Inside the Artist’s Studio

Words by Emily Carson
Photography by Killian Broderick

Studios are intimate places. An enclave where the imagination runs amok, creativity cross-pollinates and the half-formed kernels of ideas lie germinating. 


Surroundings greatly influence the type of work an artist makes, and due to the recent housing crisis, the ability to self-determine this space has been significantly reduced. We were lucky enough to be invited to explore a range of studios: from the leafy attic of La Catedral to the wooden wendy house vibes of a knitwear designer and a compact jewellery atelier in the back of a cottage to find out what makes a place artistically inspiring.


Pearl Reddington – Home Studio in Raheny, Dublin 5

How do you describe what you do?

I’m a contemporary knitwear fashion designer. My whole thing is that I want to elevate knit out of the realm of craft and into high fashion, I want to bring it onto the next level and escape the clichés of its heritage.


It’s great for me because I’m kind of a private person and my work is very personal and I like to create in a safe space by myself.


How long have you worked from this space?

I’ve had this cabin since my last year in college. It’s great for me because I’m kind of a private person and my work is very personal and I like to create in a safe space by myself. College was quite stressful for me and I was almost more focused on other people’s work than my own so it’s been really good for me to have this private space to work from. I’m pretty lucky to have this.

Where did you manage to pick up all your machinery?

It’s funny, I’ve been lucky with that as well. I interned for Honor Fitzsimons, the knitwear designer. She’s since moved to London but she was great inspiration for me and then when she moved away she left me in care of her machines. They’re quite valuable things so it’s great to keep them used, so I’m using her machine and I got another machine from Grafton Academy and my industrial sewing machine was a past NCAD student’s. Once you’re in art college you can use your connections because these things are so hard to find.

How has your artistic processed changed since moving into this space?

What’s great is it means I can just leave my work out overnight and I can go to bed and it’s still there. Before this I always thought it was better to keep your work separate to your resting area but from being in here I’ve realised that as an artist or designer you’re never really not working, or you’re never not thinking about work. It’s nice that I can be out here and relaxing but I’ve got all my swatches on my walls and I can be reading and look up, see a knit swatch and get an idea and I’m right beside my desk where I can write it down. It’s really good to be living in such a stimulating space for me.

I’ve realised that as an artist or designer you’re never really not working

Do you keep a schedule?

I try to. I’m working as well as so many young designers and artists have to in a part-time job which is turning into more of a full-time job. It’s in Made Store & Gallery in the Powerscourt Centre and it’s good to get the retail side of fashion as I didn’t get that in college. But, it means my days off I only use for working on my own stuff and it puts the pressure on me to get up early and get on top of it.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve made here?

The last jumper I made has been a great little lucky jumper. It was a sample I’d made in second year of college that I never went back to. It was a few knitted holes with ropes going through it and I always really liked it but I’d never managed to develop it. I just found it again and created what I call ‘The Snake Jumpy’ which is basically a little blue navy jumper with lurex going through it and all these little ropes and squiggles going through it. It’s quite a playful piece and it’s really the perfect example of what I want to be making and what I’m going to be making in the future. It’s a funny jumper, it kind of sums up my personality and my drive to make knit more playful and modern.

What would your dream studio look like?

It probably wouldn’t be in Dublin. I feel so privileged and almost a little bit embarrassed sometimes about my set up here, seeing how hard my friends are struggling to pay rent or get a studio. I’d love to move to Berlin I guess or somewhere like that where it’s so much easier to be a designer and become part of a collective. As much as I like being by myself and working by myself this studio is quite isolated so it’s the balance of it suiting me being quiet and private but maybe if I was interacting with more creatives daily I’d be more stimulated?



Alan Clarke – La Catedral Studios, Dublin 8

How do you describe what you do?

I’m an illustrator, I do a bit of sculpture, a bit of assistant prop-making, a little bit of writing from time to time. I’m reluctant to use the word calligraphy, but I do fancy handwriting so as not to upset any calligraphers out there and I do painting and drawing and printmaking and make little installations. Anything that comes up, it’s enjoyable to keep things varied.

How long have you worked from this space?

About three years this time round, but this is my third time here. I got here in 2006 when it first opened and they were kind of building the place around us. I’ve had other studios around the place and I’ve lived abroad as well. The first time I left was to move into a bigger studio, as simple as that it was a space thing. It didn’t really work out because the studio ended up being too cold and damp to work in. I’ve had other studios that didn’t work out because the setup was a little bit chaotic… I won’t name any names… there were a lot of crazy goings on.

How many different disciplines are in the space?

Yeah we do… there’s a couple of painters up there, Myles O’Reilly is up there now who is a filmmaker. There’s a girl who does jewellery, she’s a metal worker, we’ve got a costume designer and a girl up there with a loom, she’s a weaver. But it’s very sociable, there’s a lot going on and it’s a very friendly creative atmosphere.

Where does this studio sit in the scene?

I think there are certain studios that are more contemporary art led and that really wouldn’t be the case here, generally, the people here would be more craft and skills-led. All the studios are always full there are always people looking to get in. Demand outstrips supply.

Your favourite piece of work from your studio?

Certainly, the one that springs to mind is the work I did for the Shapeshifter’s Ball for Body&Soul a few years ago. It was done quite quickly and all the bits fell into place. It’s a nice feeling when that happens as some things are much more laborious than that, but that worked really well. Because it was a Halloween Ball it was already rich with imagery and the dark and macabre aspects really fitted my groove as a lot of my work would have a slightly macabre grotesque side to it.

What would your ideal studio look like?

My dream studio would be big and bright, I think it would be in the country actually and it would have a nice view. I’m from Wicklow originally so a studio in the mountains in Wicklow would be quite nice.


Ciarna Hackett – Home Studio in Blackpitts, Dublin 8

Have you always worked out of this studio or have you ever worked in another space?

When I was in Vietnam I didn’t really have a studio, but we had a lovely house and I had a room in the house but to be honest it was hard to be creative there because I had another job that was very busy. When I came back to Ireland [Duc, Ciarna’s husband, also an artist] was in the Backloft and I was working in the Backloft looking after it, but I didn’t really use Duc’s studio. I started doing Kiki in the back room there but at that stage the house was a lot more cluttered and we cleaned it out over time. Then I was in this studio on Cork Street… what was it called… The Cube! Yeah, the Ice Fucking Cube! I was in there, there was four of us in there but it used to be a sausage factory and it was lonely and cold, and I worked late.


‘how would you feel if I had a dick around my neck? Think about that, because people are going to ask you.’


My friend was living in the back room of our house at the time, but she moved out and then I moved in and everything is packed in because it’s a really small room! So I’ve been here since last year and I’ve been loving it. Because I’m a night owl it’s great, the safety is the biggest thing because I used to be leaving there really late at night and they had huge big doors and walking through this old building… no matter how big or small you were you’d be like ‘this is the perfect place for a horror movie’.


What’s your favourite piece that you’ve made here?

I suppose the pieces that have the story are the vagina pieces. I was wearing a vagina necklace one day and my dad, playing devil’s advocate, said: ‘how would you feel if I had a dick around my neck? Think about that, because people are going to ask you.’ I said well, Dad, dicks are everywhere in our society. You see them all the time and you don’t see vaginas anywhere. I looked around and then noticed my mate had gotten them a corkscrew with this red man and the corkscrew was his dick! I picked it up and showed my dad and he said ‘ah! I see what you mean,’ like I mean…that’s in your kitchen! They’re everywhere!

I kind of feel sorry for the vagina because it’s never talked about and never celebrated so I made this big sculptural vagina piece that I really like. It’s political and when you’re making jewellery it’s just jewellery so it’s been kind of nice to explore saying something with it.

What would your dream studio look like?

It would just be across the road! So I could just walk over and leave whenever I wanted. I suppose I’d like a bit more of a social element because there’s something to be said for that. The safest walk home… to be honest with ya… I think I just need a bigger house!


Helen O’Higgins – Black Church Print Studio in Temple Bar, Dublin 2

How do you describe what you do?

I’m a printmaker. I specialise in etching mainly and I do a bit of screenprint. I particularly specialise in copper work and doing aquatint and I do a lot of drawing, which is what led me to etching in the first place.

How did you get into working in Black Church Print?

I got an award from here coming out of NCAD. It was a graduate award and then I reapplied with a portfolio and I’ve been here ever since, I think that was 2014. There are some people who have been members forever. I’ve been coming here ever since I got the award in 2012 but a lot of the members that are here would still ask: ‘Oh are you a new member?’ Some people are more dormant and rarely come in but then there are people who are here virtually every day and work at printmaking full-time.

Has the way you work/your process changed since you moved into Black Church?

I moved straight from college where I was already in a shared studio, it’s kind of a necessity when you work in print because you don’t tend to have big baths of acid and presses and aquatint boxes and that kind of thing in your own private studio. When I wasn’t working in a print studio making stuff was really quite annoying as I didn’t have the correct and inspiring place to work in.

What’s your favourite piece of work that you’ve made here?

I like to make work that incorporates my surroundings, so Dublin when I’m here. Something that I’ve liked doing is combining screen printing and etching. I’ve used it in my latest series of work and I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with it. I got a bit set in my printing ways for awhile so allowing yourself to loosen up a bit and try other things even if they don’t work out has been very enjoyable.

What would your dream studio look like?

There are so many things that go wrong in print… all the time… you wouldn’t believe it, every single step of the way. Sometimes that’s where you find something that works but sometimes you’re really frustrated, trying to adjust presses and getting the acid just right and it really helps to have people around then. So, I don’t think I want my own studio for now.

I like sharing a studio. You get a bit of a balance because sometimes I come in here so I can work and learn from other people and ask questions of people that have used certain techniques that I think might work for a certain project. But then you also get the balance of coming in quite late and getting your own space and your own time and tuning out from everything else. You always get a bit of both and that’s great.


Thread Stories – Home studio in Kilkenny

How did you begin working on Thread Stories?

Thread Stories is definitely my alter ego, not many people would link my professional life with it. It came about three years ago, we were going to Electric Picnic and we all made costumes. I had this vision in my head, I wanted to make this particular kind of mask, a wool one, and I wanted it to be soft and something that I could take on and off.

It starts with a balaclava and then I build a form and it disguises the head and face. I have a degree in Fine Art and I would say I spent about 10 years in a state of paralysis through analysis. That was a hangover from a degree where you’re so concept driven that the creativity is lost because you’re questioning everything you do: why am I doing this? What’s it about? Who is it for? Who do I want to look at my work?

When I started making the masks I made a conscious decision that I was just going to be led by my hands, led by the materials and that it was ok not to know what it was about.

What led you to working out of Kilkenny?

In 2012 I moved here for a job with the Design and Crafts Council and never went back. I’m from Dublin, my partner’s from Cork and Kilkenny was a nice mix in the middle. We have a better quality of life here, we can walk everywhere and we have more spare time because we don’t have a commute. We can also afford a house here, which we could never have done in Dublin, and I can have a studio in my house because we have space.

How has it built up over the three years?

It’s just a compulsion I just make these masks constantly.

The first person who approached me was about two years ago and it was the fashion designer Natalie B. Coleman. She commissioned to make three masks based around her A/W collection which was all about mourning veils and very specific things that she was exploring.

Then different stylists have reached out to me for editorial work both here and abroad and the work just started to leave the studio off its own bat. I wasn’t putting it out into the world to make those collaborations, I was just showcasing another sketch that I’d done and then people were approaching me. What’s amazing is that it wasn’t contrived at all, it was just me trying to get back to being an artist and then people started to respond to it.

What’s important for you in a studio?

I’d definitely say my books, once I have my art books then I’m constantly opening them and referencing them and that’s what I need around me. In a space I can just get really messy because I generally have about 4 or 5 masks going at a time so it can be just… threads everywhere. A space that is not precious and has all my reference material around me.

What is your favourite piece that you’ve made here?

I made a mask early on and it just exposes the mouth. I remember thinking putting this up online ‘this is really bizarre, people are just going to think what is this?’ It’s like a fluffy pink mask with this fleshy, pink, open orifice and it just seemed so wrong, but it got such a response! It’s like finding your tribe, other people out there where my weird is their weird. I always remind myself of that piece because there are other people out there that think the same as you.

What would your dream studio space look like?

If money were no object it’d be huge with lots of lovely equipment so I could throw stuff up on projectors and see it move on big walls. That is definitely a dream, I don’t know if I’d ever get to that stage. The mask-making is really only one part, they’re really just lifeless objects in your hand they don’t work as art objects because they’re just a ball of knots in your hand. They have to be worn so you almost have to put them on and have someone moving in them, so to have a space where you could have dancers and performers and video people in them would be amazing.

Thread Stories


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