The Magical Mind of Artist Rachel Webb

 

Born in North London, I grew up above my Dad’s antique musical box shop. In my 20s I joined a band of new travellers and eventually arrived in Ireland. After falling in love with Leitrim I made my home here in the early 90s. My 3 grown up children and grandson all live in the UK and Canada. I am a trained counsellor and now in my last year of a Fine Art degree.

We’d love to know what fires your imagination, what things take your breath away? Nature – animals, trees, rivers and hills, the mountains, birds and dogs, flowers, the wind and rain, sun and clouds – these are my passion and inspiration. Although I grew up in a city, the countryside called to me and I love to wake up to the sound of birds and cows! Maybe a donkey and some sheep too. I’m excited by life itself, by mystery and magic, by all that humans don’t know about the world and what might lie beyond our perceptions, as well as our immediate sensory reality. Music has always been important in the way it shifts my body and my mood.

What was the first thing you made, what was it and what age were you? Set the scene for us.  These are great questions! I painted a picture of a panda when I was about 8 that my Mum still has on her wall. I copied it from the World Wildlife logo. But I also remember making a den in some woods when I was about the same age, using sticks and bracken. It had a sign saying: ‘all animals welcome’. I think that’s probably the first hint of where my art and my life might lie.

  Fox no frameFox No Frame – Rachel Webb

 You live in a remote mountain community. Your work is clearly inspired by this. Was it a deliberate move? There were already blow-ins living here when I first visited. I was living at Lisadell beach at the time, with a bunch of other people in trucks and caravans. The community we had in Leitrim once I moved here was great. It was a very happy time with lots of kids and growing veg and being content with very little. I left for a while but I came back because I’m in love with Benbo and North Leitrim. Whenever I see the hill in the distance, I know I’m home.

What artists do you admire and why?  Ha – an endless list. I have huge love for Kate Bush and Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and lots of Americana. Currently I’m listening to Wardruna – a dark, runish Norwegian band, and Nicolas Jaar who my daughter turned me onto.  Visually, I really enjoy Bill Viola’s videos, and recently was overwhelmed by ”The Revenant’, so brutal and beautiful. Today I watched a great video by Luke Fowler about Scottish travellers, and I keep re-watching David Holmes’ short film ‘I Am Here’ which I find very moving, and it’s filmed just up the road. I love movies: Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, True Romance, the English Patient, Bladerunner, Dead Man, Lost Highway, Babel, Magnolia, Only Lovers Left Alive.  David Attenborough’s nature progammes have had a great influence and also writers like Michael Ondaaje, Angela Carter, Rose Tremain and David Mitchell. There’s a lot of eco-art that I like – a Scottish artist called Dougie Strang who creates spooky and immersive installations in woods and on moors; an English collective called Red Earth that do dramatic rituals in the landscape; Mary MacIntyre, a Northern Irish photographer of liminal places that are beautiful and uncanny. Locally, I have really liked Simon Carmen’s work for a long time. Actually, I like a lot of weird art, to do with folktales, legends and uneasy landscapes, humans with animal heads, the edge between us and the rest of the world.

Do you keep notebooks, have you a system when approaching your work and do you prefer solitary practice or group activities? At college they’ve really encouraged us to keep a visual diary but I’m terrible at that. I keep written notebooks and take thousands of photos. My practice is solitary – I like my own company! I’m just developing a way of making videos. I tried doing a storyboard but it felt so rigid and all the energy drained away. I work with an idea in mind but take lots of different shots, then edit them together and see what I need to add. I’m just as interested in the sound aspect – using layers of natural sound with spoken words. With photo montage I use photos I’ve already got, I take lots all the time. Mostly of nature, no people. I’ll find one I like and then open it on photoshop and try other photos, textures, objects with it, erasing sections, using layers, until I get a combination that works for me.

You are nearing the end of a long and focused period of education. As a mature student take us through what it has been like, would you recommend it and what did you learn aside from the course?  There are things I think we should have learned more thoroughly at the start – we didn’t get any formal drawing tuition, and I’m still not good at drawing. Some of the tutors are great, some not so much. But I’ve learned how to see so much better, how to think about my work and research and let ideas percolate and merge and morph. I went to college intending to be a painter but now I work mainly with photos and video, so that’s a real change. I’ve learned a great deal from my fellow students. It’s a wonderful group with lots of ideas and insight. I would recommend anyone who wants to paint to go to Sligo IT – it’s very strong on painting. But I think other places might be better for digital work. Although one thing that Sligo offers is that students don’t have to settle for one area, an art student can access the ceramic workshop and print studio at any time in their studies, as well as painting, drawing etc. I feel so lucky to have been able to study something I love so much later in life. I would tell anyone in their 40s, 50s or older – if you feel there’s something you’ve always wanted to study, just go for it. It’s a thrill to be learning new things, feeling new ideas and making work in which you can immerse yourself.

Do you see yourself as an artist first and foremost?  I’m beginning to see myself as an artist now. I’m also a counsellor and a mindfulness teacher, and I love those roles too. But being an artist feels like a way of being in the world, a way of feeling and expressing oneself. I’m moving into that now: realising that I’m going to keep going with this work, growing with it and continuing to evolve.

What, about living in Leitrim do you like?  Leitrim is really special, isn’t it? The landscape is breathtakingly lovely – hills and lakes, hidden boreens and all the history. I love the way that ruined buildings are just left to slowly dissolve into the land. The people are generally warm and witty. Manorhamilton has grown so much since I first lived here in 1994. Then it really felt remote and very quiet, now we have the Beepark, the Women’s centre, the Glen’s Centre, the Sculpture centre, the Five Glens Festival, the farmers’ market and Supervalue! Do you know that Leitrim has a higher number of artists per head than any other county in Ireland? I think it’s a good place for people who like to spend time alone but still want to feel part of a community. You can come down from the hills now and then and say hello to all the fa
miliar faces, then scurry back to your nest. It’s perfect for me. When I moved to Ireland I was very alienated. Ireland has healed me – Leitrim has given me a home and a sense of belonging.

Do you have a favourite form of artistic expression? is there one that you find particularly challenging?   I love the camera. The challenge of trying to portray something of what I feel out in the landscape. Not that I manage it very often, but I love to try. And I also really enjoy using photoshop and using a video editor. The whole process is a delight. One step out in the natural world, in the weather, stomping up the hills or lurking in forestry, the next step all comfy at home on the laptop, with a cup of tea. I find drawing challenging, I’d like to do more and get better at it.

Now that you are finishing your studies, do you have a plan/idea for the next few years or do you prefer to see what presents itself?  This summer I intend to make a website for my photo montage work. I’m going to apply for exhibitions, awards etc and see how I go. I’m hoping to develop my installation work and see if I can get any gallery space for that. I really want to keep growing as an artist. It has crossed my mind to apply for an MFA up in Belfast – they have some wonderful tutors and a part-time option. But I need a year off college just to see how it goes being an artist out in the world!

Fab Lab Manorhamilton


 

Stuart Lawn is currently the director of FABLAB Manorhamilton, a digital fabrication facility and creative makerspace in rural Leitrim. Previously he was a Post-punk Bassist, an Indie A&R Man, Sound Engineer, Record Producer, IT support Techie and Broadcast Technical Director. He believes given half a chance everyone has a great design or an innovative product inside them and he really wants to be there to help make that spark of creativity happen.Fab Lab Pic 3

The Fab Lab is an amazing idea.  What is the concept and where did it originate from?

The first Fab Lab started about 12 years ago as an MIT educational outreach project and was based in a community training centre in Inner City Boston. The concept, orginated by Professor Neil Ger Shenfeld from MIT, proposed a Fab Lab as providing access to digital fabrication technologies to empower individuals and organisations to turn their ideas into new prototypes and products. A Fab Lab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, and to invent.

All Fab Labs share a common set of digital fabrication tools, such as Laser Cutters, 3D Printers, Vinyl Cutters, Electronic Prototyping and Programming tools. This makes collaboration with other Fab Labs around the world easier.

From that first Lab in Boston there are now over 600 Fab Labs worldwide, on every continent except Antartica. In Ireland there are 5, Belfast, Derry, Limerick, Cloughjordan and now Manorhamilton!

Did you work alone or with a team, and if others were involved, how did they help to shape the unique experience that is Fab Lab Manorhamilton.

I’d long held an interest in Fab Labs after seeing a TED talk that Neil Gershenfeld gave on the concept. The idea of actually starting a Fab Lab was first considered by myself, Leo Scarff and Alastair (Ali) Farrell in Nov 2014. We are all Makers and have a passion for using digital technology to create things, be that music, apps, graphics, design, furniture or gadgets. Leo is an experienced product and furniture designer and Ali is an immensely talented CAD designer and programmer. Between us we realised that the opportunities and physical space for individuals, groups and businesses to experiment on new products and ideas was lacking in the North West and that we should create that space. So in June 2015 we did and FABLAB Manorhamilton was born!

What was the initial reaction from the general public?

We had Fab Lab Pic 2already tested the waters by running a Pop Up Fab Lab at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre in Feb 2015 and from that we had surveyed the audience to see what people wanted to see in the Fab Lab. So from this we had a good idea of how to pitch it to various groups. Our first full event was a week long summer camp for children. This sold out very quickly and we had to run extra dates to accommodate all the children that wanted to take part. It was a terrific beginning for the Fab Lab.

We are finding that people need to see the Lab and for us to explain the technology but once you do that they get it pretty quickly and you can see the cogs turning as they work out what they could make with it all. So we are doing more free taster sessions at the Lab and Pop Up Fab Labs in other locations to get people up close and personal with the concepts.

What type of customer do you identify with?  Do you have a regular client base?

The tagline of Fab Labs the world over is that they are places where “Anyone Can Make (Almost) Anything”. We work with adults and children, amateurs and professionals, businesses and hobbyists. Our regular client base would include Northwest Artists and Makers who either want to experiment with new materials or technology or want to micro-manufacture a short run of pieces to sell. We also do a lot of work with local community groups and schools in Leitrim.

Can you give some example of the types of projects that have been made in the Fab Lab?

Fab Lab Pic 1Since we opened, the Fab Lab has hosted a wide variety of projects from a diverse range of clients. Some examples of the projects produced at the Lab include, Laser Cut 3D Sculpture, Interior Signage, T-Shirt Design and Printing, Jewelry Design and Prototyping, a Mechanical Loom, Stencils and Stampers, Bespoke Furniture, 3D Map Making, Engraved Glass Art and 3D Printed Toys.

3D Printing was an almost alien concept just a few years ago. The idea would have been unthinkable. Can you talk us through the process?

3D Printing as a technology is actually 3 decades old. The first 3D printer was sold in 1986, it was as big as a fridge and cost over €150,000! The technology and cost has reduced in size over the last 30 years.

All the 3D Printers we have in the Fab Lab use a special plastic called PLA. It is a by-product of corn oil manufacture and is an eco-friendly material. 3D Printing works in a similar way to the egg slicer gadget in your kitchen at home. You start with a 3D model on your computer and in the same way that your egg gets split up into layers by the slicer, the 3D model gets sliced up into lots of thin layers. These slices are then sent one by one to the 3D printer which puts down layer after layer of the melted PLA until it has reconstructed the object in full. Needless to say this process can be time-consuming.

I predict that in 5 years time 3D Printing will be as common in homes as Inkjet Printing. At the New York Toy Fair last month, Mattel showed a 3D printer designed for children, called a Thingmaker, that will go on sale later this year for €300. It will allow children to design, customise and 3D print their own action Lego-like action figures and dolls.

What facilities and services are most used at FabLab Manorhamilton and how, in the future, do you see the business develop and grow.

The most used machine at the Fab Lab is the Laser Cutter. The sheer versatility of these amazing machines with their ability to engrave designs and make precise cuts mean they can be used to make all kinds of things. Also the range of materials that a Laser Cutter can work with is endless. It can engrave on practically anything, even chocolate and seaweed. Plus it can cut acyrlic, wood, plastic, paper, cardboard, leather, cotton, felt and most man made fabrics. We love designing stuff for the Laser Cutter and we provide this as a service to anyone who wants to create a working prototype of an idea or just to create a one off special item.

A developing area is the training side of the business. Up to now we have run short courses that are very hands on. The idea being that people hit the ground running and get using the machines to make things quickly. For these workshops we like to show how easy it is to get started with using digital fabrication tools.

In the next few months though we will have developed a longer QQI5 certified course that gives people a recognised qualification. This course will involve working individually and also in teams to complete a design brief and create a portfolio of digital fabrication and design work that can be used as a stepping stone to 3rd level education. We really want people to be inspired by the possibilities the Fab Lab offers.

What things or ideas inspire you?

In general it is usually the ideas that have the power to transform peoples lives in a profound way that inspire me. I’m from the UK and I worked for a while with amputees and seeing how prosthetic limbs can make the difference between a person being in a wheelchair or walking or holding a spoon again will stay with me forever. Of course, now with 3D Printing it is possible to print fully functioning mechanical hands and limbs that are uniquely tailored to each individual. The charity E-nable are creating open source designs for upper limb prosthetic hands and lower arms and using the community of 3D printer enthusiasts to print the parts for affected users worldwide. It is a truly inspiring thing to see a young boy pick up a ball and throw it for the first time in his life due to a 3D printed hand. The Fab Lab has signed up to be a fabricator of these parts so I’m really happy to do something inspiring with 3D printing.

Breda Wall Ryan

Award winning poet Breda Wall Ryan attended the 5GA festival last year and read her work at The Castle Cottage Repertoire. This week, we are lucky to be speaking with her and getting some insight into the mind of this remarkable poet.  Her new collection of poetry, ‘In a Hare’s Eye’ is available now from Doire Press.

in a hares eye breda wall ryan

 

We’d love to know what fires your imagination Breda, what things take your breath away?  I’m always amazed to discover more of the patterns underpinning everything in the universe – the human psyche, genetics, the natural world.  Seeing fractals in a frost-fern or a coastline, global warming recurring over millennia, familial traits being replicated over several generation; that’s magical. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m drawn to poetry with its many incidents of pattern.  Can you remember the first poem you wrote and how old were you? My closest friend says I wrote in my late teens or twenties. I don’t remember it and she can’t find it, for which let us all be truly thankful.

What was your first published poem and in which publication did it appear? As far as I remember, ‘Folk Remedy’ and ‘The Snow Woman’ were my first. Shortlisted for a Mslexia Poetry Prize, they appeared in Mslexia. Both Vicki Feaver’s judge’s comments and the cheque in payment were very affirming.  Are there any poets you return to over and over? There are so many! I always carry at least two collections of poetry. Some of my favourite ‘Elder Poets’ are Elizabeth Bishop, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ada Limon, Dorrian Laux, Valzhyna Mort, WS Merwin, Dennis O’Driscoll, Paula Meehan, Thomas McCarthy, Denise Levertov. I won’t name the emerging and mid-career poets whose work I return to, for fear of leaving one out.  With regard to approaching your practice, are you consistent and disciplined, do you ever get writers block? I’m consistent in that I think and read a lot, or rather, read and think. I always carry a notebook and jot down phrases and images as they occur to me. When it comes to getting down to work, I’m a binge writer. I don’t begin until I’ve accumulated masses of material – facts, fragments, lines, etc. Questions, too. The poem arrives then, ready to begin. I draft and re-draft until I have something I’m happy to call a first draft, which I type up on the computer. I usually have five or six poems-in-progress. Some takes weeks, months or even years to finish. That may sound like a chaotic approach, but I think it’s disciplined. Of course I get writer’s block. Who doesn’t? It’s a fancy expression for anxiety. Writer’s block is like rain. I know it will end, but this is Ireland so it can go on for a long time. Never mind. I think of it as reading time. Then, out of the blue – or the reading – a fragment of a new poem arrives, ready for me to begin again.  Do you have a favourite place to write?  I love to write on the train, with just pen and paper. The space is so bright and uncluttered, with its tiny drop-down table and voices and engine sounds in the background. I also have a desk with far too much ‘stuff’ on it, where I work on my laptop.  Do you have any superstitions?  I have to wear warm socks when I write – no, I’m not at all superstitious, I just hate having cold feet.  Have you ever been surprised by your writing?  Yes. I’m sure it happens to every poet and to fiction writers, too. Often a poem begins as one thing, and develops in a quite different direction. Often, the beginning is simply finding one’s way into the poem. Given free reign, the imagination and the poem can take a strange direction. Do you have a muse, could you describe it?  I could, but I won’t for fear of hexing it! I’ll say solitude is important, if I drift down into my unconscious, my inspiration will find me. How did you become a poet?  I didn’t begin seriously writing until I had passed the half-century point. For the first five or six years, I concentrated on fiction. Later, I spent time in hospital where I was given strong painkillers, which affected my memory. I had a notebook to write down things I needed to remember. When I had recovered I looked through the notebook and found lots of fragments of poems which I had no recollection of writing. I thought, maybe this is what I’m meant to do. So, in 2008, I began learning my craft.  Creatively, who is your support group? I’m a founder member of both Hibernian Poetry and Green Kite Writers. We read each other’s work closely and rigorously, and I find the generous criticism and support of both groups invaluable.

 


Dreamless
A million crawling things run spiderwise
inside her skin, her skeleton is glass,
she needs another hit, and fast,

her skin is needle-tracked, she works
the street for heroin to stop the spiderlings,
she does a punter in a dash against a fence

and scores a thirty-second rush,
glass splinters in her veins fuse
into a waterfall of raindrops,

magic light spills from her fingertips,
she’s blissed out, dreaming weightless while
the good brown horse outruns her dream,

she’s goofing now, slumped outside a church,
between her knees a paper cup she holds out
like a sacred heart to passers-by,

small change spills through her fingertips
but not enough, another stranger in a car
earns her more dreams, she sucks her tongue

for spit to swallow fear, swears
on the Sacred Heart that she’ll get clean,
then mugs the punter with a syringe,

again the spiderlings criss-cross her skin
and crawl inside her arm-tracks,
two blow-jobs on her knees to get a high,

she cooks the gear, a bag of china white,
loads up a syringe, smacks a vein, ties off
and hits; her hopes are answered with amen,

the dragon’s knocked brown sugar girl
off her horse, the fall has sucked out
all her breath, her eyes are pinned,

she feels no crawly things, she has no skin,
her bones are glass, her heartbeats trickle
from her fingertips like raindrops when

the rain’s about to stop…

— Breda Wall Ryan

 

You can read more of Bredas poems here and here

Bredas facebook

 

Blooming Fabulous Vintage Tea Parties

In our first feature from the wonderfully talented people who were involved in last year’s festival and upcoming festival 2016 we present JoAnne Neary’s micro memoir.  Pure Magic!

JoAnne Portrait

My name is JoAnne Neary, I have lived in North Leitrim for the past decade. I am a creative soul who can’t imagine life without music, and am mother of three and a wife to one. I like to see the positive.

All sorts of things fire my imagination, everyday things, but you see I am extremely lucky. I live high up in the forestry in Glenboy, and when it snows I feel like I live in a snow globe. We are in such a remote spot that we have our very own ecosystem. We are only a very recent addition to Google maps. It is a real hideaway. On a frosty night when the sky is clear and the sky is full of stars you could wander about and feel like you are on the edge of the earth.  The Horse Chestnut at the front of our house is something else. It changes every day, and in autumn it really is so awesome it would take your breath away. The bottom of it is covered in a beautiful thick green moss that you are tempted to pull off because it feels good to but then you would miss it so you don’t. Instead I pull moss off some rocks and enjoy the sensation of it and the noise it makes.  The green mossy hills of the West of Ireland fire my imagination; I would so love a green velvet house coat like them. In the right light I can imagine these hills are a giant Celtic glamourpuss lying back in her green velvet house coat. The meadow at the front of my house in Spring and Summer, watching it come alive with flowers and frogs, listening to the stream rush past and the birds sing in the trees…..all these things fire my imagination. But having said that I love to get away from it too, and go someplace where I have anonymity. I love people watching. I can invent all sorts of scenarios about what people could be up to or where they are going, what their lives may be like, and ooooh her shoes are lovely.  Seeing an elderly man on an 80 SO nifty fifty with a shopping bag on his lap and one slung over his shoulder can fire one’s imagination. Has he always owned this bike? It drives pretty slowly. Is that his big weekly shop? Could he not choose an easier way of transporting it all, sure maybe he likes it the way it is, Jezis that’s some balancing act. He had a mint green shell tracksuit top on, now how could a vision like that not fire your imagination?

The first thing I baked was queen cakes with my Nana Ryan, I must have been about five or six at the most. She baked bread and all sorts of fabulous things daily so the house always smelt divine. The most torturous time was when the buns would sit wafting that “eat me aroma” on a wire rack to cool. She would always say you couldn’t eat them when they were hot because you would get a pain in your stomach that is a total myth!!! To this day queen cakes bring me back to my childhood and they were the first things I baked with my daughter. I don’t ever remember seeing anyone use a cookbook when I was younger, unlike myself who is quite dependent on google for inspiring dinner ideas to save me popping to the shop…..again.

Another dish that brings me back to my childhood is shepherd’s pie. I used to hate it, it was vile as far as I was concerned, and how could they expect me to eat this? Now it is one of my family’s most enjoyed winter meals. It is definitely my rainy day comfort food. The recipe is not for those concerned with their cholesterol as the creamed potato has lashings of milk, egg yolk and butter.  We have amended the recipe a little; we have “Upside down shepherd’s pie”.  Basically you just don’t wait for it to go into the oven and just pour the meat all over your creamy mash.

I think the only thing I would never ever try is rat, even in the creamiest yummiest most decadent of sauces. Even if I were in a Cormac Mc Carthy The Road scenario I just couldn’t bring myself to doing it. The oddest combination of food I have tried is the Central American combination of fried egg, refried beans and fried banana (plantain) for breakfast. Initially I thought the combination just seemed odd but it really was delicious.

My five essential larder items are, these really aren’t exciting and I am not counting tea bags. The tea is a given. I could not function without a cuppa in the morning.

1.Eggs, these come from the chickens in the back garden. The yolks are so yellow and tasty.

  1. My herbs and spices, curry being one of my favourite.

3.Meat . We all love our meat and I always buy it from the local butcher John Gilligan. All of his produce is locally sourced. Our Christmas turkey was reared about two fields away in Glenboy. It is great to support our local farmers. John is great, I would nearly just pop into the shop for the craic.

  1. Tomatoes, a base for all the yummy curries and vegetable Bolognese sauces. I have discovered that you can sneak sorts of veggies into these sauces and even the fussiest eaters devour them. I’m always tempted to say “do you know what I put into that?” but hold back just in case the fussy wee noses turn up the next time it is served.
  2. Flour, for making a roux for your sauces, pancakes, buns, scones, buns, muffins. We have even used it to make out own play dough, great fun.

My favourite restaurant is Montmartre in Sligo; classic French cuisine is my favourite. What I love about this place is that, well for one the food is absolutely divine, so delicious. But I feel just as comfortable here tarted up to the nines as I would if I were wearing the clothes that have baby puke scraped off them, (thankfully these days are behind me). Also the choosy little ones are always welcome guests at any time.

I can’t not mention a little “coffee shop” that I will never forget. It was down an arch somewhere is Brussels. It was an extremely cold Sunday in February and we had been checking out some vintage flea markets. We had popped down this arch to where there were a number of vintage clothes stalls and just off this was a little place where we could maybe get some lunch. Now I use the term coffee shop loosely. It was a room with high ceilings and concrete floors and it was sparsely furnished. We sat on an old red leather bus seat and the place was empty but it smelt like there was something good cooking. A tall lady wearing a mid-length pencil skirt, big furry coat, fingerless gloves and the highest of high heels came to serve us. She also had a sharp bob hairstyle, think Louise Brooks!  Well I was having major style envy. She informed us that they served only one thing, chicken broth and yes they did have tea. We ordered one of each. She tottered over and placed our order on the table which was a wooden electric cable spool. My tea came in a pot and with a beautiful china cup and saucer. I wasn’t particularly warm in here but could have happily taken up residence. I was in heaven.

You see for me it is about more than just the tea or the food. Yes of course the food has to be good but it is also about how it is presented, what surrounds you as you enjoy it. It is about the pretty plates. It is about the ambience, and the whole experience.  I had an experience in that place that I would like others to experience. I got a bit lost and it was lovely.

That place in Brussels had a profound effect on me and on leaving it I thought that I would really like to have a place like that one day. That was six years ago now. I would have tea parties for myself and my friends at home, weather permitting in the garden. If I had a couple of friends and a few squawking toddlers or a whole load of people over I would invest the same amount of effort. It is nice to make the effort for my friends and those close to me, because they have always been so encouraging and helpful. One dear friend who is always there for me and who is always stealing the thunder with her scrumptious mini lemon cheesecakes is Olivia Mitchell. She is so creative and is always thinking of ways of giving the sweet treats a more vintage feel. I’d be lost without her. I also have a friend Michelle and we always get giddy about the creative bits. We have a lot of similar ideas and it’s always great fun brain storming with her. She lives thousands of miles away now but thanks to technology we can still exchange ideas .Another lady I’d be lost without is my aunt Therese, she goes above and beyond to help me all the time. She keeps her eyes peeled for nice china, shares nice recipes with me, lifts and drops my daughter for me, listens to me moan, we share laughs and buns and she always says “go for it”. To be honest I am really very lucky because I am surrounded by many wonderful and positive people. You need that I think.

Last year’s Five Glens Arts Festival was the first big Vintage Tea Party I did. I really hadn’t expected such an amazing response. The stars really were aligned in all the right ways that day. Maura and Tony Daly, owners of Manorhamilton Castle opened their doors to us with open arms, even lending us some of their most beautiful china for the day. They couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming which instantly made us feel at ease and confident. When I say we that is I and my pals Aisling and Tanya who had come to visit and support the event. Little did they know they be up to their elbows in meringues and washing up. If it weren’t for them I don’t think this maiden voyage would have been possible. Since then I have done a number of events and in the coming months have many different types of events coming up. You’d be amazed by the number of people who get excited at the thought of a vintage tea party.

So what has made me decide to set up Bloomin Fabulous Vintage Tea Parties? Apart from the fact that people really seem to like them I am a woman who wants it all (my husband would agree!) My husband, like many other husbands and fathers, works away which means I don’t have as much flexibility as I would like. I want to be here for my children when they need me but I also want to have a venture that is just for me. I’m enjoying the process of trying to start a small business, and as it is on a shoestring budget I have to be very creative and I am really enjoying that challenge. For years I wished I had an entrepreneurial spirit but maybe the time just wasn’t right then. The time is right now, and I really feel that I can do this well and it is doing something that I really love. I like everything about it. Compiling the playlist, thinking about the space and how I am going to fill it and bring a vintage vibe in. I like arranging the dainty sandwiches so the fillings are alternated and look pretty on the plate. I want it to be nice and I really like it when it turns out well. It is all very early days yet and sometimes after I commit to a job which I know will take a lot of effort I have to kick start the mantra in my head “you can do it, you can do it”, and I really think I can and I think  it will be bloomin fabulous.