Redundancy allowed me to pursue my passion for art says West Cork woman

Left bereft when she lost her job of 17 years, West Cork woman Deirdre Pattwell decided to follow a passion for art, which she had had since she was a young child, writes MARY ROSE MCCARTHY. Now the artist is enjoying much success
Redundancy allowed me to pursue my passion for art says West Cork woman
Artist Deirdre Pattwell, West Cork, who decided to follow her passion for art, after being made redundant.

CLONAKILTY native Deidre Pattwell moved to Bandon 20 years ago. She always enjoyed art at school but didn’t pursue a career in the field when she was younger.

Instead, she joined the workforce, her initial job was at the West Cork Model Village in Clonakilty. Here she did a variety of jobs including working on a six foot mural. She also undertook a course in carpentry and painting.

When her time there ended, Deirdre applied to Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa (CSN) and to Bandon Pottery Studios. Successful in both interviews the need to pay rent and make a living won out over study and she went to work with Bandon Pottery. While there, she acquired her City and Guilds qualification in pottery decorating.

When the studio ceased making pottery in Bandon, Deidre worked a variety of jobs as and when she could. Then she met her partner and had children. She decided to stay at home when her kids were small and when both were at primary school she began working part time in Heaton’s Bandon, as the hours were suitable for her children’s after school care.

Over time, Deirdre worked up to full time hours. In all she spent a total of 17 years in Heaton’s. When the company ceased trading in Bandon she was bereft and depressed.

“Seventeen years is a long time. And I loved working there. The friendships you make with the staff and the regular customers, it’s not easy when all that goes. It is a huge life change and a loss of many connections.”

Deidre always doodled from a young age. And did art sporadically as a hobby over the years. As she puts it, she’d start then stop again.

Faced with redundancy, she looked around and realised there were few opportunities available for someone of her experience that paid more than minimum wage.

She toyed with applying for other positions in retail, but at the back of her mind, she knew she always wanted to be an artist.

“I knew if I didn’t do it now, I would never have the opportunity again. The redundancy gave me a few months’ free time to build up a collection of work.”

Her medium is acrylic on canvas, which she has mounted and framed at Strand Framing. West Cork landscapes and shop fronts are her inspiration. In particular, she concentrated on Bandon shop fronts. She presented each of the businesses with a print of their facades.

A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Shopfront'.
A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Shopfront'.

“With increased modernisation and expansion in businesses, I am afraid that we will lose the fabric of the old shop fronts along our main shopping streets,” says Deirdre.

“When I’m 70 I want to walk down South Main Street and still see Farrells, and O’Donovans, and Crowleys, as they are today.”

Deirdre sought and received assistance from Enterprise Ireland and set up her own business called Deidre Pattwell. Enterprise Ireland assisted financially and with mentoring, both of which were invaluable, she says.

Deirdre decided to take the plunge and open a ‘pop up’ shop in Riverview shopping centre in the lead up to Christmas, almost directly opposite the store once known as Heaton’s.

“It was fantastic being back in the shopping centre. Meeting people I knew, just chatting to them. But the shop went really well. Not alone did I sell my work but I received over a dozen commissions which will keep me busy at the beginning of 2020.”

A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Morning Mists'
A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Morning Mists'

Deirdre also ran a very successful children’s painting competition with a free theme. “I don’t think there should be constraints on art or trying to get children to paint to a certain theme or title,” she says. “Let their imaginations run free.”

Deidre doesn’t belong to any art groups. She cannot paint if there are others around or watching her.

“But,” she says “it’s also about balance. I need solitude to paint and once I start, I find it hard to take a break from a work in progress. That’s not good either so I think I need to join a walking club or some other group that meet regularly and make a commitment to join them.

A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Bandon Church'.
A painting by Deirdre Pattwell called 'Bandon Church'.

“Then I’ll leave the work and meet others. It’s a fine line.”

In the future Deidre hopes to paint scenes and landscapes from other West Cork towns, including her native Clonakilty. She wonders aloud if she’s perhaps the first person to paint the new footbridge over the River Bandon.

Her first commission was from Bandon Scouts — a scene of Cappanalea in commemoration of their 40th anniversary as an outdoor adventure centre in Kerry.

“It’s daunting doing commissions,” Deidre says.

“I’m always anxious until the client sees it. You never know if they will like what you’ve done.”

Deirdre is very thankful to her partner, children and larger extended family and parents. She couldn’t have done it without their help, support, and encouragement.

Her work has been described as simply captivating and has winged its way to various overseas locations.

You can view her work on her Facebook page, Deidre Pattwell Paintings.

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