INTERVIEW Stained-glass artist Linda Mulloy

Living

Through tinted glasses

Through tinted glasses


Interview
Ciara Moynihan

When we think of glass, we often think of its function – it keeps the cold out, it lets the light in, it allows a view. But for one local artist, glass is a beautiful medium in and of itself, something that can draw our gaze as well as carry it through to whatever lies beyond.
Linda Mulloy has been working with stained glass since the late 1980s, creating eye-catching installations in public and commercial spaces, as well as colourful commissions for private homes. Splitting her time between Westport and her new studio in Brighton, Linda also teaches the art of stained-glass during weekend courses that take place throughout the year, both in Westport and in the UK.
Born in Surrey, Linda moved around a lot with her family when she was growing up – so much so that she describes herself as ‘sort of rootless’. “When people ask me where I’m from, I say ‘If you draw a line from Nottingham to Chester, I come from below that’,” she laughs, adding more pensively: “All my life, all my real life, has been in Ireland.”  
After studying psychology in England, Linda moved to Ireland during the ’70s, settling in Sligo. She remained there for many years working as a psychologist, before upping stakes and moving to Westport.
Her life took a dramatic turn when she finally gave into her creative side after discovering glass as an artistic medium. She and two friends then attended a stained-glass course taught by the late Walter Michael in Lahardane, and her fate was sealed – and her career as a psychologist left behind forever.
So what was it that draws Linda to glass? “Colour,” she says firmly. “Colour is important to me all through my life – from what I wear, to the food I eat, to what things look like. It’s always relevant.”
The luminosity that glass lends to colour also enchants the artist. “You get a wonderful effect from holding coloured glass up to the light. It really is effective. It’s just so different to making something in wood or to painting something. When the light shines through the colour of the glass, it’s a totally different affair.
“And it changes, you know? You make something for a front door, and it’s great from the inside during the day, and then a night time, when you see it from the outside with a light on inside, it looks totally different.”
While many people associate stained glass with ecclesiastical settings, Linda’s pieces are a celebration of colour itself, and of form and fun. Her muses are her interests, and they are varied, offering a constant source of inspiration. “The things I’m interested are in the background all the time. Architecture. Mechanical things. The lay of the land – how hills and other features go together. Intricate metal work. All of those things.”
Linda set up The Glasshouse in 1990, and has received a steady stream of commissions ever since. As well as working on her own, designing and making commissioned work, Linda often creates pieces with Westport-based artist Pamela Gray. Their collaborations include exhibitions and commissioned work for The Clew Bay Hotel and Mayo General Hospital.
People encounter her installations in public places and are often prompted to ask for a private commission. “People see those pieces, see what’s out there, and often say to me they’d like ‘something in that genre’, or ‘something like you usually do’, which is contemporary, bright, make-you-smile stuff. Some people want traditional styles, which is fine too. Sometimes people want to portray something in particular, or make the design relevant to the house or the people who are in it, and I’m open to all of that.
“Often, if I go to someone’s house and I see the space where they want the glass, I immediately get ideas, ideas about colours or maybe making use of the light in that particular spot.”
Aside from ‘flat panel’ stained glass, Linda likes to create 3-D sculptural pieces, including bowls, using such specialised techniques as ‘pâte de verre’, which involves fusing tiny grains of glass. The most recent exhibition of her 3-D work was held in the Greenway Artists’ Gallery in Westport during the summer.
Linda also loves to teach, and holds her popular weekend workshops – one in stained glass and another in fused glass – every three months. In the stained-glass course, students spend the two days exploring different kinds of glass, learning how to cut glass and use copper foil, and designing and making their own pieces. In the fused-glass workshop, participants learn about layering glass pieces and melting them together in the kiln, making beautiful shapes and patterns.
“The classes are great fun. The students will leave with the skill of being able to make stained glass themselves, independently. They’ll also have made a couple of small pieces as well as a larger piece. Some people like to finish the course and go away and work by themselves, others like to come back time and time again to the classes, where they’re provided with materials and support,” Linda explains.
“The workshops are also two days of ‘time out’, of doing something totally different. People really like that aspect of it. You’re working with your hands, and have to concentrate. You can’t really think of anything else out there in the world; you just think about what you're making. It’s a complete break from everything else that’s going on in your life.”
And indeed it does sounds like therapy – getting to play with shapes and radiant colour, and explore the world of glass, including, should you wish, the rose-tinted variety.

Linda Mulloy’s next stained-glass workshop in Westport takes place on November 2-3, and a few places are still available. (Her fused-glass workshop on November 9-10 is already full.) For more information on Linda’s work and upcoming classes in 2014, visit www.blueglasshouse.com or contact her on 087 7981123 or hotblueglasshouse@yahoo.co.uk.

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