Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets Galway jewellery designer Natasha Heaslip whose work has adorned both royalty and film stars
For a young person, meeting the right teacher at the right time can change their path in life. That was certainly the case for Galway jewellery designer Natasha Heaslip, whose award-winning work is currently sold in galleries and craft shops from Westport to Warsaw, including Selfridge’s in London and Dublin’s Design Yard.
In her 15-year career as a jewellery designer Natasha has been commissioned to make pieces for clients worldwide, with some of the wealthiest being members of the Kuwaiti Royal family, and the most high profile being a necklace and earring for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She works in gold, silver and oxidised silver, using precious and semi-precious stones and her pieces, which include earrings, rings, bracelets and neckpieces, are beautiful.
But Natasha’s talent wasn’t always so apparent. As a teenager in Galway she was unhappy at school and wanted a fresh start. She opted to go to Sligo Grammar boarding school and today she says “it was the best thing for me”.
Natasha’s creative talent, which hadn’t been nurtured at her Galway school, was given free rein in Sligo and to this day she remembers her art teacher, Kate McDonagh, as someone who was enormously influential. Natasha’s mother, Michele, runs an interior design business so she was always surrounded by creativity and beautiful items, but until she went to Sligo, Natasha never realised she, too, was gifted in this area.
It took several more years before she realised where her real passion lay.
Between 1989 and 1992 Natasha studied Arts the then RTC in Galway and did a course in craft and design in Kilkenny with the Irish Crafts Council.
She then focused on sculpture, which had been her specialist subject in college. Here in Galway, she also worked part-time for Hartman Jewellers in Galway City’s William Street.
“I was in sales, but I realised when I was there I wanted to make jewellery,” she recalls. Coincidentally there was a six-month FÁS course in jewellery making in, of all places, Knock which she attended. The students worked mostly in silver, and it was brilliant training, she says, adding that there is nothing like it now.
“It was almost like I knew it already,” she says of the process.
When Gary Hartman of Hartman Jewellers realised how committed she was, he did some research to find the best possible college from which Natasha could get formal jewellery-making qualifications.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops
“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.
The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.
“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.
The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.
Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.
It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.
Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Live album looks after those who make it real
Anyone who has seen Mick Flannery play live will know that the Corkman doesn’t embrace the spotlight with both arms. There is a sincerity to what he does – his reluctance to operate as any sort of frontman is only outweighed by passion for his craft.
His shows are intimate and they’re backed up by a studio-quality sound and a genuine engagement between artist and audience. It is what happens when someone who doesn’t like talking about themselves ends up pouring their heart out on stage.
It is fitting, then, that Mick’s new album revolves around the people around him. All of the proceeds for Alive – Cork Opera House 2019, the singer-songwriter’s first live LP, will be shared among members of his band and crew who have lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a major gesture from a modest talent and Mick is quick to point out that the album reflects just how much he owes to those that share his stage.
“I’m glad that it’s there as a tribute to them,” he says of the album. “I think Alan Comerford had a great gig that night on electric guitar with the solos that he played. Matthew Berrill was on the brass and he did some lovely stuff.
“There’s a few of the lads in the band who have music as their sole income. It’s not always easy to do that. It’s constantly booking gigs in bars around the place and that but it’s what they do and it’s what they have a passion for. They’ve worked hard to do what they love for a living and now these circumstances have taken that away.
“I have a kind of area to pivot – I can start writing songs and preparing albums whereas for the crew, without the live gigs their skillset is not being used at all… Lighting engineers and sound engineers, riggers, people that have built up PA companies over the years and small venues as well.”
For full interview, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Arts Festival is still giving it socks!
“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.
The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.
He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.
It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.
Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.
It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.
Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.
These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.
Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.
See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.