Scribbles are at the heart of what I do with art

Clodagh Caulfield will be among those selling her work at Ballymaloe Craft Fair this weekend.
Scribbles are at the heart of what I do with art
An example of Clodagh's work.

Tell us about yourself:

I am a fidgety person and a natural doodler. I suppose I’ve always made stuff but I became more focused a number of years ago when I took a night course in Textiles at the Crawford College of Art.

Our tutor, Caroline Smith, was fantastic because she was ebulliently positive and helpful. She gave me the courage to explore and create without fear of making mistakes. But the compulsion to scribble has never left me and remains at the heart of what I do. I like it when the things I produce make people smile. I have a day job too. I work at Abode in Blackrock, Cork, where I run the Independent Living Programme.

Where were you born?

I was born in Donegal and grew up in the coastal village of Dunfanaghy. There is a mountain nearby called Muckish. As teenagers, we were very sneering in that teenagy way of people who we felt weren’t as cool or worldly as we were ourselves. We referred to these unfortunates as being ‘from the back end of Muckish.’ It was the worst of insults in matters of style.

Then, not so long ago, I was thinking about Dunfanaghy, and how it was separated from the rest of the country and most of the world by that fantastic mountain, and it struck me that I myself am from the back end of Muckish. I’m very proud to be so.

Where do you live?

In Blackrock, Cork city. It is a very comfortable place to live, all fresh air and greenery and the convenience of everything a city can offer on your doorstep. I love the activity on the river, from the elegance of small rowing boats to the shock of container ships gliding up the Lee. It reminds you there’s a whole world out there.


I have recently become the shortest person in our family. I have one medium-sized husband and two teenage daughters who have had the bad manners to outgrow their mother.

Best friend?

Oooh, it would be unwise to opt for one in particular. There are four of us who have been friends forever and we make an effort to get together at least once a year as we are scattered to the four winds. This usually takes place in Donegal.

I couldn’t be without them. There is a shared history, a sense of loyalty, trust and belonging that makes it a very special relationship. And they make me laugh.

Earliest childhood memory?

I remember being in the back yard with my mother examining pink fox gloves. I was amazed that the foxes’ paws must be so soft and small because I could only fit one or two fingers inside without damaging them. I must have been two or three years old, as we moved from that house the summer I was three.

Person you most admire?

I admire people with a strong moral compass and the strength to follow through on what they think is right. For example, there is an unassuming someone I know who, together with a friend, is responsible for setting up a school in India. They have given children who would otherwise have been begging on city streets and disappearing into its underworld the opportunity to make an alternative future for themselves.

I think that’s a fantastic achievement. I admire her greatly.

Work by Clodagh Caulfield.
Work by Clodagh Caulfield.

Person who most irritates you?

Whingers. You know, the type of people who complain and then rubbish any solution offered to them? And it’s always someone else’s fault? That’s just plain irritating.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I’m actually very happy with the current Minister for Finance, Pascal Donoghue. I’m not qualified to know how good a Minister for Finance he is, but he makes me smile every time I hear his voice on the radio.

His responses are always so measured, he is unflappable, won’t be derailed from what he wants to say and he is never, ever rude.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

Four of us went to Ecuador a long time ago. It was so incredibly different from anywhere else I had ever been that it is still quite vivid in my memory. It was also the first time I had come face to face with real poverty and the menace of violence. It was beautiful and of course we were able to stay in the best of places and travel in comfort because it was so cheap for us to do so. Something felt a bit false, however. It was like looking at the country through a protective shield.

Clodagh Caulfield.
Clodagh Caulfield.

This year, I had another holiday which I know will stay with me for a long time: I went volunteer teaching in Nepal. It might not sound like a holiday to you, but as a fidgety person I don’t cope well with the relaxing beach break. Anyway, on this holiday I was able to stay with a host family and experience what it is like to live and work in Kathmandu. It was a fantastic opportunity, not easy, but fantastic nonetheless. I am glad I went and I was glad to come home, too. It was just too short. It feels like unfinished business. I haven’t decided on my next move yet.

Favourite TV programme?

I don’t really invest much thought in what we watch on TV, not because I have a boorish husband with a deadman’s grip on the remote, but because I have no strong opinions about what I want to watch.

We watch a lot of series, like Breaking Bad, The Bridge, and Mr Mercedes. I notice it’s all a bit harsh and vicious. That must be The Husband’s influence.

Favourite radio show?

I love the radio. I rediscovered it when my elder daughter was a baby and it was good to be able to listen in on adult conversations without taking my eyes off her. It also lends itself to doodling as it is background company while I work.

I like documentaries, so I particularly like Doc on One.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Spanish Garlic Chicken. Don’t ask me what makes it Spanish. Most of the things I cook involve chilli, ginger and garlic.

Favourite restaurant?

Currently, it is the Haveli in Douglas. It seems to be our go-to place for family events at the moment. The food is always good, the staff are friendly and it isn’t that far from home.

Art work by Clodagh.
Art work by Clodagh.

Last book you read?

Paris Exit by Patrick DeWitt. I wasn’t mad about the storyline, I preferred his other book, The Sisters Brothers, but I love the way he writes. The humour is dark and he can weave a picture with a couple of words. I’d love to be able to write like that.

Best book you read?

That’s a hard question and I might give you a different answer next week, but let’s say One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I found this on my sister’s bookshelf and it was so different from anything I had ever read before, I was mesmerised. If I had had been told before I started reading it that there was an element of magic realism in it, I would have dropped it like a stone, but I loved it. And it opened the whole world of South American literature to me.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

I’m too embarrassed to say. I heard a song on the radio and loved it so much that I went off to explore the album. It wasn’t my usual type of thing, but on impulse I bought it. After a couple of weeks, I decided there were three good songs on it and the rest of it was wretched.

The three songs made it onto a playlist I was putting together for a long car journey. I wasn’t out of Cork county when it struck me that it was the most depressing playlist ever: abusive relationships, unrequited love, dashed hopes…. Luckily, I was travelling alone.

Favourite song?

Solsbury Hill, by Peter Gabriel. Back in the day before you could Google lyrics, I spent ages trying to work them out, and then trying to understand them. It was a step up from the ‘I love you, you love me’ type of thing I was used to and I loved that it made me think. I also love Peter Gabriel’s voice. And his eyes.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I’d like to see Kate Tempest. I haven’t had the concentration to really listen to her yet, but I think she is hugely talented and the best way to see her would be in a live concert.

Another piece of Clodagh's work.
Another piece of Clodagh's work.

Do you have a pet?

Oh yes. Cassie, a rescue dog with mental health issues. She is best walked early in the morning when there aren’t too many others around. Sometimes I’m convinced people take a second glance when they see us and I’m afraid it may be because we look alike.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning. But I can do the night owl thing when the company is good.

Your proudest moment?

Becoming a mother. Twice.

Spendthrift or saver?


What makes you happy?

A sense of achievement, even if it’s only feeding people.

How would you like to be remembered?

With warmth.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m a member of the Cork Textiles Network. It is celebrating 20 years this year, and whilst it is always an active group, there is even more going on at the moment. So I’m making stuff that I hope will be included in upcoming events.

I’m also preparing for the Ballymaloe Craft Fair which will be taking place from November 16 to 18. My younger daughter and I came across it by accident last year. We went out to buy a cake and ended up spending the afternoon amongst the stalls as well. It was like wandering into a treasure trove. This is my first year to be involved.


The Ballymaloe Craft Fair, which features more than 100 of Ireland’s finest crafters and makers, will open on the Friday night (for the first time) from 6pm to 9pm. Saturday and Sunday hours are 10am until 6pm. As well as crafts, there will be artisanal food and libations, workshops, lively music, and a festive atmosphere.

Admission to the fair is €5. Children under age 16 are free. Parking is free. Advance booking is advised for the Sustainable Living Fringe workshops. Tickets for workshops start at €15.

For more information and to book see

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