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3 Creative Questions to Claire O'Brien

3 Creative Questions to Claire O'Brien

In this blog 3 creative questions to Ireland based artist Claire O’Brien. Her career as an artist developed naturally from childhood as a self taught painter, and through her love of observational drawing and drama. She has always held particular interest in pattern, although this did not directly lead to her career in stained-glass, it helped her to become immersed in it. Art is the only way that Claire can truly relax, so it was a natural progression for her because she could never see herself doing anything else.

Claire studied stained-glass as an apprentice 23 years ago and did not return to it full time until a year ago. In the meantime she studied for a certificate in Art, Craft and Design, then a Diploma in Art in Society and furthered this to Degree level. Teaching art has always been a passion of Claire, so she applied for a much sought after Higher Post-Graduate Diploma for Art and Design teaching, and was chosen as one of 30 students out of 300 applicants. However after a tough year of studying and work placement she graduated into recession Ireland and found it difficult to get work. This led to her working as a home tutor for the Education Welfare Board for 7 years, and even though she helped countless teenagers, her passion for art and the need to be close to her children gave her the push to return to glassmaking. 

Claire set up The Glassmakers Yard in 2017, and she never looked back. It was a huge risk both emotionally and financially, but she decided that she would rather do something that she loved than any money in the world. Now she gets to make art, to teach, and because she primarily work from her beautiful little log cabin workshop at home, she also gets to be with her children so much more. This new found balance in life, translates in her beautiful stained glass artwork.

(click on the individual images to get a closer look)

How did you get involved with stained glass and what interests you most about this art form?

This is a story of being in the right place at the right time, although looking back I believe I was destined to be there. 

I had just finished my final exams in secondary school and had prepared a portfolio for art college. I was house sharing and working as a waitress during my summer holidays in Wexford town. One of my housemates happened to be Vera Whelan, a local stained-glass artist. We instantly clicked, and over a conversation about art one night Vera asked to see my portfolio. She went on to offer me an apprenticeship in stained-glass, and we are great friends to this day. Vera's patience, expertise and all round good nature was the perfect influence for me back then, and throughout my career. 

What interests me most about stained-glass is it's sheer opulence and natural beauty. You cannot make a bad piece! The positivity you receive from friends and clients alike is heartwarming. Glass is the cold medium that warms our hearts and appeals to our senses. It lifts your mood and naturally brightens the dullest of days. I also love how versatile the medium is. From painting on it, to making small scale copper foiled pieces, on to larger scale for houses and  grand scale pieces for churches and businesses. 

Concerning your work: what has been/is your biggest challenge and what do you consider your greatest success so far?

My biggest challenge in working with glass has always been the confines of measurements and permanency of the space where the panel is being installed. Because I am naturally a painter, my work in that medium is not set to a particular space, and I didn't have to bear thought or consideration to the installation. Unless it is an exhibition piece, when you work with leaded glass you are usually set to certain dimensions, colours chosen by clients, and more often than not, restricted by a particular budget. Working with lead lines can also be challenging, because you have to try to communicate a pattern or scene without overloading it.

My greatest success so far? ... 

I have found my niche in restoration, and painting on glass. I find the greatest satisfaction in this field. To be able to take on an otherwise useless window, alter it to fit a different space, or return it to it's former glory is a painstaking but very rewarding task. I am a modernist artist with a deep rooted appreciation for historical resonance, so to take something old, and put a modern twist on it is what I do best. It is very satisfying to turn something otherwise useless into a piece that has a whole new life and purpose, and I truly admire my clients who share and appreciate the importance of this vision both for recycling and restorative purposes. The history of some of the windows I work on is absolutely fascinating. Vintage glass is a pleasure to behold. That quality just does not exist anymore.

What is your best tip for an emerging artist?

My best tip for an emerging artist is, be prepared to fail, and fail again, but follow your heart, and don't give up. If you want to make a business from your art it it advisable to study popular culture and trends and find a niche for your 'bread and butter'. Be honest with yourself, be critical, and ask the opinions of those who are close enough to give you honest feedback. And lastly, always say 'Yes' even if you are scared! 

To find out more about Claire’s work, visit her Facebook page by clicking here.

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