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Tomás gives An Súgán a facelift – 40 years later!

September 14th, 2017 7:15 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Tomás Tuipéar, hard at work on the new sign at An Súgán in Clonakilty.

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AN Iconic sign in the centre of Clonakilty that broke the mould for innovative design in the early 80s, is getting a full makeover by the original signwriter.

An Súgán on Wolfe Tone Street is not only well known for its quality of food, but it is equally renowned for its strikingly colourful signage. 

Now, after almost 40 years, signwriter Tomás Tuipéar and joiner Ted O’Driscoll are giving the facade a refreshed look.

‘I was into the style of Jim Fitzpatrick at the time, and wanted that for our restaurant, and Tomás took it on and he was incredible. He brought his own particular style and he left his own particular reference within the building, so that when you see it you know that it’s Tomás’ work,’ said Kevin O’Crowley, owner of An Súgán.

‘In that respect, he persuaded me to use the Irish name but I didn’t think it would work. We’ve got nearly 40 years out of the old signage, which was great, so we decided last year that it needed a refresh.’ Tomás and Ted have been busy replacing the old wood and Tomás took the signboards and painted them in his workshop.

‘It took about two months to paint then and I have used slightly different styles and shapes, but it’s more or less to the originals I did,’ Tomás told The Southern Star.

The new lettering went up on the premises in August with the illustrated panels currently being completed at the moment.

The seeds for the planned design for ‘An Súgán’ were sown in London back in the mid 70s where architect Kevin O’Crowley and Tomás lived for a time. They used to have chats about Celtic-inspired design and colours.

‘We shared conversations about designs and we also had an interest in cultural Irishness, and we both always had an eye to home too. So when Kevin and his wife Brenda came back to Clonakilty and set up a restaurant in the front room of their house on Pearse Street, they asked me to make a sign for the place which they called ‘An Súgán’.

While it translates as ‘straw rope’, it has a deeper meaning in that it means you improvise using one material, and that’s what they did using their front room as a restaurant.’

However, it wasn’t until Kevin and Brenda bought the former Cinema Bar that the two men went full steam ahead with their planned designs.

‘I was in London at the time when Kevin asked me to draw up the lettering for their new premises, and the theme was Celtic design, with the Irish language. 

‘We decided we would go full-on with this, using strong colours like greens and red to lift up the place. I designed the signs and the large sign over the door. 

‘Because it’s a corner building, it certainly made an impact for anyone coming into the town – it’s the first place that visitor would see coming up the street.’ He says he had to paint the main sign in the actual bar because it was so big.

‘There’s a thin line between strong colour and gaudy, so it was important to make it look nice, while respecting the architecture,’ added Tomás.

With the help of carpenter Barry O’Brien, new shopfronts were also built, giving the front of the building a distinctive look. 

‘Everything was innovative at the time, and I lettered the fascia board with ‘Bialann & Tigh Tábhairne’ using gold leaf 23 carat gold on those

letters.’ That project pushed doors open for Tomás too, in relation to other signage projects and the use of Irish.

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