Monday, 14 July 2014

Artist Feature: The Wonderful work of Dawn Sheedy O' Sullivan (Opal & Owl)

My friend Dawn Sheedy O' Sullivan set up Opal & Owl last year in Cork City. The venture started out as bespoke headpieces, but as Dawn's client base grew so did the demand for different pieces. The collection of Dawn's work has now grown to include footwear- how amazing are her beautiful beaded ballerina shoes!? Each piece is made entirely by Dawn, who lovingly handcrafts it from start to finish and uses the finest of materials to creating something entirely unique. You can be guaranteed that when you wear Opal & Owl, you will be wearing something original, unique and beautiful that was made with love.

1. How did your business come about (and when did you start)?

When I was twenty I moved to Leeds to study in Leeds College of Art & Design. It was during my first year there that I was introduced to Millinery for the first time. I instantly loved creating bespoke designs on paper but lacked the knowledge and skill to really produce the pieces. Over the years I have developed my hand beading and construction techniques which has led to the pieces that I am now creating and making. I never really thought about making a business out of it but I have to thank my good friend Pearl (from Pearl & Godiva) who gave me a push in the right direction and featured my pieces in some amazing photo shoots. Shortly after I took a studio space in Sample Studios (thank you Eimear and Ger) and that is where I continue to work on Opal & Owl bespoke creations.

2. Can you give a quick insight into your working method? (ideas, techniques, etc.)

Many of the pieces I create are inspired by nature and have an organic feel. No two pieces will ever be the same, as they are created by hand. When I begin to design I often have a very specific brief/idea, but as I am making the piece I find that the materials naturally take shape and can change during the process. I really like when this happens and it keeps the whole process interesting and extremely engaging. One of my favourite aspects of the process is hand beading and adding the extra details that make the pieces unique to Opal & Owl.

3. What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in design (apart from a shortage of time, which seems to be universal amongst creatives!)?

It took me a long time to feel confident in my ability to create pieces that people would love and believe in. I am always so happy when a bride emails me to say how much she loved her headpiece or shoes. That is what drives me everyday to continue what I am doing.

4. How do you stay motivated? What inspires you?

The positive feedback from people, whether they simply like something that I have created or have commissioned a piece. It might sound cliché but being out in nature, especially by the sea, always gives my a new perspective and helps me to get creative.

5. What has been the icing on the cake for you as an artist/designer?

That's a very difficult question because so many amazing things have happened over the past year. One of the most amazing experiences I had was working with Pearl & Sheena (Pearl & Godiva) and the fantastic photographers (such as D'Arcy Benincosa) on their shoots. I especially loved the shoot with Thalia Heffernan, she was fantastic, so beautiful.

6. Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally) and what/who are your biggest influences, past or present?

My mother has been a huge influence on my creativity. She introduced my to art as a toddler, before I had even learned how to speak. She is a very talented painter and has always inspired me to keep drawing, designing and making.

7. Describe your creative space

My creative space can change depending on the type of piece that I am working on. However, most of the time I work in my studio space. The space is on the third floor of Sample Studios and I have a lovely view of St Fin Barre's Cathedral. I try to keep my space clean but I do love to hang some of my designs on the walls to keep me focused. My prized possession is an old playing card table that my grandparents owned. My grandmother was a very talented dressmaker and she used to create beautiful pieces for my mother to wear. I definitely still feel inspired by and connected to her when I work at that table.

8. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Always do what you love. You will be successful but more importantly it will make you happy.

You can keep up to date with Dawn's work here...

(all above images are © Dawn Sheedy O' Sullivan)