Ann Dunne in Conversation

I’m a Kilkenny woman, I graduated in psychology and sociology and did a post graduate course in counselling. I spent my career in various counselling and guidance roles in schools. I taught English as well. Since then I started painting classes, I have always had an interest in the arts in a general way. Looking at nice things and being drawn to nice things. It’s an activity where I am transported to another Zone, for me it’s a switch off, and I suppose it’s the spiritual aspect of it, it’s very much coming from within. I saw the Ad for Open Circle one day and I haven’t ever been a joiner now, I wouldn’t be one for joining things! I saw Open circle Arts Collective and in the past I would have said ‘well I’m not going to be any good for that,’ But anyway I filled in my form and they offered me a place, and really it’s been a marvellous experience from so many points of view.

First of all you get the opportunity to engage in different activities and media, we did Print, Textiles, drawing. The first one was self-portrait and never in my life would I have stitched! It became almost addictive, though it was frustrating there was an addictive element to it and there was a huge sense of achievement too, when it was finished and that energised me to continue. We had the different professional artists who were facilitated various workshops. We did a screen printing workshop and then we did our sculpture with john Conway which has been cast in Bronze. I then joined Caroline Schofield’s Fetac Level 5 Textile Course with Open Circle. This allowed me to explore my own history and family history using textile as a medium. Using textile with old letters and photographs is a medium that is soft, flowy and personal. I used my Great-Great Grandfather’s diary of his travels, embroidering over his handwriting over one hundred years later was very touching for me and I felt I was travelling the journey with him. My parents’ letters to one another were another source for me. Writing leaves a handprint which can be touched and traced and leaves a very special connection. It was a very personal kind of thing. I called it ‘Handprints in time threaded through the generations’. This is a work in progress, I have a personal piece then for exhibition.

Open Circle permeated the rest of my life and it gave a different view of lots of different things that you mightn’t have noticed before, even at this stage of my life! You’d think I’d have noticed everything by now. If I go to an exhibition now I am looking at things from a different point of view. I would have gone to exhibitions in the past and obviously your own response is a personal one, but I tend now to look at the process and to ask ‘how did that happen?’, the concept, the technique, so I look at that as well now. From a practical point of view and from recycling, the textile course made me start to pick up this piece of fabric, this piece of thread, this button, you know I’m picking up everything now! Everything I see now, I wonder, how I can use it in a different way? And it’s a conscious thing and an awareness that came from being in the group. And there was no judgement, it didn’t matter. The other aspect of it then, the collaborative aspect, within the group. We always have very good discussions helped by the tea and biscuits! I think I am very privileged to be part of that group. Our bond has come from our exchange of ideas and when we are actively doing something there is a conversation which becomes easier and the exchange of ideas becomes easier when you are doing something. And I found that that is very much a part of it as well, it is intellectually as well as aesthetically stimulating .I was definitely pushed to grow, I think that if I had not been in Open Circle any creative abilities that I have would not have developed because they need to develop with others, not in a vacuum and the growth that comes from that exchange develops your individual creativity.

The challenges that the professional artist set for you when they come in, you know, you never know what’s coming or what way it might turn out from an original idea, which is also a challenge. And it’s the growth and it’s the journey. Its food for the soul and in the same way as poetry touches you there’s nothing else like it, you are changed by that. I am changed by Open Circle in a very positive way. That’s what I can say.

My advice to anyone thinking of joining Open Circle is don’t be afraid because there can be a perceived preciousness about art and the arts but it’s part of us all, but everybody should engage in art and nobody should be afraid, it’s safe now it’s a safe what I have found that because there is no judgement on your work and everybody’s work is valuable, it helps you to grow and becomes a meditative space for everybody. People might not be a joiner of things but try it, you will be carried along by the group and the activities and the aesthetic, emotional and intellectual growth in that space its more than just the activity.

So all in all I cannot discuss Open circle without discussing the people who make it possible. And the amount of work that Alice has done and we really do appreciate what you do and what the Arts Office does. To have something which is available to the people which can add so much to their lives in so many ways is incalculable really and I would say that it is true in so many ways.

See Sewcialising for more about Ann.