A Day in the Life: Mark Rode


HOME AWAY FROM HOMESculptor Mark Rode has been living in Mayo for the last 17 years.


Name: Mark Rode
Lives: Killasser, Swinford (originally from Australia)
Occupation: Sculptor

I live in the countryside in Killasser and when you work from home and work for yourself, to get anything done you really have to stick to a routine.
I set the alarm for 7.30am and I usually have a bowl of muesli and a cup of tea before letting the dogs out and letting them out for a run. Before I start work in the studio I play guitar for about 40 minutes in the morning. It’s a hobby of mine, I have been playing music for years but it’s also therapeutic.
My studio is on the property, so my commute to work is a ten-yard walk. I usually start at 10 o’clock and what I do during the day depends on deadlines I have.
I have a foundry here so in the winter I light the fire and wait for the studio to warm up and put on the radio. In the morning I usually listen to Lyric FM and Today FM but I also collect cassette tapes. I have hundreds of them so I take a few into the studio with me. I put on some jazz and other types of music but there is music going on all day unless I’m doing something really loud.
When I was young I was in a band and we used to record on an eight-track recorder and we used to take our demo tapes around to people to listen to our band with the hope of booking us. I have a fondness for the format and now a lot of the time I just get them in charity shops in Swinford or Castlebar. I like the shape of the cassettes themselves. Maybe because I am a sculpture and I can see the intrinsic value of a well made object.
I remember I used to work in a factory about 20 years ago in Manorhamilton. I would always be looking up at the clock because I hated the job and couldn’t wait to get home. I still have a clock in the studio but I use it to stick to my routine.
At 11.30am, I have coffee and at one it is lunch time and at 4.30 I have coffee again and at seven I switch the lights off.
This time of the year can be challenging with the cold. I put in a solid fuel stove so last winter was the first winter with the stove and it has made life much easier. I am determined not to get out before seven because if you don’t you will start forming bad habits then. I close the door and feel that bit more satisfied going back to the house.
When you don’t have new ideas, that can be very hard. There are no easy answers to that. Sometimes you just have to leave the studio and go for a walk, you can’t force it. But the inspiration will come.
I left Australia in 1998 and was travelling around Europe when I met my wife in London in 2000 and we fell in love and followed her back here in 2001. Her name is Jacinta Guinan, and she is a painter, originally from Athlone.
I was working in an art foundry in Dublin for a while and then moved to Leitrim and have been in Mayo since 2004. Originally I was in the Foxford area, when I was working with a sculpture called Tim Morris, who invited me down. I loved the area, and when I got a big job we thought we might as well look to buy a place. We bought a place here, an old farm house, and I convinced Jacinta we could fix it up and have a nice home here, and we have.
We love it here. There is something about the west of Ireland which brings out the creative energy and brings people a bit of space and peace and quiet. There are so many painters and writers and artists and musicians living here, and I don’t think it is a coincidence. It is the energy of the place of living on the edge of Europe.
Covid affected our routine quite a bit because last year and the early part of this year was quiet, and the galleries I sell to in Dublin were closed, and I wasn’t getting any sales. It was tough, but surprisingly the last couple of months has picked up, and there is a large project in Newport I hope to start in the New Year.
During the evening myself and Jacinta will sit down and have some dinner and then watch some shows on Netflix. At the weekend we’ll listen to music and have a few beers. We have a routine. We’re pretty boring in that way. But I feel the best way to get things done is to have a routine and stick to it. It has worked for us so that’s what we do.

In conversation with Anton McNulty

Quickfire questions

If money were no object what would you do?
I would probably like to go to see my family in Australia. It is a long way away, and I haven’t seen my father and mother and brother in years.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I like growing my own vegetables and plant spuds and cabbages.

Most famous person you’ve met?
I don’t think I have met anyone famous. Kind of shocking now that you ask.

What is the most unusual thing you have eaten?
Sri Lankan street food. You can buy beautiful curry but they serve it in a banana leaf and they can have all sorts of unusual things in it.

Favourite place in the world?
Here where I live …but also northern New South Wales in Australia, which is a beautiful area.

What is your favourite TV show?
I don’t watch a lot of TV apart from sports or Netflix. I do watch an American Youtuber called Rick Beato, he is a music producer, and he offers a great insight in music and I watch him a lot.

What makes you angry?
When people don’t respect other people. Everyone should have their own dignity. When someone walks into a room and tries to impose their will on other people that makes me angry.

Your first hero?
It’s very patrilocal, but my father and grandfather. My grandfather is German and I couldn’t really understand him but I admired him. It also turns out he was a foundryman like I turned out to be so many years later.

What makes you nervous?
Speaking in front of people and crowds. I don’t know why, but it terrifies me.

Most thing you miss about being a kid?
The feeling of wonder. When I was a kid in Australia I used to think I could walk out into the bush and find a place nobody owned and live there. Now you can go on Google Earth and nothing is left to the imagination.

Best advice you ever got?
My Dad told me never to talk down to anybody whoever it is. Professionally, an elderly artist once told me to always have pride in your work no matter what you are making.

What do you do to unwind?
I play guitar. I’m not a great player but it de-stresses me.