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A new cornucopia at the Quay

Living

CREATIVITY HUB Saileen Drumm and Joe McDermott at The Quayside Gallery, which has newly opened at the Quay in Westport. Pic: Conor McKeown

Interview
Ciara Moynihan

Artist Saileen Drumm and woodcrafter Joe McDermott have just opened The Quayside Gallery at Westport’s own riviera, The Quay. The plucky pair decided to open the business just last month, in the middle of the pandemic – and after a frantic few weeks of hard work, painting and organising, the doors have swung open to reveal a bright, open space with plenty to catch the eye inside.
Newport native Saileen is known for her distinctive, colourful west-of-Ireland landscapes, while Kilkelly-based Joe has built up a solid reputation for his lovingly crafted wood creations. The gallery showcases their work, as well as a large selection of work by other artists and crafters.
Customer is truly king at The Quayside Gallery. There’s a lovely comfortable chair for people to rest whilst waiting for someone who is browsing, and even a ‘pooch peg’ at the front door – a spot for tying a dog’s lead, and a bowl of water beside it, so visitors can pop in for a quick look while their furry friend is safe outside.
Here Saileen and Joe talk about their own work, the decision to open the gallery, and their hopes for the future.

CM Saileen, can you tell us a little about your background and your work as a visual artist?
SD I was born, raised and live in Newport. I work part time for my brother, Harry, and his wife, Liz, in The Gráinne Uaile [pub and restaurant], and it was while working there, about six years ago, that I discovered my art had an appeal... So they kindly let me display my work there, where it is still displayed.
I love colour, the vibrancy of it is wonderful. When painting I want colours to marry and clash, I feel we all need colour in our lives, as we are grey from October to April. My inspiration comes from my environment around me, the people, day to day life.... We are so fortunate to live in this special place. Every view has its own story.

CM Joe, your own business, Against The Grain Wood, is based near Kilkelly – is that where you are from? Also, please tell us about your work as a woodcrafter and what drew you to it.
JMcD I am originally from Carrick-on-Shannon in lovely Leitrim. I moved to Kilkelly in 2014, where I set up Against The Grain Woodcraft a year later. I will continue to run it alongside the gallery, as both businesses lend themselves to each other.
I use a lot of different types of timber, bog wood, drift wood and trees that have been felled during storms or felled as they have become dangerous.
I create pieces that include clocks, mirrors, table lamps, wine stands and candle holders.
I have always had a love of nature, in particular woodland. Each piece of timber is unique in itself and I aim to maintain its natural state as much as possible. Against The Grain’s tagline sums this up – ‘Designed by nature, finished by hand’!

CM When did you both decide to open your own gallery, and why?
SD & JMcD Last month we noticed the gallery space was empty. We got in touch with the owner and within a couple of days decided we should go for it… It’s a beautiful bright, clear space, perfect for what we wanted.
We wanted a place to showcase our own individual work and also the work of others. There are a lot of very talented creators locally and all over our little island. It gives us great pleasure to be able to provide an outlet for this creativity.

CM The gallery has a bright, stripped-back look – the simple use of greys and whites really makes the pieces on display pop.
Did you enjoy designing the space? And was it a lot of hard work in such a short space of time?
SD & JMcD We both had the same vision. We wanted a clean, clear, stripped back look for our gallery. We want to give the idea of space to people, particularly in these strange times of Covid, and just as importantly, we want the art to just sit and breath in its own space. We worked tirelessly for two weeks with great help from our families, and we are delighted with the way it turned out.

CM What other artists’ work you will be carrying at the gallery?
SD & JMcD We have quite a number of artists with us at The Quayside Gallery. We have the wonderful felter and jewellery maker Suzie Sullivan; the amazing sculpture artists Liam and Ronan Butler; The Mood Design ceramics; Liz Christy’s woven creations, and many, many more. We have something for everyone, from a bar of beautiful handmade soap to an original piece of sculpture.

CM It must be daunting to open during a pandemic. Like everywhere, you must have had to put extra safety measures in place?
SD & JMcD It is strange times indeed for businesses but we are confident that we can provide a safe environment for our customers to enjoy our gallery. On entering there is a hand sanitiser station and we regularly sanitise our surfaces and displays. At the counter area we have a large ornate frame with perspex that protects our customers whilst also framing our beautiful faces! We are also limiting the number of customers allowed in the gallery at any one time.

CM Artists and the arts generally have been particularly heavily hit by the Covid crisis. You must be proud to be providing another platform for them?
SD & JMcD There are so many artists and creative people locally and nationally that rely on outlets such as ours to showcase their work, and without these spaces a lot of this creativity could be lost. People more and more are wanting unique one-off handmade gifts and pieces for their homes. We hope that we are providing a place for people to access these.

CM What are you most looking forward to as you embark on this new adventure?
SD & JMcD We hope to have a successful gallery, with a wonderful selection of creators alongside us. We are so proud of this venture. It is a platform for ourselves as artists as well as the many people who have joined us. We want to be known as the go-to place when you are looking for that something special, arty and quirky... You will find it here with us.