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CRAFTY: A childhood spent by the sea is inspiration for Kendra Pauloin's decorative William the Fish ceramic pieces.
CRAFTY: A childhood spent by the sea is inspiration for Kendra Pauloin's decorative William the Fish ceramic pieces.
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Cork craft experts go with the artistic flow

FROM bookbinding and jewellery-making to furniture design and just about any craft you can think of, Cork Craft Month, which continues until September 3, has something to offer everyone.

Whether you’re viewing or purchasing, an embarrassment of riches is on offer.

Now in its eighth year, it is organised by Cork Craft & Design, a voluntary organisation that brings together craft makers from many disciplines based in Cork city and county.

We spoke to three of the Cork craftspeople who are involved...

GEM OF A DESIGNER

Jewellery designer, Eva Rodríguez, is a 51-year-old Spaniard who found her true calling in Cork, as well as marriage the second time round.

Originally from Galicia, she left her job in a house demolition business as “life was tough because of the economic situation”.

Eva, who has two children, aged 10 and 28, reinvented herself in Cork, attending the jewellery design and making course at St John’s Central College.

She used to make jewellery as a child, “using the shells from the beach and displaying them on my towel to sell to the tourists in Spain”.

She adds: “After a life of jewellery making, learning from books and media, I decided to study at St John’s College to learn the proper skills to work with silver. I think my work is intuitive and spontaneous and my pieces come alive when worn.”

Eva uses an enamelling process for her jewellery.

“I love to play with fire and see how the enamels melt, change colour and fuse with the metal for form a piece,” she says.

Eva Rodriguez who studied jewellery making at St Johns Central College. Colette Sheridan Feature
Eva Rodriguez who studied jewellery making at St Johns Central College. Colette Sheridan Feature

“Then, I form the silver bezels to set the enamels, cut and shape the wood, make the chain and finally set the stones to give birth to a new piece.

“I am inspired by the colours and shapes of Spain. They are in my blood.”

Eva lives in Bantry in West Cork, where she makes her jewellery and also does some private teaching.

“I am progressing with my own business. I can’t complain. My pieces are medium priced. A ring costs between €100 t and €150.”

Eva was introduced to her Irish husband by her daughter, who was teaching him Spanish. “We became really good friends and got married a few months ago,” says Eva.

We actually first got married seven years ago but it wasn’t legal. For our marriage, I made my own wedding ring and I made cuff links for Mark (O’Sullivan.)

SCULPTING LIFE UNDER THE WAVES

Kendra Pauloin-Valory is a ceramicist who studied at the Crawford College of Art and Design and who has had to contend with a brain tumour.

“My body of work reflects on my childhood memories, growing up by the sea in Dun Laoghaire with my grandparents,” she says. “It’s where my love for sea creatures began.”

Kendra says whenever she sees the seaside, she thinks of her grandfather, William McElroy, “imagining him as the fish swim by me, still looking out for me since he passed away in 2009”.

She adds: “I wanted to create a series of sculptures in memory of him.”

Kendra mainly makes sea creatures. “I didn’t want them to be realistic. They’re more whimsical, nearly cartoon-like, reminding me of my childhood. One of my statues is a standing fish.”

Kendra Pauloin
Kendra Pauloin

Describing her method of work, Kendra puts her pieces through a firing process known as Raku.

“The work is removed from the kiln at 1,000 degrees and placed in a container of combustible materials resulting in a crackled glaze surface.

“For protection, I use gloves, an apron and a mask. I use claws to take out each piece from the kiln.”

One of the reasons that Kendra was very close to her grandfather was because he encouraged her in her artistic work “especially when I was going through a rough time”.

She explains: “I was diagnosed with a (benign) brain tumour at the age of three. I relapsed at the age of 14 in 2005. My grandfather was there for me the whole way.

“He would bring me painting by numbers sets and encouraged me to go back to art classes.

“He helped me to get through the anxiety I had as a result of going through the brain surgery.

“I have a bit of a learning disability, although I understand things very well visually. I can never fully get rid of the brain tumour because it’s connected to my left temporal lobe. I don’t dwell on it. It’s all I’ve ever known.”

When Kendra was a teenager, she was given a treasured gift from the Make a Wish Foundation.

“My wish was for a pottery wheel and a kiln and some clay. I also got to do a two-day workshop with a lady in France who taught me how to throw pottery. I always wanted to do pottery.”

Clearly, Kendra’s wishes have come true.

“I’m working at my ceramics from home now in Kildare,” she says. “I need my own raku kiln. I’m thinking of making one or buying one. It could cost €3,000.

“I would love to supply craft shops and maybe do a bit of teaching on the side.”

FURNITURE AS ART

Rory Drinan has completed his first year at Colaiste Stiofáin Naofa in furniture design. Originally from the south of England, near Brighton, he moved to Cork 12 years ago at the age of 20.

He was here for a relative’s wedding, wasn’t working at the time and decided to stay, getting work in a hotel in West Cork.

Rory moved to the city at the age of 25 and studied fine art at the Crawford for three years, choosing not to complete his degree as “it just felt like fine art wasn’t for me”.

He adds: “I recently moved my practice into the field of furniture design and making. This has allowed me to pursue my passion to create functional pieces of art work.

Rory Drinan.
Rory Drinan.

“Since making this transition, I have found timber to be a hugely rewarding material to work with, for its durability and versatility.

“I want to continue to explore the countless techniques and skills that working in this field have to offer.”

Rory’s piece for the Craft Month is a table which is designed to be displayed in a modern setting.

“Using architectural shapes and forms as my original source, I wanted to draw attention to both the positive and negative spaces that were created,” he explains. “To best explore these ideas, I felt it necessary to stick to a basic colour scheme using two tones with a high level of contrast.

“It was important to me that while I wanted there to be a strong architectural theme running throughout the piece, I was still able to enhance and display the natural beauty of the wood.

“By bleaching the table top instead of painting it, I was able to achieve the desired lighter tone while simultaneously maintaining the grain of the wood.”

Rory has been travelling around festivals this summer, doing installations.

“It’s great experience. One of my installations involved 7,000 flattened bottle tops. It’s great to have my work displayed to different audiences that wouldn’t normally reach you in say a gallery.”

But Rory admits that he’s “itching to get back to college in September” and says: “The furniture design course is great. I did my work experience with two of the teachers from CSN. They are Fergus Somers and Sean Breen. They’re setting up a not-for-profit organisation called Bench Space at the Marina Commercial Park.”

This will allow craftspeople to use expensive tools on a rental basis rather than having to buy equipment.

It sounds like something that will benefit all sorts of makers in the Cork area.

For more information on Cork Craft Month, see www.corkcraftanddesign.com