Monday 26 March 2012

Bending perspectives

The docklands area has changed radically over the last ten years. Looking at the new skyline, it's fun to imagine how the award-winning, seven storey Design Tower was once an imposing building in terms of its scale. Nowadays, it still stands proud amongst an eclectic mix of new buildings, including the Daniel Libeskind  Grand Canal Theatre and the 12 storey Alto Vetro apartment block, (scale creatively depicted above and below!)

The Bolands Mill buildings seen in the image below, ceased production in 2001. Both the concrete and brick built buildings have considerable historical significance. The site was sold for €42M in 2004 and was to be redeveloped for apartments and offices.

While looking for information on Boland's Mills, I came across an amazing (but never realised) proposal by Julien De Smedt Architects, in 2008, which sought to build a public baths within the dockland basin:

"The Dublin Docklands Open Air Bath seeks to create a new and open public space that will energize the newly developed surrounding area. A catalyst for growth of new social activity, this public bath also serves as a link across the Grand Canal, consolidating the Docklands Area and continuing an important passage through the city of Dublin. Consisting of a children’s pool, diving pool, semi-Olympic pool, changing facilities, and a cafĂ©, this addition to the Dublin Docklands maximizes the potential for social development and land development."

A project which did come to fruition is The Lir Dance theatre. We're delighted to have them as our new neighbours. As The Lir website states that "This state-of-the-art academy trains actors, designers, directors, playwrights, stage managers and theatre technicians to the highest International standards for careers in the theatre."

The Lir was developed by the partnership of the Cathal Ryan Trust and Trinity College Dublin and opened in September 2011. It is formally associated with the world renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

We, the designers of The Design Tower, are proud to be located in this exciting new creative hub. For more information about what we do, have a look at our website. Most businesses work to appointment but we welcome visitors to drop by and meet us in person.

Article and photos by Aisling Nelson

Tuesday 20 March 2012

"Keep Going Sure It's Grand"

Sculptor Elizabeth O'Kane is currently exhibiting in a small works exhibition called "Keep Going Sure It's Grand, (recession-friendly exhibition)" at The Solomon Gallery, Balfe Street, Dublin 2, (next door to The Westbury Hotel).

Exhibition continues until Friday 30 March.  Elizabeth's work on show includes a bronze Buddha Head, based on the Buddha sculpture she made for the Wunderkammer exhibition.

For more details on Elizabeth's work, visit her website.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Studio Visit - Ayelet Lalor

The 'Studio Visits' are a monthly blog installment. We're opening our doors to introduce you to the artists and designers in The Design Tower! Each interview will give you an insight into the individual designer or business. This month we're chatting to figurative sculptor Ayelet Lalor.

When did you set up your practice and move into The Design Tower?
I originally set up in a shared studio in Arnotts St, Dublin in 1998, with a group comprising of jewellers, ceramists, lead-work and a prop designer. I had just returned from two years in London where I’d fled after finished 4 years of Art college in NCAD. By 1999 the space was too small and I moved into The Design Tower, sharing what is now my studio with another ceramist. This was a great way to share early set up costs and shared experiences as we found our feet in the craft world, and began to create our niche.

'Brunhilde' detail of ceramic Diva

Tell me a little more about your ceramic work
I have always gravitated towards figurative work, and drew a lot as a child. The Divas (my signature range of ceramic figurines) was born, although they looked very different to what they do now. The Divas have developed and changed through the years, but certain elements have remained true, the exaggerated height and aloof manner for example.

I tend to go through phases in which different work is created, so overall the range of work can appear quite diverse. Wall pieces, heads and busts, series of bathers, corporate awards, large scale figures in clay standing 7ft tall or tiny porcelain miniatures; enjoying what I do is paramount to getting the most out of the idea.

Last year I created a range of Divas based on the vintage clothing from the Dirty Fabulous Boutique on Wexford St. A variety of the vintage outfits were chosen, and each represented by individual ceramic Divas, interpreting  the clothes,  and the collection of 18 pieces was exhibited within the boutique for a number of weeks, along with watercolours of each corresponding outfit. The previous year I became fascinated with the vibrancy and purity of colour that can be achieved from working with pigments, and the Divas created were darker with small areas of strong and vibrant colour. Next year, who knows?

'On the Verge'- detail of ceramic Diva

And you also work in other materials?
I don’t only work in ceramics, although it is fair to say that clay is the basis for most of my other work. The different qualities achieved through changing materials has long since interested me, but it is only in the last few years that I have really experimented with these changes.

Moving into bronze was only a matter of time and the quality of the material lends itself to the work, creating a very different outcome. Busy, colourful ceramics can become  quiet, serene sculptures just by changing the material they are produced in. One of my favourite pieces, Serenity is such a piece, and the fun and frivolity that characterise some of the ceramic heads, becomes a very different creature in bronze.

'Serenity' - Bronze on limestone. Edition of 6.

I completed a masters in 2009 in NCAD, and used the time to experiment more fully in other materials, casting heads in coloured resins, plaster and eventually concrete.This new medium has been a very exciting transition for me, and again the material has very different qualities to clay, or bronze.

In the summer of 2011 I completed a series of concrete heads which were exhibited at Art in the Garden, with Gormleys Fine Art in Belfast, Contemporary Sculpture in Irish gardens, Ballintubbert house, Athy and  Sculpture in Context, National Botanical Gardens, Dublin. One of the pieces, Chryseus, (seen below), received an award for ‘Large work of Distinction’ from the Sculpture in context committee, which I was thrilled with as this was the first time these new concrete works had been seen by the public.

'Chryseus' - Cast concrete and steel.

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am working in my studio, doing private commissions and running classes and workshops, both in clay and in concrete casting and silicone mould-making.

There has been a definite shift in the market in the last few years, and unfortunately a lot of galleries have closed.Positively what this has meant is that new ways of working have had to be found and sometimes it's good to get a bit of a kick!What this has meant for me is that I am working on more private commissions, which I enjoy as working directly with the customer can often throw up new ideas that wouldn’t have come so naturally otherwise.

This will start with an informal meeting to find out what what the customer is looking for. This could be anything from a personalised Diva (working from a photograph), to a sculpture that contains elements of something more private. We can go through images of other work for suitable examples of colour and form, and finally I will produce a watercolour illustration from the design.Once the customer has signed off on the drawing it can take between 4-6 weeks for a commission piece to be completed, depending on size.

And you mentioned you run classes?
I originally taught ceramic night-classes in NCAD for over 6 years, but due to lack of numbers these classes eventually collapsed. For over the past two years now I have run classes every week in my studio, for beginners and advanced levels, and some students have remained with me the whole time. Its very enjoyable to be able to hand on my knowledge, and get instant feedback.

I also occasionally run workshops in more specialised areas, concrete casting, silicone and plaster mould-making, and recently in Porcelain-paperclay and decal application. I can run these workshops at any time, so if there is an existing group of people interested, I can work to suit them. I only need 3-4 people to run a workshop.

'In Flower' - porcelain on limestone

Tell me about the piece you made for the Wunderkammer Exhibition
I chose to respond to a sculpture of a Buddhista at the Bender exhibition in Collins Barracks. The Buddhista is the name given to a being in the state before it turns into a Buddha, and this resonated with me, like a caterpillar encased inside its pod before it changes into  butterfly.

The piece for the exhibition was a head cast in plaster and mounted on a polished black limestone slab. The face was tilted, turned up to the sky, as if awaiting this ephemeral transformation that was to come. The head was coloured with a wash of blue to help emphasise this spiritual transition.

'Transition' - Cast and stained herculite on limestone.

Thanks Ayelet! It's great to see the variety of your work in this feature. For more information, visit Ayelet's website or Facebook page. Ayelet also runs ongoing courses on a range of ceramic skills. Get in touch on 01 672 9799 to see when her next course starts.

This interview is part of a series which is archived on the blog - meet the rest of the Design Tower designer/makers!