Artists are not normally renowned for their business sense, but Philip Noonan is bucking that trend. The artist and sculptor recently spotted a niche on Achill and went for it. The result? The new Achill Island Arts and Craft Centre in Cashel. The centre is already showcasing work by local artists, and plans are afoot to expand the business over the next 12 months and sell hand-made sculptures around the world.
Last April, Philip and his partner, Fidelma, moved to Achill from Charlestown, where they ran an arts centre for five years. The Dublin native explained they were forced to close the art centre in Charlestown after the arrival of the by-pass, which he said has ‘killed’ the town.
Two weeks ago, they opened Achill Island Arts and Craft Centre in former Naíonra building below Ted Lavelle’s filling station in Cashel. The centre is also the home of Achill Island Creations, where Philip and Fidelma design and hand-make sculptures and other art works. In fact, all kinds of art, from paintings to sculptures, bog-oak carvings to jewellery and even chess-sets, are available to purchase. Philip is hoping that more local people will also use the centre as a retail outlet to display and sell their art and craft wares.
“We don’t want to be an art gallery. Nothing like this exists around here where local people can display their work to sell for just a 20 per cent commission. It has a farmers’ market feel to it; it’s like a co-op … I feel it has the potential to be something special,” he explained.
Before moving to Mayo, Philip had his own company and employed up to 30 people. The company designed and manufactured commissioned pieces for corporate clients. Among his biggest clients was the drink company Baileys, for which he designed and manufactured awards that were distributed all over the US.
His work has also been exhibited in the Temple Bar Gallery and has featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide. U2 frontman Bono and ‘The Tudors’ creator Michael Hirst are among the many celebrities who own his work.
This commissioning success is one that Philip hopes to emulate with Achill Island Creations, with the centre affording him the opportunity to meet customers and design and manufacture work for their own personal requirements for different occasions, such as Christmas and birthdays.
Philip is encouraged by the support he has received so far, and he is confident the business has the capacity to expand.
“We are limited with what we can produce at the moment, but if it is a success we will look to expand and take on extra staff. What we produce can be sold on the Internet, and we also hope to distribute to shops in Europe and the US.”
Lofty aims, but then it is exactly this kind of visionary thinking that artists are renowned for.