipment.

It was with such lure I was drawn into Fiadh Durham’s shop in Dingle last summer. Fiadh had been mentioned to me by another friend but little did I realise that she had her looms on view and makes her beautiful textiles there also. Greeted with warmth, I was immediately impressed with Fiadh gentle touch and her passion for both business and weaving.

So it is with great pleasure that we head to West Kerry for this next instalment of the Creative Islanders series with weaver, maker, and creative entrepreneur, Fiadh Durham….

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What keeps you in Ireland? 

So much!  The people, the craic, the scenery, the towns, the clean air and of course it is home. I have always loved to travel. The list of places I want to see gets longer rather than shorter with each trip. When I was younger I had this idea that I would pursue my dreams as a designer abroad, somewhere much more exotic and different to Ireland but the more places I explore the more I appreciate living in Ireland. There are so many opportunities here, it is up to the individual to make it happen!

What makes you tick? What motivates you? 

It depends on what what element of my life or work I’m thinking about but in general I love a challenge, having something exciting to work towards. I love the idea of kind of custom designing ones own life, doing it your way, its not always easy but a major driving force for me is the thrill of the unknown. It keeps life interesting!

What do you do just for the love of it? 

One is listening to good tunes and another is being outdoors, whether it is running, surfing or just going for a creative ramble with my camera and headphones… soaking up ideas fresh air! I suppose we all have that thing we need to to get head space and these are mine. Growing up, I think we spent 90% outside and I think that has stayed with me.

What does the creative process teach you? 

Sometimes I might question the amount of time the creative process takes and I forget how important it really is in relation to my designs. For me, following a creative process teaches me patience, discipline and it allows for design development to happen naturally. I think good designers are problem solvers and you need time for that.

Why do you do what you do?

I love what I do. I don’t think it would be possible if I didn’t. I love designing and making (textiles especially) and I think in the back of my mind I always wanted to run my own business. Its only been in recent years that I have built up the confidence to realise that I can actually do it. The rewards of your worked being loved and appreciated outweigh the many headaches of running your own business.

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What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

Making the decision that I was in it 100%. Full time. It had to be done. Another thing for me was realising that I was in Dingle because I chose to be and not because I ended up here. It’s a dream place to live if you can do what you love.

I have been so inspired by successful creative artists and craftspeople over the years but funnily enough I’ve also been inspired by others who have not managed to make it work and if forces me to ask why and how will I do it differently.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools? 

A bit cliché but I’d say believe in yourself and what you love.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems? 

I am constantly being charmed by stunning colours and patterns around the Dingle peninsula especially but if you look hard enough I think you can find beautiful combinations in the most surprising places. I remember a speaker in art college once say that when you work as a designer that you see design in everything, everywhere you go, that doesn’t switch off. I wanted that to happen me and I think it has, so trick is catch the bug.

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How do you get through tough times? What sustains you? 

I try take a step back, get a bit of space from it all and then look at the bigger picture, it may be one bad day or week but things have a way of working out. Especially if you want it to, you just have to stay positive and keep going but be realistic about what is achievable too.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’? 

First thing for me is timekeeping; you need to be disciplined. Make out a plan and give yourself deadlines if someone else doesn’t. I’m not naturally organised so I have to really put the work in to these areas, it good to have what need to happen in the next day, week, month and so on.

I had to write a detailed business plan when applying for funding and I would advise anyone setting up a business to do this.

Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals? 

My routines always change but I do find it really helpful to have them, it keeps me grounded and healthier.

What books have inspired you?  Or what websites do you turn to? 

I do like to read books, especially when I’m on holidays but the things that really inspire me are more visual. My favourite weaving book is ‘Mastering Weave Structures: Transforming Ideas Into Great Cloth’  by Sharon D. Alderman

Designers and websites I am into at the moment:  margoselby.com, habutextiles.com, giveirishcraft.com, irishdesignshop.com, makersandbrothers.com

 

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What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path? 

I would have liked to have more mentors in the beginning, so many things that would have been easier if I networked a bit more. You have to put yourself out there. In saying that, you have to have the confidence in your instinct. Take some advice but also know when its not right for you.

And what advice would you give to your future self? 

Find a way to have a good work/life balance. I am a hard worker but I feel that surely its only all worth if if you have a healthy personal and professional life.

What is coming up next for you? 

I feel that my business is at the brink of being properly launched so the next year will be all about getting Fiadh products to a much wider reach. I have big plans for online trading but the thing I’m most excited about is the new designs to come. I am investing in a multi-shaft computer aided hand loom and I will use this to create limited editions of more complex, dynamic designs. I’m so looking forward to getting stuck into that in the new year.

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Thank you so much Fiadh! I look forward to following the growth of your business and talent. Clare x

Fiadh’s website is over here. 

And her Etsy shop is over here. 

 

 

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Your advice please…

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Something a little different today, and a little ask from me to you. I am wondering if I can borrow your brain for a few minutes please.
As I move into 2016 I am taking some time to reflect and think about where I am headed with my business. So I am popping onto my blog  ask for your advice.

I’m currently developing some new products and services but before I dive into creation mode, I would LOVE your input and ideas. Your continued support means a lot to me and I greatly appreciate the readership which is gradually growing over on my site and through my work.

To help, I have created a short survey. It should take no more than 5 minutes of your time, and will be invaluable to me, and down the line hopefully to you too.

You can fill in the survey over here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8MF7NVR

To thank you for your support I will be putting names into a hat and drawing one winner, who will receive in the post a limited edition print from me- it is of a little squirrel (you can see it over here. I will draw the name on Sunday 20th December.

Thank you again- in deep appreciation and looking forward to the adventures ahead,
Clare. xx

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Creativity as Presencing

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When I was 22 I moved to China for a year, teaching English language and literature at Peking University. It was one of the hardest times of my life. I was in at the deep end, alone, and felt like I was swimming against a very large crowd. I found Beijing to be over populated, over polluted and overwhelming. I did not speak Mandarin and I was teaching about 250 undergraduate and graduate students at the top university in China with no curriculum and no idea what I had got myself in for.

Looking back now it was art that helped me get through it all. Art- namely writing and photography- gave me a window out and offered me vital breathing space to make sense of it all. And when I say vital I don’t just mean that it was important, I mean it was a way to breathe in new life and connect me to my own vitality. Not only that but it also helped me to find beauty in the broken bits. Art was grace. 

This was in the days before I could afford a digital camera (they were expensive things back then!), so I got myself a whole pile of simple disposable cameras. They were a saviour. Through all the noise, commotion and craziness I started to look for things that pleased me and started to take photographs: the unusual shape of ginko leaves; the way the rushes in the lakes bent and froze; the interweaving patterns the thousands of bicycles made in the snow; the steam from a bowl of street noodles; the ping pong bats used to reserve tables in the canteen. I started to notice the little details, and in the little details I found solace and belonging.

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That was during the day. At night, I wrote. In fact, I couldn’t stop writing. The simple act of writing helped to connect me to my body. I wrote by hand, page after page, each page allowing me room to find myself. I wrote my first novel in a couple of months (a book that will gladly stay in my drawer), a whole series of poems, a collection of short stories including one little children’s book (which I still love) and an English language learning textbook, which was even published!

Through the taking of images I was able to stand on solid ground and through the writing process I was able to connect with my inner world. Together they brought me back home to myself and to a quality of presence which for a while I had lost.

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed’- Mary Oliver.

Presence really is the key.

Creativity, I have come to realize, is not so much a series of technical skills as a way of being present, and a way of capturing the quality of that presence. 

Now, as a photographer, when I feel present at an event or in good relationship with the object or person I intend to photograph I know it makes a massive difference to the type of photograph I am able to take. When I do not feel that my photographs are good enough or I have not learned from the experience, it is usually a sign that I was not fully engaged with the creative process to begin with, and certainly not with the moment when the image was taken. However, when I can plug into that presence, everything changes.

Learning how to be present is a skill set which we can acquire and practice over time. The mindfulness revolution, yoga techniques and centuries of meditative practice have a huge amount to offer this process, as too the simple act of noticing.

So here is a little practice for you… Next time you are feeling a little ungrounded, start to notice what is around you right now. The little details, the way the light falls or the curvature of shadow. Take a pen and write about it for 5 mins- no need to edit or review, just write. Or pick up your camera (maybe the one on your phone) and photograph just for a sake of seeing, and being.

In the noticing is the act of presencing, and in the presencing is lies the seeds of transformation. 

Looking back now I am so grateful to that time in Beijing. It has helped to make me who I am. It helped me to shed old layers of myself and it forever brings me back to the page and my camera, to notice, connect, and at times, transform.


Art & Auction : Badger & Robin

If you have been following along my blog this year, you will have see that I have been back painting again- with lots of little creatures and birds making an appearance. Many of these original paintings are available for purchase over on my Etsy shop, alongside an original limited edition print.

I also want to offer something back and have decided to auction two of my paintings for two organisations which I admire and which are very worthy causes.

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SO…

Mr. Robin is going to fly the flag for the Capuchin Day Care Centre for the Homeless in Dublin, which I have come to know a little better through the amazing work of my friend Brother Richard Hendrick who I first met through Trailblaze (you can see his talks here and here). There is a massive housing crisis in Ireland right now, and the centre is flat out serving the needs of those most in need. Their dedication is outstanding.

Mr. Robin is beautifully mounted and framed and measures 16 x 20 inches.  He is an original pen, ink and watercolour painting with gold acrylic and heavy, acid free watercolour paper.

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Next up…

Mr. Badger is going to try to raise some money for the second organisation is Gatoto Community Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya.  My connection with Gatoto goes back over 10 years now, to when we were sending volunteers there with the Suas Volunteer Programme. It was a wonderful school, working in very tough conditions, and run by one of the most resilient and tenacious women I have every met, Betty Nyagoha. It is a very special place offering a lot of hope and real educational benefits to children.

Mr Badger also comes beautifully mounted and framed, measuring 16.5 x 23 inches. He is an original pen, ink and watercolour on heavy, acid free watercolour paper.

How the auction will work. 

Bids will be taken on my blog and directly via email.

Please let me know what painting you are bidding for (Badger or Robin)

Submit bids via email to clare@claremulvany.ie or over leave a comment below with your bid, what painting you are bidding on and a way for me to contact you. If I receive a bid via email, I will put a comment in the blog with the amount, the time the bid was received and the initials of the bidder.

Starting bids at €100 (please note that my direct sale price for these is €275)

Deadline for bids is 12 noon on Wed 16th December.

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Shipping: If you are Dublin based, I can meet with you to deliver the image. If you are outside Dublin we can arrange shipping/ delivery. Depending on your location there may be an additional shipping fee- but we can chat about this.

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I am really excited about this and hope Mr. Robin and Mr. Badger will do some good work for some very good causes.

 

 


Learning to Ringmaster.

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Being a creative or social entrepreneur is akin to circus performance. You are learning to balance on tightropes as you juggle all your plates. Sometimes you feel like a bit of a clown as you put ideas out into the world not knowing if people will laugh or cry. Then there is the jumping through loops and hoops as you preform miraculous acts holding on by the skin of your teeth. Not to mention battling all the lions and tigers which enter the arena and the acrobatics you have to do with limited resources. And there you find yourself as ringmaster learning to co-ordinate it all with flair while selling tickets at the same time. Yes, a circus.

Am I mad, I ask myself? There are frequent moments when I wonder why I ran away with the circus. Shouldn’t I just get a proper job and when did lion taming become part of my remit? But once in the arena there is a charm and a huge sense of gratification which keeps you showing up again and again.

Brene Brown speaks about the power of being in the arena in her recent book, Daring Greatly and hinges inspiration on this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man*who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(*or woman, obviously)

The arena, I have learned, while a place of daring and rich learning, can also be a lonely and a hard place too. There are so many times I have wanted to leave but only with the support of friends, mentors, coaches and leadership training have I been able to stick it out. And I am glad I am here.  It is through the strength of support and having people to bounce ideas around and who offer insights into my blind spots that I have been able evolve and keep learning. Which is how my own coaching offerings have grown and why I am doing the work I am doing. I believe in the arena and I believe it doesn’t have to be such a lonely place. 

Creative coaching is a whole array of tools and processes I have developed and use for working in the circus (metaphorically of course). From visioning exercises, to branding and communications strategy I offer one to one support to keep you thriving in the arena. It is like having an accountability buddy to keep you on track and a fellow ringmaster to help co-ordinate a masterful performance. 

I’ve been working with a wonderful woman recently called Sharon Green, who runs a company called Queens of Neon. Sharon shared some words recently which captures some of the creative coaching process:

I have been feeling my way along for a very long time, taking creative projects that come to me through word of mouth and throwing myself into them whole heartedly.

But I always wonder how I can get more of the projects that I love, how do I word my website properly to reach out to clients that have the projects that really make me tick. I was recommended Clare by a friend and she all at once made sense of my confusion. She made me see that it is a waste of my energy always trying to change the copy on my website until I understand what my dream and my vision is. To start back at the beginning feels very freeing and exciting.

She asks the right questions and listens intently picking out the words and phrases that make sense and always paying attention on an energy level so notices when things excite you. She helps you see your dream scenario and gives you structure and homework to help manifest it. In my case she is also bringing me out from the shadows to feature prominently on my website, honing in to what it is that makes my business unique and that is me. Its true therapy for the creative business person. I would highly recommend Clare to anyone, who like me, feels like they are close to filling their true potential but for reasons just can’t seem to just get there.

Pow! Thank you Sharon.

So if, like Sharon, you have big visions, creative goals, dreams of possibility but you would like some support to help clarify your direction, perhaps some creative coaching is for you. I offer a number of tailored packages. You can find out more over here. If this sparks interest, I offer a free 20 minute Skype call where we can figure if we are a fit for each other and what areas of the arena to focus on so that 2016 will bring you closer to it all.

May the games commence… (*insert circus theme tune!)

END of circus analogy now, I promise!

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The above photo was taken in Cambodia at a circus I went to. I had totally forgotten about this image until I used the new ‘Camera Roll’ feature on flickr. AMAZING. Any flickr users still out there? This tool is amazing…


The Night Owl

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I have always been a night owl. I love to stay up late, working, creating, writing, painting, pondering, figuring out my next moves.

Lately though, the owl in me has been somewhat on overdrive. I find myself up at 2, 3 or 4 am, reaching for my journal. It is the quite time. There is a stillness as the street noise outside settles and the air falls soft. I turn my phone to quite mode, so there is no disturbance or even the possibility of disturbance. When the hush descends I feel I can penetrate into the mystery where the silence holds some of the answers, or at least indicates a way.

The darkness is a portal to insight.

Others find this silence and stillness in the early morning, but for me, it has always been at night.

I could resist it, the late night pull but I have learned not to. I’ve had some of my best ideas and made some of my most radical decisions in those liminal hours. The other night, it was almost 2am when an idea which has felt blocked for months suddenly popped and a new wave of understanding entered. I had been looking at it entirely the wrong way round and in an instant it seemed to flip and there is was, a way through and forward illuminated. There was nothing for it but to grab a notebook and write. Pages and pages later I could see the light. It is the kind of light that only the dark of silence can offer; the light of stillness bringing the clarity of in-sight.

The word itself if a clue. Mostly the answers are already within us. We know our own way forward but it just takes some inward reflection and a questioning spirit to find our way to our own insightfulness. 

I have also learned another thing: that when I write in such a way, there and then I need to collect action steps I can take into the very next day to carry the insight into the tangible. Otherwise the dream or idea can remain hidden too, coming out only at night when it feels safe to dream big and hold the ambition of possibility. In the light of day the distractions can creep in, and my fear or uncertainly too- so those tangible steps are critical. It can mean sending an email to get a project started, researching a domain name, registering a trademark, or sounding out the idea with someone you trust (all of which I did this week!).

So each day, after a night of dreams, ask yourself, what is that one little step that can take you closer to the insight, can take you closer to the light, your light…

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(PS: Staying up late also means I get up a bit later. I never schedule a meeting or job before 10am, if I can help it. It is just my rhythm and after many years of trying to convince  myself that I could be a morning person, I have given in to the fact that I will never be! The owl in me does some summersaults knowing I grant her permission to do her job without resistance. My mother, of course, has known this all along. I asked her recently want I was like as a child and she said even from when I very little (2 years old) this was my pattern. I refused to eat before 11am, but after which time I would come alive and want to stay up late. I should have listened to her after all!)

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Minimal Viable Commitment

 

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We have grand plans. We have huge visions. We are ambitious. There are so many things we want to do. At times it has a momentum all of its own, other times we feel overwhelmed and internally feel more like a deflated balloon than a rocket ship.

Reaching our goals, we know, is about sustaining momentum and building good habits. But how? There are many ways, but is little trick is one I have used with developing my home yoga practice, which applies across the board, to business and beyond. I call it, Minimal Viable Commitment. 

My promise to myself that at a minimum I must step onto my yoga mat each day. That is all. I must step onto my yoga mat each day. It is so little it is almost comical. But what happens when I do that. My yoga mat represents more than just a mat- it represents the mental and emotional space of practice, of calming of the mind and offers a safe space in which to explore and connect with myself. So when I step onto the space of the mat, I am also entering into the psychological space of practice. To me that mat is sacred, and my minimal viable commitment means that I get to enter that space each day.  And more often than not, I will do more than just step onto the mat; I’ll practice for 5 min, 10 mins, 30 mins, 60 mins, 90 mins… depending on the day, and depending on my mood. My commitment is easy to keep, and because it is easy, it means I do it. And if there is a day where all I do is step on my mat, I don’t go down a big guilt trip, because that is all I have committed to and it makes it easier to commit to again and again and again.

I’m all for big goals but I am also realistic. What does it take to break those goals down into smaller, manageable, bite sized chunks? What would your equivalent of ‘stepping onto the mat’ be for whatever goal you are setting? Maybe it is writing one line of your book a day, or picking your paintbrush, or taking one photo on your camera phone a day, or reaching out to one potential client each day. Something doable and something you can easily build into your daily routine.

What is your minimal viable commitment? … which before long will become a habit, which before long transforms us….

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For those of you interested using an app to track your habits, my friend Mic Fizgerald has built a tool for you. Mic is a serial tech entrepreneur (he has also built One Page CRM)- he is an avid fan of habit keeping and so Habi.io was born to help you keep yours…

(only available on iPhone at the moment)


Until the tide turns..

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There have been words. Many words. Words of pain, of grief, of anger, of despair. Words which search for reason and can find none. Words that grope in the darkness. Words as blame and words as balm. There will be many more words.

In times like these we can wonder if words really matter; but sometimes they are all we can turn to, as way finders in a wilderness of doubt.

As I write these words, I read too of retaliation; more fighting, more fear. I try to remember that every killer was once a child; free from ideology or notions of difference, until he was taught so. And until a series of choices to act led to something so heinous it belies words.

So, what to do? What to do as a citizen of this world who believes in the citizenry of this world.

It is a huge question, and today, as it seems like the world is spinning on an axis of self destruction, I took solace from a two year old. Yes, her.

It was a simple moment. I was travelling on Dublin bus. There was a young girl, a mass of curly hair, sitting in a buggy. Her mum was playing with her – doing high fives, enjoying her company, and her father smiling on with pride. And then the little girl started to sing. She sang out loud, at the top of her voice, singing ‘Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle’- yes, that was the entirety of her song, but gosh did she sing it with passion, wholeheartedness and joy. Her parents didn’t hush her. Soon her joy filled the bus. I could hear laughter and smiles. A few stops later, as she was leaving the bus, she turned around in her buggy, smiled, and waved goodbye to everyone in a fanfare of pure delight. The journey was transformed, for all of us.

That passion, that joy, that delight in utter beingness. Her innocence as shield.

That little girl got me thinking. Despite the fear, the bombings, the pain, what would it be like to reclaim our passion and our wholehearted beingness and sing our own song as an act of transformation, for ourselves, for those we travel with, for the journey we are on.

To live a life of joy and to share that beauty openly is a radical act. It does not deny the fear, nor the pain, but finds the undercurrent of beauty and rides it until the tide turns.

I am not sure when the tide will turn but I sense this: to ride the tide of beauty in our everyday lives means to look into the stranger’s eyes and see the eyes of each other, it means to welcome the other as our own, it means to invite love to be the dominate force. And when we are hurting so much, or fearing so much that we can’t look into the eyes another, can we ride the tide of beauty into our own hearts, find the stranger within ourselves, and grant permission for our fear, our anger, our judgement and our pain to soften, if only for a moment, so we can listen to ourselves. A when we learn to listen to ourselves, we make room to truly listen to another- that too can be a transformative act.

Today I needed to listen. I turned off all media and instead stepped into my yoga mat, seeking out the intelligence of silence. In the silence I found fear, pain and confusion. I found judgement but I also found something of the current, carrying echoes of a song; I found something of that two year old.

So now, it is back to words, inadequate as they may be. I write these words for myself as much as another. I write these words to let the current take me deeper. I write these words to find my ‘wiggle’. I write these words to sing.


Creative Islander: Charmaine Kenny

 

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The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

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I first met Charmaine Kenny about 10 years ago when she volunteered for Suas in India (I was working with the charity at the time). She stood out then, as she stands out now; with a brilliant mind (she was a Scholar in Trinity), fiery ambition, and a big and beautiful heart which warms any encounter. One of her targets back then was to raise 3k for Suas. Charmaine raised at least 12k through a clever auction in her hometown of Athy, and by enlisting all the help she could from friends and family-  in abundance. For Charmaine is someone you just really want to support because no matter what she does, she does it with passion, intellect, charm, humour and a fine innate grace.

When her boyfriend, now husband, entered her into the Rose of Tralee a few years ago we all knew she would win. How could she not? And so she did, which led to a wild year of travel around the world representing Ireland. It was then that the seeds of her current project were planted. Since then she has coupled her experience with an MBA from Standford University and has now been led back to Ireland to develop her own business- The Irish Workshop, a new online marketplace to showcase, promote and sell Irish art and craft internationally in collaboration with her business partner Fearghal Mulvihill.

By her own admission Charmaine does not term herself ‘creative’. But if creativity is innovation, and if creativity is having an idea, surmounting challenges, finding ways around obstacles, and seeing that idea through to fruition, then Charmaine epitomises it. And I think it is so brilliant to see people like Charmaine taking root in Ireland. She is ridiculously smart and with a strong business focus and rooted values, I have no doubt her new venture will be successful and will open international doors for many more of the traditionally deemed ‘creatives’ in Ireland. It is early days yet for them (they just launched last month), but so great to see such platforms being developed and who knows where it may lead too…

As you can see, I am a huge Charmaine fan and so am delighted to introduce you to Creative Islander, Charmaine Kenny…

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What keeps you in Ireland? 

My grandfather calls me the wild bird. I fly off for periods of time but always find my way home. I’ve lived abroad in London and California, but Ireland always calls. The people call, the community calls, the humour calls, the outdoors call. I love that I can live close to the heart of a bustling city yet only be a 20 minute walk to the sea and a 20 minute bike ride to the mountains. I love that I can drive home to my hometown in an hour. I love that I bump into people I know randomly on Dublin’s streets.

What makes you tick? What motivates you? 

Steep learning curves. When I’m not learning, I’m bored. As child growing up, bored was a word that was banned from our home. The use of the phrase “I’m bored” was nearly considered worse than swearing! Our parents always said that bored meant that there is nothing to do, but went on to explain that that’s impossible, because there is always something to do and if we couldn’t think of something to do, they’d give us something to do (this usually involved picking stones off the lawn, mowing the grass, or working the bog). And so, I’ve learned to make sure that I don’t get bored – maybe out of fear of someone else giving me a job to do! When my learning curve begins to flatten, it’s time to make a change.

Real Turf Fire Candle by The Bearded Candle Makers

Real Turf Fire Candle by The Bearded Candle Makers

What do you do just for the love of it? 

Walking for miles and miles. Sending nice greeting cards. Wednesday date nights with my husband. Working on The Irish Workshop (genuinely).

What does the creative process teach you? 

This is where I begin to feel an imposter. The truth is that I am surrounded by people who live, breathe, and exude creativity – that is the 60 makers that are our partners on The Irish Workshop. But I don’t necessarily associate the word “creative” with myself. I suppose building The Irish Workshop has pulled us through a creative process, and this has taught me to unearth talents I didn’t know I had, accept that it’s ok to lean on the people around me for support, and to become more patient for results.

Why do you do what you do?

I’m passionate about craft and about Ireland – I get real energy from discovering and seeing the incredible work the makers, designers and artists of Ireland are producing. I’m fascinated by consumer psychology and using data to guide how we can influence shoppers. And I’m rooted to a core value of fairness. The Irish Workshop pulls these three things together: we are creating a fairer way for small creative Irish businesses to get their work into the hands of shoppers.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools? 

I usually get unstuck by emptying my head of all its noise. And the only way I’ve found to do this is by doing high intensity cardio exercise;  exercise that requires so much energy that I have to give it everything, concentrating so much on moving my body, that I let go of what’s in my noisey head. A series of good spinning classes usually does the trick. But of course, when I’m stuck, going to a spin class is the last thing that I want to do!

Blue Rose Collar by Aine McConnell

Blue Rose Collar by Aine McConnell

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems? 

I find a lot of inspiration from other people – hearing their stories often makes me realise that they aren’t too different to me and that I can also achieve. My old classmates from Stanford University are a source of inspiration for sure. It is an incredible bunch of people and I felt like a fraud in their midst for the two years that we did our MBA. There is a strong entrepreneurial spirit in the class, and in the last year many of them have launched companies ranging from biowearable sensors for athletes, a subscription of artisanal teas from around the world, back-office operations for dental practices, and smarter mobile deep linking technology. Only yesterday I received an email from another classmate who is creating a line of dolls whose characters are smart, ambitious, and opinionated. I love their drive, their ambition, but most of all their sincere attitude of believing that they can change the world.

How do you get through tough times? What sustains you? 

A Stanford professor once said to us that “regret for what you’ve done is tempered with time, but regret for what you have not done is inconsolable”. This deeply resonated with me. I know that if I didn’t try my hand at creating a business, a piece of my soul would mourn forever. It is during the tough times that doubt can creep in and make you question why we’re doing what it is that we’re doing. Reminding myself of this quote helps me get through the tough times, and when I get a more permanent office this quote will be framed above my desk – currently I have the quote scribbled on a sticky note stuck to my computer screen!

 

James Joyce by Vincent Keeling

James Joyce by Vincent Keeling

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’? 

I used to get really disappointed when a maker I was excited about didn’t want to list on The Irish Workshop. I found it difficult to understand why because if they sold through us they retained 80% of the sales price (versus <50% in ordinary retail), we don’t charge signup or listing fess (so no financial risk) and we are giving them a window into international markets where they didn’t have a presence at all. In my head, it was a no-brainer. Now, I view it differently – the disappointment gets replaced with energy. It’s as if they have thrown down the gauntlet to us to prove ourselves worthy of their time and their work. I am happy to take on that challenge!

Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals?

I listen to the radio. I like how efficient it is; I can get up to speed on world news as I brush my teeth. I don’t like to leave the house without having a fresh smoothie. I can be a bit of a workaholic so I have a little mantra that says “do two nice things for your body every day” –  these things can be having that fresh smoothie in the morning, getting some exercise, eating extra healthily. They can be little things like walking further to get my lunch so that I can just move. The little mantra makes me measure albeit in a pretty crude way if I’m taking care of myself.

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path? 

I’m a natural introvert so I’m happy in my own company but I wish that someone had told me how lonely starting out can be unless you consciously check that you have daily human interaction. I remember when I first kicked off research from which The Irish Workshop was born; my husband would arrive home in the evening to be greeted with a 20 minute burst of non-stop chatter because I may not have spoken to anyone else that day!

And what advice would you give to your future self? 

I sometimes look back at things I have done and things I have achieved and think “how the hell did I do that?”. I think that as we get older we become more risk averse and that can put constraints on our dreams. I advise my future self to not only assess the practical/logical risks but to also assess the risks in giving up dreams.

PowerPoint Presentation

Peek a Mooh by Kelly Hood

What is coming up next for you? 

The Irish Workshop has my 100% attention for now. Working closely with my business partner, Fearghal Mulvihill, we will continue to focus on building out our community of makers to offer shoppers a richer product range. We will continue to partner with makers who take pride in their work, who are ambitious to grow their creative businesses, and whose products have a strong Irish narrative. In parallel, we will put considerable efforts into building up our customer base and experiment with different marketing channels – so many ideas, so little time!

 

Lynchmob Aran Hats by Davina Lynch

Lynchmob Hats by Davina Lynch

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And again, the link to The Irish Workshop – just in time for Christmas! Thank you Charmaine  x


Shop Update! New Original Drawings

 

A year ago I would have not believed you if you had told me that I’d have my own little online shop and be sharing my paintings with the world. Really. A lot can happen in a year.

Roll on a few seasons, and some late night encounters with creativity, and out popped a series of creatures whose spirits and personalities somehow spoke to me. I have enjoyed creating them so much and I am also enjoying sharing them.

Little Robin

 

So if you would like give one a home, and in time for Christmas, I have updated my Etsy shop with a series of these original paintings. Like this little Robin or this little Fox

IMG_7067

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Alongside the originals there is also a limited edition print of a little red squirrel (only 25 will ever be made), printed in The Copper House Gallery. The paper and quality of the print is just amazingly gorgeous, and the colours so vivid and fresh. Size 15.5 inches x 11.5 inches. The original is also available. See below.

I also have a series of beautifully frames paintings – if you are interested in purchasing one of these, please get in touch directly to arrange delivery/ pick-up. Prices of these range from €225 to €275 euro each (delivery will be additional).

They’ll make lovely gifts, for yourself or a loved one…

Clare Mulvany Drawings-7

Clare Mulvany Drawings-5

 

Clare Mulvany Drawings-11

 

Clare Mulvany Drawings-9

badger-12 sm

Clare Mulvany Drawings-2

 

Thank you all!