At the beginning of my education in NCAD we were introduced to many materials: paper, wool, ceramics, metals and glass. It was wonderful to experience how their differing qualities responded to my ideas. Metal drew me in by its beauty and potential and the techniques needed to work it. Once I had some experience with them I was able to apply the process of design in developing jewellery concepts.
For my last summer in college I was awarded a scholarship to the Silvershop in the Kilkenny Design Workshops. There I had a wonderful introduction to the professional world of product design and a great time.
Learning in London
After college I went to London on a design scholarship to study jewellery making at The London Metropolitan University.
London was, and still is, a cultural hub home to a plethora of museums and galleries. Especially from the 1960s to the 1980s, it was an exhilarating time for art and all expressions of design. I revelled in it all!
During this time, I was very lucky to spend a couple of years employed by two London jewellery companies.
A return to the Ireland
After an inspiring experience in London, a return to Dublin followed with further bench work and valuable experience in a high end retail store.
There, I learnt what jewellery meant to the person in the street and the relationship they create around it.
Later I developed my ranges of jewellery inspired by Celtic studies, culture and travel. This appreciation of our culture has been to the fore in my collaborative work with the National Museum of Ireland.
The original silver Harvest Knot and St. Bridget’s Cross pendants were made during studies in NCAD as part of a college project on the tourist market.
An important influence for me in this work was a lecture given us by E. Estyn Evans the geographer and archaeologist. He encouraged us to consider our culture as a source for our work. His highly regarded book Irish Folkways (1957) opened my eyes to our vernacular culture and became a reference in some design work. Many aspects of rural life are described including the customs and rituals associated with Bridget’s Crosses woven from rushes and harvest knots from straw.
Ironically many years later the silver Harvest Knot and St. Bridget’s Cross were the first pieces I made in my studio and they are still part of my collection. The National Museum of Ireland stocks exclusive versions of the St. Bridget’s Cross.
I collaborate with the National Museum of Ireland and create jewellery inspired by select artefacts. These pieces are subsequently sold through their retail outlets and online.
The Museum – especially Archaeology, has been a special place for me since childhood. Several gold Bronze Age personal ornaments resonate as significant ones were found close to my family roots in Co. Clare.
These include the Glenisheen Collar that surely reflects a wealthy sophisticated society as it supported the craftsman, materials and production of such quality work.