Ireland: A Woodcarver and Mythkeeper.
Have you ever been to the Emerald Isle? A land which could fill many lifetimes of discovery. The people, the landscape, the stories and legends... so much to see.
We have been, and each visit leaves us looking forward to the next one. The last time we visited Ireland we made a all too brief stop in Sligo as we headed from Galway to explore the Northern Coast. My husband had the name of a woodcarver to visit in Sligo ~ Michael Quirke on a little scrap of paper. We mistakenly were expecting this city to be small and quaint - it was not!
We finally did find Quirke's shop but he had a little note taped to his door, basically a scribble stating that he will be back eventually, possibly later that day. We waited a bit, got some ice cream next door for the kids, walked the streets a bit. After some time he still hadn't returned and our parking meter was up so we headed on our way.
Don't do what we did! Prepare to spend some time in Sligo!
Sligo is located in the northwest of Ireland, at the mouth of the Garauogue River. Sligo means Shelly River in Gaelic. County Sligo is a land of ancient cairns shaped by legend, a coastal town surrounded by a rugged landscape. Honestly, our quick stop into the city was a bit chaotic, the city is bustling and we hit it right in the middle of a work day. It was difficult to park and we were not prepared for the congestion and confusion of inner Sligo- the abrupt change from rolling open green pastures was NOT expected! I wish I had done some research and planned to spend the day in Sligo (or a week!).
There is so much to see and explore in Sligo but this post is about Michael Quirke. A man who was a butcher and began to carve with wood (next to his meat) when he had spare time. Eventually the meat was completely replaced by wood and the result is genius. He is an artist who has become totally absorbed in storytelling and his craft.
"At your best, you forget about everything, you don’t know that the time is passing. It’s an interaction between you, your eye, your hand and the wood, and a character starts to build up, quite often not the character you start with." Quirke
The legends Michael carves into work is incredible- every character comes to life. He mostly focuses on Irish mythology and the local folks of the county. William Butler Yeats and his work are connected as well. Yeats spent his summers with his grandfather in Sligo and much of his writing reflects this. He had once written in a letter "the place that has really influenced me is Sligo." If you are a reader of Yeats you may recall "The Cairn- heaped grassy hill/ where passionate Maeve is stony still."
Watch the video above and listen in how Quirke also weaves this warrior queen Maeve into his work.
"Ireland is a woman, the world is a woman and is nurturing. The world nurtures us and when we loose sight of that things happen. Bad things happen."
I have to agree.
And I will leave you with a little cheer from our last stop in Galway. Music and storytelling around every corner. XO