We’re standing in the cool, white interior of Olive Stack’s elegant Gallery in the heart of Listowel. “I always wanted to paint. It’s what I always wanted to do… even from a young child… and then I went to the College of Art in Limerick straight after school when I was 17.” It’s early January and a storm is raging outside, but as Olive guides me through her paintings on display we could as well be in Italy – a place she loves and where she has studied and visits regularly.
Working in various media including Oil, Watercolour and Pastel, a particular passion of Olive’s is mosaic. “I started making mosaics a few years ago,” she continues. “It intrigues me, so I went and did a couple of courses in Ravenna on the Adriatic Coast. I’ve been working away on my own since then and reading lots about it and trying different techniques.”
Olive is currently working on a large mosaic project which she started last March – a kitchen backsplash. “It’s a very slow and intricate process so it does take a long time,” she says. A small table on display in the Gallery took five weeks working full-time to complete, and is testament to Olive’s passion and attention to detail.
She sources her materials from both Italy and Ireland. “I use all different kinds of materials from glazed and
unglazed ceramics to stained glass, mirrored glass… lots of different materials. It’s a lovely medium and a very interesting one to work with.” Are there other artists working in mosaic in Ireland? “There would be a few others,” she answers.” It’s quite unusual, but it’s really lovely.”
Olive paints mostly in Oil and Watercolour and much of her work is local street, land- and seascapes. She has exhibited in Ireland and internationally and sells mainly to collectors, repeat customers and word-of-mouth.
My eye is drawn to one particular painting of two children’s shoes on a kitchen chair. “Oh yes, that’s one of the more recent ones,” Olive smiles. “It’s actually my mother’s and my uncle’s shoes, and the chair was in the house. I only found one of each of the shoes.”
Among her more popular paintings are the Ballybunion scenes, as many visitors will have memories of summer days on its beautiful white sands. “The Ballybunion ones are very popular,” she says. “Everyone relates to playing on the beach in the pools.”
Apart from running the Gallery and working on her paintings and mosaics, Olive teaches a range of classes from her home studio just outside of Listowel town. She hasn’t yet finalised the dates but her evening classes will be starting in mid-February and then again in the autumn. There are also 2-day classes which run throughout the year, as well as weekend courses for Beginners in Mosaic.
“The art classes are open to everyone – people of all abilities,” she says. “A lot of people tend to come back again and again so they would have a good bit of experience, but then we have new people joining as well who are complete beginners, so it’s open to everyone. It’s helpful if you have some experience – but everyone has to start someplace.”
Olive’s classes are not confined to any particular medium and everyone brings their own materials. Most people work in acrylics or oils. “Acrylics are handy because they dry fast and they’re not messy… but it very much depends on what people want to do themselves,” she adds. Details of Olive’s classes are available here.
Olive is launching a book with Paddy Creedon called Mind The View: A Collection of Poems, Paintings and Mosaics, proceeds of which are going to the RISE Foundation, which was set up to support families with loved ones in addiction. The book will be launched by singer Frances Black in Olive’s Gallery on 6th February 2015.
Festival Programme this year, which features a colourful Listowel street scene close to the famous John B Keane statue in the centre of the town.
Before I head back out into the stormy evening I ask Olive if she has a particular time of the day that’s best for working. She thinks for a while before answering, “I don’t really have a routine… but I’m more an evening or night than a morning person.”
If you would like to meet Olive and see her work, do pop into Olive Stack Gallery on Friday 6th February between 6 and 8pm for the launch of Mind The View: A Collection of Poems, Paintings and Mosaics. Everyone is welcome!