Meet Irish Artists

BY DON NICHOLS — Winter 2018

Throughout Ireland, talented artisans produce quality work in small studios where they also personally greet customers. Being Irish, they’re friendly to the max and will happily chitchat about what they do and how they do it. Here, four studios near Mount Juliet and Sheen Falls worth stopping by to visit. Their starting prices range from $25 to $100, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to take home an extra-special memento.

Roaring ’20s doll heads. PHOTO BY DON NICHOLS

Near Mount Juliet

Clay Creations

Take one step inside this studio and see how long it takes for you to crack a smile and just feel good. Owner Brid Lyons produces whimsical ceramics — Roaring ’20s doll heads, sitting dogs, bowls, vases, etc. — that lift spirits with their cartoonlike character. Be sure to ask this personable artist to explain her inspiration for your favorite pieces. Most have stories. In Thomastown, about four miles east of the estate.

Jerpoint Glass Studio

In this workshop just across the street from the resort, the Leadbetter family has been producing decorative hand-blown pieces — bowls, candleholders, pitchers, vases, etc. — for nearly 40 years. Founder Keith Leadbetter died a year ago, but his widow, Kathleen, has kept the business open with the help of her 34-year-old son, Rory, a master glassblower who started learning the craft from his father at age 16. The friendly mom and son proudly stress they make nothing by machine; everything is made by hand. The Irish like to collect their beautiful pieces for their own homes and to give as gifts.

Near Sheen Falls

Christine Bowen Gallery

Everywhere you look at Sheen Falls, you’ll see simple and color-rich pieces of art, often of roosters (above), hares, or other animals. The eye-catching art looks a bit French, has a definite touch of whimsy, and makes you smile. You’ll be captivated by the creativity of this 72-year-old artist who didn’t go to art school until her mid-40s. By appointment, Christine welcomes people into her small, art-strewn home, which doubles as her gallery, just a mile or two from the lodge. Go! She’s an absolute delight and you’ll relish looking at all her unframed pieces scattered about, trying to decide which ones you want to take home.

Skyline Gallery

On Kenmare’s Henry Street, about two miles from Sheen Falls, you’ll come across this small photography gallery. You’ll likely notice one striking photo hanging in the window that will instantly stop you in your tracks. Inside this eye-pleasing space, you’ll see numerous more high-quality landscape and seascape images shot by award-winning Irish photographer Eoghan Kavanagh. If you’re lucky, Eoghan will be in the gallery, as he often is. Engage him in conversation, and the affable lensman will gladly explain his painstaking approach to shooting. Weeks or even months of preplanning often precede any shutter clicks.


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