Arts and Crafts

Sarah Quain: Overcoming Hurdles

This year has been one that many of us would like to forget. Granted, we had a few glorious summer months during which we appeared to be on the right track. Unfortunately, it did not last. However, despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, many entrepreneurs and business leaders were enthusiastic about sharing their personal stories. The positive feedback I have received both from interviewees and readers has greatly touched me. It is evident that our community needed little persuasion to support local businesses.

Meet Sarah Quain, a horsie fanatic from Drum, Athlone, who returned home 5000 km after quitting her dream job last year. In the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York, she ran a horseback riding business which was adversely affected by Covid-19, which in turn prevented her from obtaining permanent US residency. Despite the disappointing turn of events, she and her boyfriend Luke returned to Athlone to live with her parents, Willie and Angela. Within a few months, she started her own small business, Craic Galore Prints, and reinvented herself by making some quirky prints and greeting cards.

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Gemma Henry: Every cloud has a silver lining

Social anxiety disorder goes beyond feeling awkward in social settings, or being fearful in public settings – it’s a debilitating state that can negatively impact a person’s daily life. Growing up requires constant social interaction, performing well in school, and managing the complexities of being a teenager in a connected world.

Gemma Henry, who has severe social anxiety disorder and left school early, turned to jewellery making. From her family home in Athlone she runs a thriving small business called Silver River Gems, which enables her to create and sell some of the most beautiful intricate jewellery.

Teenage suffering

Social anxiety has greatly affected Gemma’s education and physical health.

In the year that she was due to sit the Junior Certificate, her anxiety peaked and physically manifested in the form of migraine headaches. She came close to completely blacking out on a few occasions, with her vision blurring. It was one of the scariest times in her life. Gemma was then referred to the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) by her doctor.

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For whatever will be, Millbee

For some 6000 years, mankind has been at war with Mother Nature herself. Instead of being the caretaker of this planet, we manoeuvred ourselves into the role of carefree owner. In the 1800s, industrialisation conveniently deflected attention away from all the harm that fossil fuels were doing to our air and water. Over the next few centuries, this pollution problem became worse as manufacturers tried to keep up supply with the demands of a growing population.

The world’s first man-made plastic was patented in 1870 and was created by combining several different materials using a heated mould. It became the raw material for mouth dentures and piano keys and was marketed as a humane alternative to ivory tusks and tortoiseshells. It was unlikely that anyone could have imagined the detrimental impact plastic would have on the planet over the proceeding 150 years.

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Linda Moran Harte: The Waxy Wonders-Woman

The Marvel superhero Daredevil lost one of his five basic human senses – sight, in an accident when he was younger. However, his remaining senses: touch, hearing, taste and smell have all enhanced to superhuman levels. Daredevil uses these super senses, to fight the bad guys and is pretty good at it when you throw in his martial arts ability. But when it comes to superhuman sensory powers, there does appear to be some fact behind the comic book fiction.

Scientists tell us that the average human nose has roughly 400 types of scent receptors that are capable of detecting one trillion different odours. This superhero-like power means that we can notice within seconds when someone is wearing our favourite perfume. We can distinguish instantly between the smell of baby powder from the smell of bleach. But there are also times when you want to reawaken childhood memories with the smell of sweet candy from your favourite shop from yesteryear. Maybe turn your living room into an evergreen forest full of cedar pines or your bedroom into a 5-star hotel suite with sumptuous fresh linen.

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From Pompey to Posh Pebbles

Anyone could be an entrepreneur. You don’t need a degree from a posh university or be an eccentric genius. It’s utter gibberish that your old school report must state that you are someone destined for greatness. Sometimes, all you need is a great idea that’s mixed with a generous streak of self-discipline, an appetite for hard work and a belly full of patience. But remember, instant success never really happens. It takes some entrepreneurs a very long time to finally get their venture off the ground. If you’re lucky enough, it might take a few weeks.

Annette Francis from Baylough, Athlone, only launched her business, Posh Pebbles in mid-April of this year. Despite having no formal business experience, and with the country still not fully out of lockdown, she’s amazed and humbled by how popular her handcrafted pebble art frames have become.

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Olivia Finn: Over The Rainbow

At some point in our lives, we have all come across a piece of art that has stopped us in our tracks. If it’s a painting, then its artist will want it to hang proudly on our wall. Art [just like beauty] is in the eye of the beholder, and it is all about personal taste. What might be perfect for one person, might not have any effect on 99 others. A mid-century oil painting of a countryside scene and a spray-painted mural on a street wall may well be opposites but would appeal equally to a collector.

There is no shortage of gifted people capable of magically conjuring up a sketch or a painting that carries a provocative statement. An artist needs fans in the same way that an actor or a musician does. When the work of an artist generates buzz then the individual piece might become collectable. Most artists will tell you that they had no choice but to create art and that making money was never a driving factor. Some artists embark upon a certain career only to find themselves lured back.

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Creative Genius: That Personal Touch

Ireland’s two lockdowns, if nothing else, allowed thousands of people to explore their creative side. Some used it to perfect that one recipe that had always alluded them. Others discovered a hidden talent for making or building something that a full-time job never allowed. Undoubtedly, many hard-working people lost jobs due to Covid-19 and had to find a way to be resourceful. For them, the opportunity to make some extra cash was a driving factor and the hobby became a business. But whatever the individual circumstances were; some great pictures for a Facebook page and the camaraderie of like-minded entrepreneurs was all the armoury needed. Thanks to the most powerful communications tool of the third millennium – the internet – the world became an instant shopfloor.

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Ger Heraty: More Ideas Than Time

Very few people have not heard of ‘Spider-Man,’ the fictional teenage superhero creation of Marvel writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko that first appeared in 1962. Peter Parker, the alter-ego of Spider-Man, is a normal teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider like superpowers. Other popular Marvel Comic Book characters include the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Thor and Black Panther. Fans of all ages have collected superhero comics for decades and their impact on both society and popular culture has only increased with time. Marvel itself has evolved from a publisher of comic books to a very successful Disney owned film and television studio, producing movies and television series based on its characters.

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