How do you describe your practice?
My go-to response is that I am ‘an artist-maker, of both things and experiences’. In general, my work is very material and process led but it’s always a response to immaterial, liminal and ephemeral things. It’s often very fragile, made of multiple components and relies on some complex set up to bring it together.
In recent years this has spilled over into curatorial-type production of pop-up exhibitions and events, experiences which I see as an extension of my own studio practice. They are also pretty fragile and rely on a complex network of things to make them happen, don’t you think?
What is your typical studio routine?
I’ve never managed to find a routine that sticks, it’s always very dependent on whatever I have to focus on at the time and usually involves more admin and screen-time than I would like. This month for example, I’m curating an exhibition (called ReView, Sept 10th & 11th, Hunting Brook Gardens, Wicklow) so my studio days are getting filled up with making timetables, sending email and writing press releases.
When I don’t have a looming deadline I generally like to potter about with my many ‘works in progress’ and test out different ideas and materials. It takes me a long time to resolve work. In fact it’s rare that something ever gets ‘finished’ till it’s in situ somewhere as space, light and installation are all really important to me.
Is there a particular process or methodology within your practice that is important to you?
All of them! I studied Craft Design (glass) in NCAD for my BA. I absolutely love materials and the skills people cultivate for using them but I never had any interest in making functional/decorative objects myself. Although glass is still an important element in my practice, it’s very mixed media including print, lens and lots of strange things like dried flower petals and salt crystals. No matter what the material though, in most work I present there’s usually at least 3 labour intensive processes. Lots of cutting, filing, stitching, glueing, grinding. I don’t usually set out with a clear design in mind, it’s all quite intuitive, so I think all time, thinking, testing and experimenting are the ways that I figure out what I’m trying to say and why.
How long have you been working as an artist?
I graduated in 2013 – it’s terrifying that that’s almost a decade ago but I would say I only began the process of considering myself an artist when I got a studio space with QSS in 2017. Before this with no real space to work, I felt very adrift and unfocused with what I was doing. I always loved making things and despite the struggles of artist-life I think it’s something I need to do and am now much happier for taking it back up professionally and personally.
What jobs have you done, other than being an artist?
When I was younger I did lots of jobs in retail and hospitality as well as some ad-hoc gigs as artist assistant, teaching and technical assistant. For the last 6 or so years I’ve been working pretty steadily in arts admin and project management with a range of creative organisations. I’m currently a project coordinator at WheelWorks though I’ve recently reduced it to 2 days per week so I have more time for studio and freelance work.
What is the best advice you have been given as an artist?
‘You never regret investing in professional photography’
‘It’s called an art practice for a reason – keep showing up’
And the trifecta for success from Neil Gaiman in his ‘Make Good Art’ speech;
People keep working in a freelance world because; their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.
That’s really reassuring sometimes!
Meadhbh McIlgorm is a mixed-media artist/maker. She studied Craft Design and History of Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, specialising in glass and graduating in 2013 with honours. She received DCCoI Future Makers Student Award (2013) and has shown work in several national group exhibitions including the RDS Craft Awards, Sculpture in Context (2014), ‘Solas’ (Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, 2015/16) and The Ireland Glass Biennale (2019-20). Earlier in 2020 she held a solo exhibition, ‘Rituals of Preservation’, at Pollen Studio & Gallery. Recent projects include Liminal [Space] Belfast (2020) which she curated/produced. Originally from Dublin, Meadhbh has been living and working in Belfast since 2015.
Her work is influenced by phenomena that move beyond the tangible – in particular the ephemeral nature of light, shadow and reflection. The unique qualities of glass, including its fragility, lend themselves to creating a narrative around these phenomena through sculptural objects, installation and photography.
Just Don’t Hold Too Tight, 2018
Projecting Your Trauma, Pollen Studios Belfast, 2020
Salt Drawing On Wondow at PS2 Belfast, 2022