Putting in an application into the Kerry County Council Local Enterprise Office was a long shot, or so I thought. It brought enormous delight to me when an email recently arrived announcing that my small greeting card enterprise had been selected as one of the businesses that would be going to showcase 2022. This is an event with several hundred exhibitors and several thousand buyers who attend. As an event, it generates large-scale orders and sales.
Showcase Ireland will take place in January 2022 at the RDS in Dublin. A section of the event is reserved for the Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland’s emerging talent, unique designs and designers. Essentially it is a tradeshow and it is open to a national and global audience.
It’s true what they say that life is a learning curve and for me, right now, I’m on a steep learning curve! I do of course intend to put my best foot forward and with this in mind, I have a mentor who will work with me as I prepare. I know that setting realistic goals is very important. This is one chance I have to make a good first impression and so my display is a key factor. I am a member of the Design & Craft Council of Ireland and by qualifying and being part of this group, there is a lot of support and marketing assistance to be gained, for which I am grateful.
My stand, entitled Mary’s Wild Joys Greeting Cards, will be located at booth number J33, alongside the other three Kerry representatives at the Serpentine Hall, in the RDS.
So, now that I have taken the plunge, it’s definitely time to get to work. I am a new entrant to the market and I am offering a new product range. There is a lot of brand building to be done and opportunities to be found. Hopefully, wholesale orders may be taken by impressed buyers attending Showcase 2022 or subsequent to the show in follow-up communication. Am I excited? You bet!
Without wanting to seem extreme, I think it might be worth pointing out how modern consumerism, that seems to touch every aspect of our lives, often leaves us out of touch with the deeper spiritual and deeper cultural connections that our ancestors experienced when they moved through the seasons of nature. Modernity, with all the trappings of technology, seems to have cut us off, almost in a vulgar way.
This time of the year, the harvest well in and gathered and a good stock taken of everything, our people, our forbearers, respectfully prepared for winter. Nothing was wasted and when an animal was slaughtered, it was respectfully cured and dried and hung. Our ancestors had a deep awareness of Samhain. There is an abundance of folklore that is relevant to this period of time when there is no growing season. Rituals and remedies reflect heightened spiritual awareness. Our ancestors would ritually summon the spirits in order to get sound advice as they move into the winter.
Apples were plentiful and were carefully stored away. The ritual of peeling an apple, so that as you peel it makes one long the entire piece of apple skin, thereby falling into a position on the table, resembling the initial of a young person’s future husband or wife! Isn’t that a nice way to encourage the dating game?
Our ancestors understood themselves very intimately and in relationship with the wild birds, the trees of the woodlands that surrounded them and in their connectedness with the wild creatures with who they shared the land.
In creating a series of artwork images, now expressed in a simple greeting card style form, based on native Irish birds, trees and creatures, I have delved into the fascinating and endlessly absorbing world of folklore. We are blessed to have so many authors and researchers who supply us with an abundance of material, continuously enhancing and deepening our understanding of folklore. My series of artwork, essentially, grew out of this absorption with our ancestors and with the respectful and complex relationship they enjoyed with trees, with their fellow creatures of the earth, of the water and of the sky.
Just like everybody else, the pandemic that has been caused by Covid 19 has kept me apart, more than I would like, from people whom I care about. There has been no shortage of text messages and telephone calls in an effort to stay in contact.
Personally, I have always enjoyed selecting greeting cards popping them in the post in order to create a small surprise in the mailbox or on the hall floor for the people I care about. It is the simplest of little actions that create happy smiles for those who receive the greeting card for no good reason other than that somebody else is thinking fondly and warmly of them. Needless to say, I get a great kick out of it too, as the sender. It takes me a while to wipe the smile off my own face!
There seemed to be so much more time, in my experience, for creativity during the past two years. I started out enjoying the contentment of creating my own haiga series with native Irish birds and trees. No one was more shocked than I to discover that some key people in decision-making roles in the visual arts community thought what I had produced good enough to exhibit. So I found myself in Clifden, and Ennistymon, Listowel and Dingle where members of the general public were positive and receptive to the exhibitions of my work. Then I set about creating a series based on native Irish wildflowers and this series of haiga was exhibited in Listowel and Dingle separately again.
Last summer, Father Moynihan, parish priest of St Mary’s parish in Dingle, kindly allowed me to use the Gazebo behind the parish church as a base to try out a new idea for my artwork. The Gazebo is located close to the gardens of An Diseart on Green Street. Most of the people who called by to visit me and to view my work at the Gazebo were already nature lovers, content to spend time in the nearby gardens. There were many interesting and long conversations and it all culminated in a great deal of valuable feedback for me. Primarily among the lessons I was learning was that people were very much drawn to image and loved the version of the greeting card format more so than the framed wall hanging version. The greeting card was smaller, easier to handle, unbreakable, much less costly, had a multipurpose and was very user-friend.
Deciding to opt for the most sustainable ways to produce a greeting card range, I kept simplicity at the heart of the process and ensured that the paper being used was all sourced from responsibly managed forests, recycled paper made from post-consumer material and certified as FSC. Keeping sketches to a minimalist fashion, done in ink and pencil on a simple white background and without text has meant that the printing process only uses the grey tray for ink. Therefore there is no excessive waste of colour ink. These rich oil based paints often find their way ultimately into landfill and the dyes can make their way, unfortunately, just like household or industrial paint, into the water systems of the earth. So by sticking to the simplicity of a black sketching on a white background, it conserves and respects ink use. Yet still, despite its simplicity, this range of greeting cards has an endearing quality.
This signature range of greeting card categories are all based on native Irish birds, native Irish trees and native Irish wild creatures. There are a total of 20 greeting cards in each of the categories. The image and the script are all created by hand.
How did I come up with the name? It is a simple concept. For me, there are enormous joys to be found when I interact with the wild and the stunning natural world we all share, hence the name, Mary’s Wild Joys.