I’ve always lived in Kenmare, same house all my life. It’s just a mile outside the town. I’m 24 now.

My mom and my dad both come from farming backgrounds.

The Crowleys in Templenoe have a farm that’s being run by my dad’s brother.

My mom is from Kilgarvan – Healy-Rae country – her brother has the family farm out there.

A lot of people in school would have said: “I can’t wait to get out of Kenmare and I can’t wait to go to college.” I never felt that urge to leave. I really like the sense of community, knowing people and knowing if you need something, there’s always someone there to help.

Kenmare’s not a tiny town, so for me there’s enough here to keep me going. There’s a good sense of community and there’s usually something happening, but another person alright might feel quite different.

Art again

It’s funny enough. As a child I was really, really creative. You’d always see me with a colouring book, colouring away to my heart’s content.

Then in school I very much became focused on the books. I did nothing creative. People thought I would go on and do commerce or accounting, something like that.

Then I finished school and I was like: “What am I going to do?” I applied on the CAO to do criminology in University College Cork (UCC). It was just that pressure to have a CAO form filled in, but I really had no intention of actually doing it.

I took a year out then and I was just re-evaluating everything, being like: “What is it that I want to do? What is it that I enjoy?” Then I saw these courses come up in the local adult education centre for art, craft and design. I said: “You know what, I’m just going to give this a go. If nothing comes of it, fine, but at least I’ll be doing something I enjoy while I figure out the rest.”

Fiachra creates a lot of framed ceramics.

I did a Level 5 and a Level 6. I fell head over heels back in love with art all over again. I just loved every single part of it. I got to meet really nice, like-minded people. Which was new for me as well, being around creative people, because I didn’t even do art in school.

It reignited a childhood love of art and craft that had been lost. It was always there, I just had to crack it open again. I finished the Level 6 in February 2019. I only set up as self-employed in October that year, so I had a few months before the whole coronavirus hit.

Keeping it Kenmare

I do art and craft, because neither is enough to cover the bills on its own.

I work mainly with ceramics. So my artwork is framed ceramics. With the functional ceramics I do a bit of everything. There are bowls, dishes, tea light holders, whatever I can think up.

Initially I was just building up a bit of stock and a bit of awareness online. Just from posting on social media, the local shop owner of Cleo in Kenmare reached out and asked would I be interested in selling my work with her. I said: “Of course.” Back in June then, once things started to reopen after the first lockdown, I had art and functional-ware with her.

I did a pop-up shop at Christmas, just to see how it would go. It floored me, the response. I’ve decided to keep on the shop. I’ll open again whenever I can.

It’s a big step to commit to the shop full time. I was even talking to the woman who owns Cleo and I was saying that I think I’ve a bit of imposter syndrome, where you’re like: “Oh gosh, I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m not able for this.”

Her name is Helen, she’s lovely. She was saying: “Fiachra, I have the shop for how many years and I still feel the exact same way. Keep going.” The encouragement from the other business owners when the pop-up shop was open was great. They welcomed me with open arms and helped me.

When I would meet them on the street or they would call into the shop, they were like: “You have to keep it.” There’s no wanting to do each other out of things.

Fiachra at work with his kiln in his studio.

Kenmare is like a town going through a Renaissance at the minute. Obviously I’m local and people know me, but even people who aren’t and they open up shops, they do really well here. The prime example would be a café called Maison Gourmet. It’s the hottest place in town and they’re a French family who started up. People just took them on and they’re doing fantastic now.

I’m not too familiar with cities, I think I’ve been to Dublin three times in my whole life. So I’d imagine it’d be different up there, but I’m just happy to be where I am.

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