Car crash gave me a new outlook on life says Cork artist

A road accident gave Corrine Leland a new perspective on life and prompted her to rediscover her creative side, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Car crash gave me a new outlook on life says Cork artist
Passage based Corrine Leland with one of her hand crafted pieces.

THEY say everything happens for a reason and when Passage West woman, Corrine Leland, was involved in a car accident one door closed and another door opened.

“I love working with my creative friends, creating unique crafts,” says Corrine, 52, who after a car crash in 2014, was forced to walk around her local area when she couldn’t afford the car repairs.

“The cost of the repairs were over the top,” says Corrine. “No way could I afford to get the car fixed.”

Fortunately nobody was badly injured.

“Lucy, my daughter, and I, were on a camping trip in West Cork in September, 2014. Driving back in the Alfa Romeo, we crashed the car. We got out OK but it was like a mid-life crisis. Bills were mounting and all seemed grey.”

It was a wake-up call for Corrine about how precious life is and how fickle it can be.

“After the accident, I began to evaluate things and come to terms with the fact that we both could have been killed,” says Corrine, who is a full-time carer to her elderly parents.

She looks at life from both sides now.

“I got a new perspective on life. I thought I had wasted too much time. I decided to rediscover my creative side.”

She didn’t have to travel far to get inspiration. Corrine discovered hidden treasures, unusual shells, stones, and unusual shapes of driftwood on her walking trips along Cork harbour and local beaches which she collected and then fashioned into beautiful pieces of art, like the driftwood galleon ship that a delighted customer has just left with from Passage West Creates on 3 Main Street.

Members of Passage West Creates.
Members of Passage West Creates.

The most popular aspect of Corrine Leland’s creations is the driftwood she collects from Cork Harbour. And her artist’s eye picks up colourful details too.

“Walking around the west Cork bank of Cork Harbour, I noticed how beautiful the buildings were; not the drab grey brick built structures that had seen better days,” says Corrine.

“Underneath I saw that they were very colourful.”

She put on her rose tinted glasses.

“I saw how people living in the houses made them their own, by displaying lovely flowers and decorative lamps and little boxes of plants on the window sills. Pretty ornaments and painted gates and railings made the houses picture perfect.”

Corrine thought the row of pretty houses along the harbour town would make a pretty picture. She scraped enough money together to buy a canvas and paints. Her first project was Toureen Terrace, Passage West, which she walked past every day.

“That was my first project,” she says. “I really enjoyed working on the painting, seeing it materialise and come together.”

Corrine was delighted with the response the terrace painting garnered locally and beyond.

“The admiration for my painting was amazing,” she says.

She was encouraged to pursue the love of her childhood further.

“I painted similar paintings of local scenes and villages and I was ecstatic when I was invited to exhibit at the Cork Harbour Festival at the Pace Centre in 2017.”

Things could only get better.

“The reaction was great,” says Corrine. “And the exhibition went on to Cork International Airport where it was extended for another month.

“Then I was approached by Ivan Wolfe of the Hazelhurst Gallery to hold an exhibition.”

Corrine’s work gathered momentum.

One of the art pieces crafted by Corrine Leland out of driftwood.
One of the art pieces crafted by Corrine Leland out of driftwood.

“A Monkstown man who owned an art gallery sold a few of my paintings as well, so that was a major boost!”

Corrine’s self-esteem and confidence as a productive artist got a boost.

Passage West Creates opened three years ago where local artists collaborate, bringing all their creative skills to one hub. Mosaic pieces of colourful jewellery bask in the shadow of iconic colourful wooden lighthouses, carefully crafted patchwork and needlework creations decorate the shop window. It is a place to browse, linger and wonder at the talents within.

“Margaret Twomey, one of my colleagues, is an amazing jewellery maker. Her mosaic pieces are hugely popular with our customers.

“Our artists and crafters with different skills are all talented and so committed.”

The circle of friends produce an array of artistic treasures.

“A key-holder we made is on its way to Italy!” says Corrine, whose grandad worked in the dockyards in Cobh, and whose family members, the O’Sullivans, still live in the area.

“Margaret got a commission from Hawaii as well!”

Corrine is proud of her roots and proud of the area where she lives.

“We came to live in Cork, in the Boreenmanna Road, when I was eight years old,” says Corrine, who is mum to Lucy, Emmet and Nathan.

“I went to Regina Mundi secondary school and to the Cork School of Art. I’ve always loved pottering about with crafts, drawing pictures and going to craft shows. And I loved making crafty items as presents to give to my family and friends.”

When Corrine’s parents retired in Cork, she returned from the UK where she had been living, to look after them.

“It is good to be near mum and dad so I can care for them,” says Corrine. “I am available to bring them to their hospital appointments and spend quality time with them.”

She has also met great friends who support each other.

“My family are my nearest and dearest, my craft community and my harbour friends.”

Passage West Creates, 3 Main Street, open 10am -6pm Thursday to Sunday.

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