'Every time I open the kiln after a firing, it is like a little celebration'

Glass artist Suzanne O’Sullivan, who takes part in Cork Craft and Design month, talks about her life, work and current projects
'Every time I open the kiln after a firing, it is like a little celebration'
Glass artist Suzanne O'Sullivan who is taking part in Cork Craft Month.

Tell us about yourself: 

I’m a glass artist living and working in Fermoy, north Cork. I grew up on a small farm, where my parents taught me to love and respect animals and nature.

As a child, most of my time was spent painting, drawing and daydreaming. I did a Business and Marketing course in CIT and later followed on to Crawford College of Art & Design.

I graduated from Crawford and was awarded Student of the Year by the Cork Arts Society. The best part of that award was how proud my father was of me. Up until that point, he could not figure out what I was doing in art college and not behind a desk in a nice warm office. As it turned out, my father helped me a lot in the following years, making presentation stands for my work.

Over the years I had somehow found myself working mainly to commission and making awards and presentations for various events, such as a presentation to the Mayor of Shanghai on his visit to Cork Institute of Technology and a Glass Bowl commissioned by the Irish in Europe Association and Cork County Council, to be presented to the city of Brussels.

About three years ago I started to feel the isolation of working in my studio by myself. I was introduced to Cork Craft & Design, a Makers Collective in Douglas through talking to local artists and makers in The Blackwater Valley Makers Arts Centre in Fermoy, which I’m a part of. There are 16 makers in Fermoy and over 100 makers in Cork Craft & Design. Both groups are run by the makers themselves.

It’s been a fantastic experience to connect with others in the area and with a large network of makers across Cork county and avail of the many great opportunities that Cork Craft & Design offers its members.

Because I now sell in shops and online, I started to make glass jewellery, and I love it. Every time I open the kiln after a firing, it is like a little celebration.

Where were you born? Watergrasshill

Where you do live? Fermoy.

Family?

A very patient husband, two energetic, funny and extremely stubborn children and a sweet dog.

Best friend?

My sister Majella. She’s always been there for me and my kids and she’s great craic. My kids adore Aunty Jells, and she spoils them rotten.

Earliest childhood memory?

This is a little sad! It’s a memory of me banging a toy on a window to get my parents’ attention as they walked away. I was around 2 or 3 and in strict quarantine. I hadn’t seen my parents in over a week and I spotted them walking away from the hospital. My parents later told me they had come up to the hospital and were told I could go home. They had to pop out to get warm clothes for the car journey and that’s when I spotted them. My mother told me that I clung to them and cried when they came back with clothes to take me home.

Maybe that’s why I always have a spare coat in the car — my husband can’t figure out why I need two coats when we go anywhere.

Person you most admire?

My husband, for many reasons.

Person who irritates you?

My husband, for many reasons!

Some of Suzanne's stunning work.E
Some of Suzanne's stunning work.E

Most memorable holiday:

It’s a pretty recent holiday, just last year. The memories are still fresh and I’m pretty sure it will always stand out as one of my favourite holidays. It was a family holiday in Barcelona where we did a few day trips. One of the day trips was to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Girona, which was brilliant. My kids loved it and looked at everything in such an honest and imaginative way. We had to be kicked out at closing time. Barcelona itself is a fantastic city.

The highlight of the trip was our visit to Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, it’s so stunningly beautiful. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of standing within something so amazing— it has an “other world” or sense of “divinity” about it. Gaudi was an incredible artist, architect and visionary.

Favourite TV programme?

I binge watch one show at a time. I started watching Schitt’s Creek at the beginning of lockdown and have just finished it, highly entertaining. Not sure what I’m going to watch next, but it will probably be a comedy.

Signature dish if cooking:

Vegetarian Massaman Curry. I did a cooking class years ago in northern Thailand, where I learnt to cook this. It’s probably the only really nice thing I can cook. I like making salads but my salads aren’t really cooking, more like arranging raw foods in a bowl.

Favourite restaurant:

Anywhere that serves me food and I don’t have to cook or wash up and I’m happy.

Last book you read:

Given the strange times we are in, I have started to read dystopian novels and just finished reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Well worth a read or even reread at the moment.

Best book you read:

Carol North’s Welcome, Silence. I read it years ago and it’s a very honest and open account of her battle with mental illness and overcoming massive obstacles. It’s a truly inspirational book.

Favourite song?

Green Day’s Time of your Life. My husband and I got married in our garden when we lived in West Cork. My niece sang this song accompanied by my brother on guitar. They did change the lyrics to “have the time of your life” as opposed to “had the time”. Because “I hope you had the time of your life” as a wedding song would be a pretty bleak look on marriage!

One person you would like to see in concert?

At the moment, anyone. I would literally go anywhere to see anyone play some live music.

Do you have a pet?

Yes, the sweetest dog in the world, Twiglet, who is a little lonely at the moment and following me everywhere. Our other dog Bobo passed unexpectedly recently. We were all devastated and Twiglet is lost without her best bud.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl. I drag myself around the house all day and wake up bright as a button at 10pm, it drives my husband nuts.

Your proudest moment?

Anytime I get the punchline of a joke right.

Spendthrift or saver?

Spendthrift all the way.

What makes you happy?

So many things make me happy — family, friends, nature, my studio, art, music, laughing, swimming, food . this list could go on and on for a very long time.

How would you like to be remembered?

As being happy.

What else are you up to at the moment?

During lockdown, I decided to start using empty wine bottles in my work, as there was a few available! I also put out a call for friends to help. People were very obliging, they emptied and kept glass bottles for me. I have been doing all kinds of interesting experiments in my kiln with these bottles, and loving the results.

I’m also getting ready for Cork Craft Month, a great annual festival that is organised by Cork Craft & Design. Celebrating contemporary Irish craft, there are over 50 events happening this month (all details at corkcraftanddesign.com) and I’ll be doing a glass working demonstration on August 19. Book tickets on contact@blackwatervalleymakers.com.

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