HELEN Walsh – youngest member of the Walsh family who, at one time, were proprietors of the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen – is an accomplished artist whose talent is taking her in a new direction.
Well-known as an accomplished sculptor whose works feature in the public collection of Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens and are held in private collections throughout Ireland and overseas, Helen has now branched out into an additional new field of creativity. She is designing and fabricating decorative iron gates.
Speaking to The Southern Star at her workshop in Boulibawn, just outside Skibbereen, Helen explained how her decision to begin making gates was made: ‘It followed work I did for a client when I designed and made gates decoratively adorned with a profusion of fuchsia flowers and appropriately finished in fuchsia-toned red paint.’
Fuchsias are synomous with West Cork.
‘Thanks to support I got from Moz’art sculpture, who kindly allowed me use his welding equipment, the fuchsias were crafted individually and then tacked together to form a floral-like mosaic,’ she said.
‘So well were they received, I thought that other home owners might like to have something similar, mindful that each set of gates would be individually designed with their own unique image,’ Helen added.
Made to satisfy each client’s requirements and the general landscape into which they will fit, Helen approaches every commission by first sketching out her thoughts on paper.
Once accepted and approved, she then goes to work, taking detailed measurements and deciding upon the gauge of metal she will use – details that will vary from one project to another depending on the requirements in each case.
‘For example, in some situations, a single gate will be sufficient to span the space while, in others, a double gate would be necessary.
‘Another factor that influences the design treatment would be the degree to which a client might want to restrict visibility into the property from the outside.
‘Once a broad theme has been agreed and overarching guidelines are established, clients are generally content to give me freedom and let my creative instincts take over,’ Helen stated.
‘From that point through to completion, I set to work crafting, shaping and measuring each piece before welding them all together to create the finished gate.
‘The final stages see them galvanised and painted in a series of protective coatings before being finally finished in a client’s chosen colour and then hung in position.’
Asked how long it takes to complete a project, Helen explained that the average time involved could be anything from eight weeks upwards.
It all depends on the complexity of each design.
‘Because it is important that I interpret a client’s wishes precisely before replicating them in my design, great care is taken at the planning stage. Time taken at that point is time well spent,’ she said.
‘Then, aside from giving a customer early sight of how his or her gates are taking shape, it will be fast-forward through to completion.’
Regarding the cost of them, Helen explained that that naturally this varies depending on size and complexity.
It can also be influenced by the length of time it takes to complete a project and the amount of metal and materials used is also a consideration.
However, summing it up, Helen said: ‘Because I am permanently based in West Cork and aiming my product at a local market, I try to be as down-to-earth as possible with my prices.
‘Besides, I would never embark on a project without first giving customers a quotation and agreeing what a finished price would be,’ the artist added.