A rare mid-week post because the West Cork Creates exhibition is on now – and this year it’s all online! That means that wherever you are in the world you can get yourself a stunning piece of West Cork art/craft. We have written about this exhibition just about every year because we believe it’s one of the best things to see and do in West Cork and an incredible showcase for the many artists and makers who have made this place their home. Normally, you have to be here, but this year you can see it all online.
I set myself the task of choosing only a few items to write about, because as you will see when you browse the gallery, the choice is vast. Christmas is a long way off, but I am hoping Robert gets the hint about what I am choosing. It’s all stuff I covet. For example, everyone needs a great chef’s knife in their kitchen, and what about this one from Luka Scannell? Incredibly, this maker is only 17, and already producing work like this! Read about him in this Southern Star article. The handle is from a fishing boat wreck called The Shamrock. Luka has taken the wood and the seaweed clinging to it, fastened it with a nail from the wreck, and encased it all in resin.
The blade is forged from high grade carbon steel – easy to keep sharp forever – and left rough along the non-cutting edge. The finished product is not only beautiful but resonates with deep echoes of West Cork and the sea. Each time I use it I would be transported to the shore line, like holding a shell to my ear. And of course my cooking would improve!
I don’t wear a lot of jewellery nowadays, so it has to be very special indeed to catch my eye. But this pendant from Michael Duerden is spectacular. It’s not just a pendant, but a locket too – the doors open to reveal a place for a precious photograph. But look at it! Michael has captured the spirit of the Irish dresser, with the serving platters, the cup rack, the dinner plates leaning forward on their bar. There’s a peg to close the doors and a walking stick nonchalantly hooked over the side. The detail is extraordinary and the whole piece is magical. Michael lives and works in Leap and you can see more of his work here.
Geoff Greenham has long been one of my favourite photographers and in this image, titled Monofilament, he encapsulates what you might find on any still-used West Cork quay. The rough texture of the rope contrasts with the fine threads of the mesh in the same way that the deep blue overlays the blonds and yellow-greens of the netting. This is material from a working fisherman’s boat, captured in stillness, but look how the net folds and heaves to suggest waves rolling in, reminding us where its true home lies.
And finally, to Sonia Caldwell’s Crom Dubh. I’ve written about Sonia before in my post Kilcoe Studios – Dedication and Passion. Then, I was mainly looking at her wonderful painted and printed pieces, But Sonia’s real passion is sculpting and I was blown away by what she showed me. I wrote then,
Her work has a quality to it that I can only call ‘questing.’ The eyes look far away, seeking answers to some great question. In one case, they are blindfolded, forcing the quester to look inward. The bodies fold in on themselves, or on one another, or are rigid, as if acting as mere plinths for the imagination or the brain.
For this year’s West Cork Creates, Sonia is exhibiting a piece called Crom Dubh (pronounced crumb dove (as in the bird)). To get a sense of who Crom Dubh, the Dark Crooked One, was, take a look at this blog post by the wonderful Felicity Hayes-McCoy, writer and folklorist. A figure from deep in Irish mythology, Crom Dubh is paradoxical – either evil or good, depending on who’s telling the story. His dark shape represents death, but he also emerges at the first harvest (Domhnach Crom Dubh, Crom Dubh Sunday is the last Sunday in July) and thus is associated with fertility. It is said that when he emerges from the earth he bears upon his back a sheaf of wheat but also the beautiful Eithne and it is this burden that causes the crooked shape. In Sonia’s sculpture the dark body is surmounted by the intensely gazing face, left in its natural limestone colour, and the wheat is picked out in gold leaf along his shoulders. It’s a powerful and ambivalent figure which does justice to the many aspects of Crom Dubh. You can see more of Sonia’s sculpture at her personal website.
We are missing all of our West Cork Festivals this year, but perhaps most of all West Cork Creates, as it is such a feast for the senses and so consistently excellent. I am glad they decided to mount it all online this year – and not just for us locals but for art and craft appreciators everywhere.