From boom to Burma and back

Posted on: 4th August, 2015

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: Sheila Mullins

Quaking Grass Art and Print Studio will open this September in Lislevane, just outside Timoleague. Run by artist, art teacher and interior designer Eilbhe Donovan, the studio will run classes and workshops in a huge variety of fine art techniques. Eilbhe speaks to Sheila Mullins about her travels on the way to West Cork and her plans for the studio.

Eilbhe DonovanWicklow native Eilbhe Donovan began her creative career working as a decorative painter in Dublin during the boom years. Consulting with top architects and designers she interpreted design schemes into mood/sample boards before transforming hotel lobbies, grand offices and public building spaces. When work dried up during the recession Eilbhe decided to embark on a career in her other passion – teaching art to others. Having gained her teaching qualification in Crawford College in Cork, she was all set to emigrate when she met her German husband-to-be Daniel in the city.

Undeterred, Eilbhe set off on her travels, including time spent in Burma as an art teacher in an international school. “Burma was a great experience that I’ll never forget,” she recalls. “Living conditions in Burma were pretty basic and it was cheap to fly to Bangkok, so we’d go there for nights out or to the cinema. Flying back into Rangoon was like landing in Lislevane – despite it being a city, there were no lights!”

“The people are so friendly though it was like being in Ireland, well Ireland 40 years ago, in that there was a knack to get everything to work and a lot of making-do. Even the local buses could be right or left hand drive, depending on what they could get their hands on, so the doors might open on to the white line of a busy street,” says Eilbhe laughing. “This making-do extended to art materials in the school where I worked so I had to be innovative, which was good for me. One of our projects was to create a beautiful mural in the school and that’s something I still do today, in playgrounds and national schools here.”

After Burma, Eilbhe settled in Germany for a while with her husband, again working as an art teacher, before Daniel announced that really he would like to return to Ireland. The couple decided on West Cork for their new life and now live in a picturesque home in Lislevane with Quaking Grass Studio (and free roaming hens) in their pretty garden.

Eilbhe’s classes and workshops will cater for all levels and are available for drawing and painting in oil, ink and wash and watercolour and also print-making techniques such as etching, drypoint, intaglio and relief. “I also teach Junior Cert Art privately for students of schools who do not offer it,” says Ailbhe. “My own secondary school didn’t teach art so I studied for my exams with a private teacher. Particularly for artistic boys attending school in Clonakilty, this is an option that they might not have considered. Because I have my own printing press I can even offer the option of etching for the exam.”

Eilbhe still works as an interior design consultant, “I help private clients to come up with schemes such as a magical child’s bedrooms and businesses such as cafés to stand out from the crowd”. She also plans to provide courses in interior design skills such as applying specialist paint finishes to walls and furniture for budding amateur designers.

Eilbhe is still practicing as an artist herself and is currently working with the Local Enterprise Office to establish her own brand of unusual farm animal and bird designs. You can check these out on her facebook page EilbheDonovanArts, where you’ll also find updates about Quaking Grass Studio.

Call Eilbhe on 087 3445137 to get information on upcoming courses or to book one of her Hen Party Packages, where groups can do activities such as making and decorating funky feather and glitter masks for the night ahead, Ailbhe adds that “there’s the option of chilled Prosecco on arrival to loosen up the creative spirit!”


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