BY PETER ALLEN
A DUNMANWAY woman is helping connect people who might be thousands of kilometres apart though her art work.
Maura O’Connell of West Cork Casting Studio makes life-size body castings, primarily of hands, in her family kitchen, just off the Cousane Road, north of Dunmanway.
Her life-casts are created by forming a mould directly from the body and casting it in plaster or of another material, to create a life-size and three-dimensional render, which is an exact replica of the moulded area. Every crease and detail is captured in stunning clarity.
She has cast baby bumps and made other bodily-related sculptures, most commonly hands.
The finished pieces are deeply emotional and intended to become family keepsakes or heirlooms.
Maura began her craft after viewing a YouTube video on the subject and said the ‘detail blew me away, I just had to learn how to do this.’
She worked for 10 years as an adult career guidance counsellor in the public service, before embarking on her creative journey: ‘I’ve always been creative and most of my hobbies are art or craft-related. While my children were very young, I saw a video on YouTube of a hand cast being made. I felt I really wanted to learn how to do it.’
She taught herself using internet resources before signing up to an intensive Mould Making and Casting course in Limerick School of Art and Design.
Maura feels that part of the appeal of her work is the sentimentality that the finished pieces generate.
An example was a Florida resident, Avril Welch Torres, who is originally from Cork.
When visiting her 82-year-old mother last summer she had a cast done by Maura of her hand in her mum’s.
And Avril made certain to bring the special piece with her before evacuating due to the arrival of hurricane Irma.
Avril said: ‘I just felt her hand and it brought me comfort.’
Maura explained that it doesn’t take long to have the mould made.
The initial process requires about 25 minutes, and the piece is ready to collect after a three-week period. Both adults and children can be cast, even a dog’s paws. The moulding material that she uses is seaweed-based and suitable for use on skin.
The only prerequisite is that the person being moulded must be able to stay still which would rule out young children.
Maura has also experimented with moulding fuchsia and montbretia, taking impressions into clay and casting in plaster. She casts these recognisable West Cork symbols into tile shapes and frames them.
Prices start at €250 for two hands framed within a box. Maura mostly works from her home but can sometimes makes house calls. See westcorkcastingstudiow.ie.