Liz Gill is a screenwriter, director and producer, best known for her tenderly hilarious 2003 film, Goldfish Memory, which won 16 festival awards internationally and 9 IFTA nominations, including best film, director, and script.
As well as screenwriting, Liz’s wide ranging experience as a director and First Assistant Director culminated in her book, Running the Show – the Essential Guide to Being a First Assistant Director, published by Focal Press (US).
For TV, Liz has directed a diverse range of shows, from soaps such as Eastenders to the surreal and side-achingly funny series, Hardy Bucks. She is currently working on the Netflix series Valhalla, a spin-off of Vikings on which she worked extensively as a producer.
Liz tells Beth for Sonnets and Dirty Dishes, ‘Gender was hugely important in my choice to abandon my career as a screenwriter. In my time working in cinema through my twenties and thirties, if anything, the gender imbalance got even worse. People think, oh we’ve had feminism, all that has been sorted. But it’s not.’
Jill de Búrca is a sought after Embroidery and Embellishment Designer who has sold her creations to a wide range of international designers including Calvin Klein, Diane Von Furstenberg, BCBG Max Azria, JCrew, Topshop, and Thurley .
Jill studied textiles and specialized in Embroidery for her degree at NCAD Ireland, after which she moved to the UK to train with Larch Rose, a highly creative fashion and textile studio who were dedicated to producing innovative and directional work for the fashion industry. Later she trained with Jenny King master embroiderer and worked on the production of Erdem’s exquisitely embroidered clothes. Other clients included Stella McCartney and Mary Katrantzou . Her own clothing designs are fashion forward but utilise techniques and craftsmanship from the past. She uses an Irish Singer Embroidery machine to free-hand satin stitch, which is a skill rarely used today.
Jill talks to Sonnets and Dirty Dishes about learning to protect what she loves most, and the health benefits of a studio companion who demands to be brought for regular walks.
In this section we ask makers to talk about what started them down the road they are on – how did it begin? On Sonnets and Dirty Dishes, we want to explore what motivates people to take the leap from dreaming, to doing. We ask: Can you tell us what drives you to do what you do?
JILL: “I am still uncomfortable describing myself as fashion designer even though I do make clothes. I feel I am a textile / embroidery designer first and foremost.
I guess I’ve always been interested in making and doing and never really looked at any alternative other than Art collage. I had no idea what I would end up doing but I gravitated towards textiles and fashion and specialised in embroidery at NCAD.
My mam and great aunts were always sewing and knitting. I love the making process and this is something that has always influenced the way I work. I started working in a small fashion design studio when I moved to Brighton and it really cemented the love of making. We did everything in house, from hand dying, designing embellishments and prints to cutting and constructing the clothing. It was an incredible learning experience. It’s still an important part of my practice, making everything in our little studio.
In this section we ask makers to talk about their workspaces, tools, and resources they need. We ask what their work day looks like. We also ask them to respond personally to the Sylvia Plath quote that gives this project its title: ‘I would live a life of conflict, of juggling children, sonnets, love and dirty dishes.’
“After collage I was stuck in a desk job and wasn’t using my degree, doing what I loved. I felt adrift and found it difficult to find a fulfilling job that paid a living wage. I decided if I wanted to really give it a go I had to go and get some experience abroad and moved to the UK. That desk job gave me a taste of what I didn’t want and this was a huge motivator, trying to find what I did want to do, and make it work!
No job I had in the UK was 9-5. It was really long hours but I was really driven and happy learning new skills. I went from intern to running the embroidery department in a short time.
I learned to use an Irish Singer free-stitch machine while interning at Jenny King and fell in love with it. I got to work on my technique while working on collections of some of the biggest names in London fashion Week. When I decided to move home I wanted to continue working in a studio and making so this was a big motivator in setting up a studio in Dublin.
In this section we ask makers to talk about their workspaces, tools, and resources they need. We ask what their work day looks like. We also ask them to respond personally to the Sylvia Plath quote that gives this project its title: ‘I would live a life of conflict, of juggling children, sonnets, love and dirty dishes.
“I have a studio down the end of my garden. I have always wanted a studio where I live. I worked from home for years and it was quite difficult. Taking out all my work and at the end of the day having to put it away again was frustrating.
My studio is now a treasure trove of fabrics, threads, beads and things I’ve collected over the years. I’ve always collected bits to use in my work or that inspire me. When I lived in Brighton we had the luxury of a man visiting the studio with a van full of vintage trims and glass beads from an old factory in France. It was like Christmas and I still have lots of vintage threads, trims and beads. I also bought a vintage haberdashery display cabinet from a shop that was closing down, and an architect’s plan chest which I had a desk custom built around at waist height, so I can stand and work around the table.
My most precious pieces are my sewing machines. I bought my Vintage Irish Singer sewing machines from a lady in Newry. They don’t make them anymore. The one I use is over 70 years old. I was very lucky to get them as they are so rare to come by. The woman had used them since she was twelve when she started working in a factory in Northern Ireland and used them all through her life until she had to retire. It’s an amazing workhorse, still perfect and I feel lucky to have them.
“My work day varies from day to day. In between my own work, I teach Textile Theory, Fabric Manipulation techniques and Embroidery part-time to 3rd level students and I am also currently doing a masters at in Education, Training and Learning. No matter what I’m doing, my day always starts with taking my dog for a walk first thing.
I spend a lot of time working solo so my dog is great company and also I have to leave the studio to go for walks, so good for my health overall. It’s taxing on the body to sew intensively all day so I tend to do a few hours on the machine and then change it up. I make a list each week and work through it crossing things off as I go. I’m lost without to do lists!
“My work life balance is better but still not perfect and I think that’s something that will forever be in flux. I have changed the way I work in recent times and I now only do bespoke embroidery jobs. This allows me to pick and choose work that excites me, and concentrate on the most important bit, which for me is the embroidery.
Running a label takes an incredible amount of time and energy. I had little left for myself and felt like I was going to burn out. You are not only a designer, you are production manager, sales manager, accountant, studio manager, promoter and everything else in between. It took me away from the creative process more and more, the busier I became.
I decided to concentrate on the parts of the work I loved which was the embroidery and making. This has also given me time to teach which has always been a part of my job as a designer that I loved. Training interns and sharing techniques is incredibly rewarding and fun. Teaching is also a break from the studio; it can be quite isolating at times working solo.
Sometimes putting too much pressure on your creative job to provide your entire income, creates too much pressure to succeed financially. I have become almost protective of what I love and finding other sources of income has in a way allowed me to continue to work the way I want to.
BEING IN THE WORLD
Publication, performance, recording, exhibiting. In this section we ask: how important is it to you that your work exists in a public space? Why do you think this is? And can you tell us about the time and effort you give to getting your work out in the world?
“I think having a deadline is the only way to get a project over the finish line, for me anyway! And having one such as a publication piece or exhibition is an extra push. Procrastination can be part of the creative process, thinking and sitting with an idea, but ultimately you need to set goals to move projects on and push them in ways you might not have if given all the time in the world.
It can be quite lonely during the creative process so sharing your work and connecting with people is an important part of it. I think having an “event” to unveil your work helps pushing you forward. It is still daunting and stressful but I think ultimately it’s good to be out of your comfort zone sometimes. Otherwise complacency can set in and stagnate your flow.
Sustainability and Ethical standards are an important part of my work. I don’t outsource and this is a conscious choice. A big part of the course I teach is about sustainability and our responsibility to the people in developing countries and the environment. I think if you are a designer today it’s important to make people aware of alternative options that are available other than the fast fashion throw away culture we have normalized. Craft and real creativity should be given the platform, to showcase the process and thought that has gone into it.
“I think documenting your work is very important, recognising and respecting the work that has gone into making it come to life. If I’m working on a collection I usually set a deadline for a photoshoot and keep making pieces right up until the day of the shoot. For me, it’s important to collaborate and to work with people who are good at what they do. Fresh eyes are always an added bonus too, especially if you have been isolated, working on this for weeks / months and a bit jaded from it.
I think now more than ever people want to see your process and to have more of an insight into the application of your craft and not just the finished piece. To be able to show the integrity of how things are made, traceability and authenticity especially in fashion is very important. Platforms like Instagram are changing the way we interact with people and how we choose what to show.
BEING IN OURSELVES:
Many creative people speak of periods of self doubt or imposter syndrome. It seems that choosing to persist with our creative projects takes great courage at times. In this section we ask: How has self doubt affected you, if at all? What have you done to bring yourself through difficult times and allow yourself to persist? What has helped you?
“I was so worried about paying the bills at stages that I have thought of throwing it all in many times but I still think back to that desk job and how unhappy I was. I have definitely struggled with my own self-doubt and imposter syndrome over the years and I don’t think it’s something that ever goes away. Being creative is incredibly personal and it can be daunting putting your work out there to be critiqued.
I am not great at promoting myself and I have come to discover I am a bit of an introvert. I don’t really like talking about myself and find it painfully hard to talk about my own work sometimes. Collaborating is a great way to work and has been very beneficial in the cross pollination of ideas and also the benefit of having another person to bounce off.
Going through a period of full-on anxiety and panic attacks taught me to take the foot off the pedal and slow down. I was working too much and felt like I was drowning. Looking after yourself both physically and mentally is so important. If you don’t it will end up choking your creativity and squeezing the love out of it. It’s important to not take it all too seriously either.
The Irish Times lauded her as ‘a true poet.’ Another review celebrated her ‘imagery, honesty and insight.’ Since her first collection of poetry was published in 1993 (with the gloriously playful title, Eating Baby Jesus) Enda Wyley has steadily built an impressive body of work. To date she has published six collections of poetry and three books for children.
Her poetry has been widely broadcast, translated and anthologised including in The Harvard Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry.
She has been poet-in-residence for many projects and institutions including The Coombe Maternity Hospital, Dublin and Dearcán na nDaoine/ The People’s Acorn, a sculpture project by artist Rachel Joynt for Áras an Uachtaráin (the residence of the president of Ireland), among others.
Úna Burke is a leather worker and fashion designer whose creations have been chosen by such powerhouse shapers of popular culture as Madonna, Rhianna and Lady Gaga, to name but a few. Her distinctive style helped to create the look of perhaps the most iconic movie heroine of modern times – Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games; and her work was used by Taylor Swift in her music videos.
Úna is from the small village of Knockvicar, in County Roscommon in the West of Ireland. She studied Fashion at Limerick School of Art and Design and then went on to work with several fashion houses around Ireland, before moving to London in 2006 where she began a Masters in Fashion Artefact at the London College of Fashion.
In conversation with Tempy for Sonnets and Dirty Dishes, Úna talks about riding the waves of a creative life, grounding herself with her craft, and the importance of saying ‘YES’.
Karen is a portrait and lifestyle photographer steadily marking her space in the photography world, one photo at a time. Her love of photography started as a child but it took her years to come back to it and realise that with a camera in her hands she could fill a void in her life – the need to fulfil her creative drive. Karen is self taught and her busy practice today all started with pushing herself to be her own subject in front of her camera, and making portraits of her children a daily part of life. She is based in Brussels, Belgium.
With work in permanent collections all over the world and a steady stream of solo and group shows internationally since 1974, Deirdre McLoughlin’s art is instantly recognisable. Working almost exclusively with ceramics using a traditional coiling method, Deirdre’s sculptures seem to embody both unapologetic strength and a sort of tenderness of form.
Interestingly for Sonnets and Dirty Dishes readers looking for inspiration in Deirdre’s career, she did not attend art college. Instead she studied humanities in Trinity College Dublin. Later, when she understood that clay gave her a language of expression, she made her own apprenticeship by moving to Kyoto and finding her own masters to study under. She now lives and works in the Netherlands.
Born in Cambridge, England and a graduate of Goldsmiths College in London, Rachel Parry made her way in the 1970s to the most southerly tip of Ireland to settle on the Beara Peninsula. Rachel often works with found objects and natural materials that are imbued with meaning of their own – meaning which is delicately amplified and simultaneously made strange by incorporation into sculptural form.
Ria Czerniak-Le Bov is a visual artist and musician, someone whose drive to create finds outlet in many different forms but with one unifying force. That force is Ria’s clarity of vision – the way she looks at the world from sometimes startlingly original angles, and her extraordinary ability to capture with images, words, and melodies, the beauty and strangeness that she sees.
Gigging in Dublin since the age of seventeen, Ria released her album, Souvenir, in 2012, at a time that she was also studying full time at the National College of Art and design. Her work has been exhibited at Graphic Studio Gallery, RHA, RUA, Dunamaise Arts Centre, NUI Maynooth, St. Patrick’s Hospital, Impressions Print Biennale, Halftone Print Fair and Courthouse Arts Centre among others.
She tells Sonnets and Dirty Dishes: “I have a compulsion to create. I think the fact that my creative outputs are so varied helps to keep me inspired and motivated.
“Someone once asked me ‘Do you not think that if you’d just stuck to one thing, you might have been successful by now?’ The presumption of my failure was what I found most bewildering. I always think that if I can truly stand behind something I have created and know it is communicating what I intended it to, then it has ultimately succeeded.”
Read her full interview below.
In this section we ask artists to talk about what started them down the road they are on – how did it begin? On Sonnets and Dirty Dishes, we want to explore what motivates people to take the leap from dreaming, to doing. We ask: Can you tell us what drives you to do what you do?
RIA: “I feel like every creative has ‘the thing’. The ‘thing’ is different for each of us. It’s what drives us to create, what defines success or failure when reviewing our work. After years of working in a multitude of different media I think I’ve distilled mine down to its essence: communication.
I was one of those kids who made up long, elaborate stories and illustrated them, who was in every school play. I wrote poems and songs and sewed costumes for my dolls. My sister, my best friend and I used to put on shows in our living room and charge family, friends and neighbours in to see us recite our verses, sing and dance in our mad attire. I was very lucky, looking back that my mother nurtured that tendency so early. She had endless interest in every one of my creative endeavours. The thread that ran through each of them, that still runs through every song I write and image I create, is storytelling. I am forever attempting to set a scene, to lend a narrative credibility, to take the viewer or listener some place with me.
When I was nine my aunt, uncle and two cousins moved back from London and came to live with us for ten months. This short period had a huge impact on my child self. My uncle, a guitarist, songwriter and photographer and my aunt, a costumier, were probably the first adults I knew whose ‘real’ jobs were in the arts. Until then I had considered art and music as hobbies, not viable things I could grow up to do as a career. It was under my uncle Maurice’s influence that I first made melodies for my poems, taking up the guitar at twelve. Though my love of the visual arts continued, I studied contemporary music in college after leaving school, continuing on to study classical singing part-time. My 20s were spent juggling a multitude of part time jobs, gigging, songwriting and further attempting to educate myself.
At 25, I began taking courses at The National College of Art and Design. I had no particular goal in mind. It was just something I enjoyed. Over the course of 4 years I studied fashion and pattern cutting, embroidery, Art History, drawing and fine art printmaking through their adult education evening class programme. After four years I had a diploma and decided to return to college full-time for a further 3 years, receiving first class honours in History of Art and Fine Art Print from NCAD in 2016. When I left college I was given a Graduate Award from Graphic Studio Dublin which included a year’s membership and generous stipend for materials. It felt like the perfect segue, knowing I had somewhere to work every day, surrounded by experienced artists who were and continue to be incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and inspiring. It never really occurred to me that I would get work as a visual artist, but between art sales, commissions, teaching and editioning for other artists I have managed to keep myself afloat since graduating. I still also teach singing and do residency gigs which help and are very enjoyable.
When people ask what I do, I tailor the answer to the asker. Sometimes I have found myself saying ‘I’m in the arts’, other times ‘a bit of this, a bit of that’. When I’ve answered honestly, some people have doubted I was gainfully employed at all while others can’t understand why anyone would want to make copper plate etchings in the era of digital reproduction.
Someone once asked me ‘Do you not think that if you’d just stuck to one thing, you might have been successful by now?’ The presumption of my failure was what I found most bewildering. I never aspired to be famous or wealthy, so I reckoned my career was going reasonably well. I always think that at the end of a project, no matter its commercial or critical success, if I can truly stand behind something I have created and know it is communicating what I intended it to, then it has ultimately succeeded. There are times when they don’t and those prints go in a drawer and not into an exhibition, those songs are somewhere on a demo, no longer performed.
It is about balancing the almost unwieldy, experimental, unselfconscious creative process with the discerning inner critic, the one whose job it is to later sort the wheat from the chaff. If I let the critic out too early she may inhibit the maker from making at all. If I let the maker overpower the critic, I run the risk of something insufficient slipping in and weakening a stronger body of work.
I probably am a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. I only ever achieved the required proficiency on the guitar to compose. I only know intimately the etching techniques that serve my aesthetic. There are not enough hours in the day for mastery, but as a project requires new skills, I am driven once again to begin new investigations.
In this section we ask artists to talk about their workspaces, tools, and resources they need. We ask what their work day looks like. We also ask them to respond personally to the Sylvia Plath quote that gives this project its title: ‘I would live a life of conflict, of juggling children, sonnets, love and dirty dishes.’
Copper plate etching can be seen as terribly unspontaneous. It does require a degree of planning and process, but within that there are a myriad of ways one can innovate and ‘play’. I use techniques that are reliant on acid baths, aquatint, heavy printing presses and sheet metal guillotines, making working from home nearly impossible. I can prepare plates in the studio and work on them at home to a certain extent, but it’s far more efficient to work there. Graphic Studio Dublin have their studio in an old distillery, behind Mount Joy Square. The 80 artist members have access to facilities 24/7. It is an incredible resource for me, the loss of which I have found difficult over the months of pandemic lockdown.
Printmakers are, I think, inherently social creatures. We are unlike the typical painter or sculptor in the way we work, the communal nature of our work spaces. That suits me. I like seeing other artists’ work drying on the racks, I like being able to ask what technique, ink or paper someone has used, getting and giving feedback on ideas as they become manifest. The studio has quiet desk spaces we can use, but they must be clear by the time we leave, ready for use by the next member in.
I have never enjoyed or been able to do any one task for too long. Printmaking is made up of lots of definite stages. Filing, de-greasing, applying grounds, drawing, etching, cleaning, proofing, more de-greasing, applying aquatint… it goes on and on. Some weeks are spent on visual research and preparing images, others on meticulously painting tiny details with bitumen. I nearly always work in series, etching multiple plates at the same time which requires diligent note taking. My projects seem to roll organically into one another, picking up where the last one ended. I have always loved the challenge of commissions and collaborations that take me out of my comfort zone, but as time goes on I have become more discerning about what I agree to. Since having a child I am increasingly precious about my time and how I choose to spend it.
Juggling is something most people in the arts have to grow used to. We wear many hats. There have been many times over the years when I felt like my life wasn’t balanced. We have a finite amount of energy and time and some jobs have taken more than I would have liked, leaving little for projects that were far dearer to me. Teaching, which I love doing, can have that effect. I have learned how many hours a week I can teach before I feel too drained to make my own work, how many covers gigs I can do before I lose enthusiasm for singing my own songs.
Having a baby is new challenge to wrap my head around. For months now, despite how all encompassing parenthood is, I have been bursting with ideas. It has caused me tremendous frustration that I no longer have the hours of undisturbed concentration needed to transform all those ideas into work. I remember shortly before my daughter Noa was born getting upset. When my partner David, who is also an artist (but also manages an arts organisation) asked what was wrong, I found myself replying ‘You’re going to get to go back to work, and I’m so scared that I won’t.’ He is incredibly supportive and of course I did go back, but that feeling was an accurate insight nonetheless.
For women in the arts, childcare is a major issue. In the absence of financial stability, affording to pay someone to care for your child is a challenge. I’m lucky that my partner’s hours are flexible, that my studio is just a short cycle away, that work has always presented itself to me – but the juggling is constant.
BEING IN THE WORLD
Publication, performance, recording, exhibiting. In this section we ask: how important is it to you that your work exists in a public space? Why do you think this is? And can you tell us about the time and effort you give to getting your work out in the world?
I think of the creative process as having many stages: idea, development, production, fine tuning and then release. Be it visual art or music, for me the audience completes the work. If communication is my motivation, work unshown becomes a monologue. I don’t view a piece’s success by sales or critique but often by questions and comments it provokes. That someone takes the time to really consider and engage in a piece of art or music is the mark of its success. I met a man at a gig who told me he had been listening to my album for years, that it had soundtracked a traumatic break up. It hadn’t really occurred to me that anyone would ever be as familiar with those songs as he or I was. I am that kind of listener though, that kind of viewer. I have listened to albums I love hundreds of times, revisited my favourite artists ad infinitum. I have let them engrave themselves in my psyche and I guess that is what I am forever trying to do with my own work: create something that you will want to forge a relationship with, a visual or aural scape that invites you in for repeated visits.
Honestly, I have neither the aptitude nor desire to engage in the business side of the arts. Perhaps this is my downfall. I remember a lecturer in college telling us (to my horror) that she spent at least a third of her time doing grant applications, submissions, artist statements. I knew early on that I didn’t have that in me. The simplest and best advice I ever received, spoken to my overwhelmed 20 year old self, was that ‘none of that was my job’. ‘That’ being (at the time) booking and promoting gigs, marketing etc. My job was ‘to make the best possible work I could and put it out into the world. The right people would find it’. That has worked so far. In the last 20 years I have never stopped making work and somehow exhibitions and gigs have always appeared.
Consistency, professionalism and reliability should never be underestimated. I know creatives who are stressful to work with, late for deadlines, poor at communicating with curators, collaborators, framers and gallerists. In a scene as small as Dublin, it pays to be decent and considerate no matter how talented or accomplished you are.
And working with others is one of my great joys. I love getting a brief or responding to new spaces. I think the most successful collaborations have been allowed time to organically evolve. I did a commission for Trinity College Dublin’s School of Chemistry last year and I felt like a child in a sweet shop. The staff were eager to show me their work and I visited for extensive tours and chats before I started making the work. I never want to shoe horn my work into a brief. I want to use any external stimuli to expand and challenge the work I do, to stay as open as I can for as long as I can before I start narrowing down my focus.
BEING IN OURSELVES:
Many creative people speak of periods of self doubt. It seems that choosing to persist with our creative projects takes great courage at times. In this section we ask: How has self doubt affected you, if at all? What have you done to bring yourself through difficult times and allow yourself to persist? What has helped you?
I have a compulsion to create. I think the fact that my creative outputs are so varied helps to keep me inspired and motivated. There have been months on end when I have not felt inclined to write a song. I have spent those months editing or recording others. Other times I have not felt inclined to create new imagery and I catch up on editioning previous works. In the absence of all the materials required for etching, I return to my love of drawing every time I travel. I still enjoy making clothes, writing, cinema… and all of these things repeatedly feed back into creative production. I am never ‘off’. I take notes and photos on a regular basis. I feel like that is part of my job. A couple of weeks ago I was walking with my daughter asleep in her buggy and I saw a bus. The advertisement on the side was applied in 5 panels. The centre one had been adhered upside down, rendering the entire image completely illegible. I was too slow to capture it but it stuck with me and I know that it will inspire some future work. Snippets of conversation, computer glitches, lens flare. It is all the accidentals that seem to have the biggest impact on me, things I couldn’t have anticipated. Often in creating songs or images, my biggest struggle is to capture in permanence what was fleeting and still maintain any of its spontaneity.
I think that it is very important for me to stay focussed on my reasons for creating. There are times when I do doubt its value. Many of my friends have jobs that even I deem more important than any etching or song. I am not totally convinced that what I do is terribly important. It is more a compulsion. So perhaps I view myself harshly in that regard. Like so many in the arts, I find it very disrespectful how underpaid artists are, how many unpaid interns compete for poorly paid junior positions, how much paperwork the Arts Council require for such little investment. We have just lived through a lockdown, due to Covid19, and of course the arts have been badly hit. My teaching, gigs, editioning and gallery sales have all but vanished overnight. In times of crisis humans need connections more than ever. They are not a luxury but a lifeline. And yet, there are certainly days when that notion seems horribly self-indulgent, when I have to persuade myself that there is a valid space to be playful and inquisitive, among so much seriousness.”
Daisy Richardson has been making art for as long as she can remember. It has taken her on incredible painting adventures from India to the Galápagos Islands and granted her the opportunity to travel across Europe and through China by train to paint people’s portraits along the way. Life is more settled since completing her MA at the Royal College Art in London but her work is as adventurous as ever. She currently lives and works in Scotland.