Flamework retreat in Ireland

boatAbout a year ago my friends and mentors Terry Hale and Marjorie Langston mentioned that they were arranging a flamework retreat to Mulranny, in County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland. Their description of the trip was very appealing, but my first thought was “I’d like to see Ireland, but not to sit in a studio for days”. My wife’s reaction was much more enthusiastic: “We should go, because while you’re in the studio I can paint landscapes.” We sent in our deposits in March, and got back from the trip about a month ago (seems like yesterday). We had a wonderful time, and are already making plans to return in 2017.

We flew into Dublin (our overnight flight was ok, but I couldn’t get comfortable and got no sleep), and met the group at the Ashling Hotel, near the river Liffey.  Luckily we didn’t have anything specific planned for that day, because I was wiped out by the flight.  We got together for an enjoyable dinner that night, and then the next day our group got a guided tour of the the Blaschka artwork in the collection of the Natural History Museum of the National Museum of Ireland.  The Blaschkas (Leopold and his son Rudolph) were innovative German artists who established a thriving business in the 1800’s making glass models, first of orchids, then marine invertebrates, and finally a huge commission of plants and flowers for the Harvard Museum.  We were there to see the Ireland Museum’s collection of Blaschka glass, including some amazing radiolarians.  Our tour guide was Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of the Natural History division.  With him was Emma Bourke, a glass artist who’s studied the Blaschka collection and is currently hoping to arrange a full show of a collection of pieces she’s done, involving medicinal plants and the organs they affect. She builds small replicas of the flowers at the torch, and then mounts them inside glass representations of the associated organ, and each piece is then finished as a article of jewelry, i.e. a pendant or a brooch.  We enjoyed meeting Emma and seeing some of her work, and the Blaschka specimens are amazing.

After two nights in Dublin we were off on Iarnród Éireann, the Irish rail, for a comfortable train ride to Westport (all trains should offer Guiness), and then a short road trip to Mulranny (spelling constantly debated) to the home of Cheryl Coburn Browne, our hostess for the rest of the trip.  Cheryl occasionally hosts creative groups such as ours, but her primary focus is Gift of Hands, a local craft collective that engages creative volunteers in the local community to produce craft for sale, the proceeds of which provide financial support for the Mulranny Environmental Group.

I’ll write more, but for now pictures of Dublin, the Blaschka collection and one of Mulranny.