ALTHOUGH a self-described ‘blow-in’ to Sherkin Island, artist Jean Dunne feels very much at home there and has come up with a novel way of raising funds for Cork Penny Dinners from her adopted abode.
She is working with other artists and friends of the Sherkin Island community, selling cards with art work on them, with 100% of the profits going to Cork Penny Dinners. So far, more than €4,000 has been raised and Jean is looking to raise at least €10,000.
Originally from Dublin, Jean, whose background is in IT, sold up and bought a house on Sherkin Island, about three years ago. She always wanted to live by the sea. And having completed a BA in visual art on Sherkin Island, administered by Dublin Institute of Technology (now known as the Technological University Dublin), Jean knew that Sherkin was where she wanted to live.
A mother of two grown up children, Jean wanted to help in some way when Covid-19 struck this country.
“Cork Penny Dinners has always been on my mind. I saw a programme on RTÉ where the Brennan brothers featured the charity in At Your Service. Having gone to college on Sherkin, travelling there from Dublin every second weekend, I had spent a lot of time at Cork bus station. I have a fondness for Cork city.”
An admirer of the work Catriona Twomey does for Cork Penny Dinners, Jean enlisted the help of about 45 artists, her daughter and sister, as well as children and friends. They supply artwork for free which Jean puts up on Facebook.
Through her online wool shop (thewoolshop.ie), people can select any image then order a pack of ten blank greeting cards with envelopes for €25 plus €1.80 postage. New images are coming in every day. There is the option to click on the Facebook page, Sherkin Artist Cards for Cork Penny Dinners.
Once people buy the images, Jean sends an order to a commercial printing company who then send the cards with the images onto the customers. The quality of the cards is good, says Jean. They include the Cork Penny Dinners logo, the name of the artist and the title of the project. The only cost is that of the fee the printer charges.
There is a strong artistic community on Sherkin Island that is enthusiastically creating art for the project.
“A broad mixture of people is involved. It can be people on the island who have maybe taken beautiful photographs. I want it to be really inclusive. I don’t talk about anyone in particular. If someone gives me art work, I put it on Facebook to let people know about it. There are all kinds of images; children’s drawings, photographs, paintings, surrealist art. It’s a broad mixture.”
While Jean is thinking in terms of reaching €10,000, she says there is no limit on it.
“This isn’t going to stop. I’m going to let it keep rolling on. Cork Penny Dinners are grateful for every cent they get. I got a call from the Custom House restaurant in Baltimore. They want to sell the cards from the restaurant. So that will happen.”
The cards have been sent by customers to America, Australia and France but mostly around Ireland.
“People are buying them to send to family and friends. They heard about it through word-of-mouth and the facebook page. Some who have received the cards look them up to see where they came from,” said Jean.
This can lead to orders for packs of cards from recipients of them.
Before settling on Sherkin, Jean had been visiting the island since 2009. She watched a TV programme about it and took part in a summer art course run by Sherkin-based artist, Majella O’Neill-Collins.
“I did the course for a few years, coming to Sherkin Island as much as I could. When I got redundancy from my job, I decided to move to Sherkin. The sea is a huge attraction.
“Also, there’s a great community here. When I did the degree course, it was mostly during winter time when the weather is not the greatest.”
Life on the island is really cool.
“I live on my own. You don’t have to make arrangements to see people. You meet them naturally.”
Every amenity on the island was closed for lockdown.
“It has been very quiet. I’ve been cocooning and haven’t seen that many people. But it’s perfect. I’m sitting at my kitchen window, looking out to the sea.”
The island can be wild during storms: “You have to make sure you have good windows. It’s absolutely fine. There hasn’t been a huge amount of damage. There are about 90 to 100 full-time residents living on the island and there are also holiday homes. There’s a few families that have been here on the island for a long time and there’s the blow-ins like me. It is quite a diverse community.”
Jean says that unless something radical changes, she will live on Sherkin for the rest of her life. She sees the card project as one community helping another.
“It’s very positive, with people getting something for their money” — namely the illustrated cards. A win-win in every way.