Monthly Archives: October 2012

Howth Harbour

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“Leave Me Shout”

Brazilian artist Nina Franco is a photographer, feminist and anarchist.

“Leave Me Shout” is a series of photographs that examine the representation, repression and beauty of the female. You can read more about the exhibition and Nina here.

From my own perspective, I absolutely love this collection of stunning images and really couldn’t recommend a visit to see this exhibition highly enough.

“Leave Me Shout” was officially opened by artist Sean Rushe at the Avenue Road Gallery in Portobello last (Saturday) night.

Nina Franco

Nina Franco

Avenue Road Gallery

Sean Rushe

Sean Rushe and Nina Franco

Eleanor says…

If, like me, you read a lot, then you are exposed to a huge amount of information and, as a consequence, the thoughts and words of many, many people, outside of those you encounter in “real life” or in the various forms of media and marketing that throttle us relentlessly every day.

Some of these thoughts and words are welcome, more of them are not. But, at least with reading, you can more easily exercise quality control! (The irony of that statement in here is not lost on me, dear reader)

Every now and again, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across someone whose words just resonate with you  at a really fundamental level; call it your core belief system or your heart or soul if you prefer, but whatever you call it, it’s what you truly feel and believe.

For me, no-one exemplifies this better than Eleanor Roosevelt. Her words are powerful, moving, thought-provoking and ring so true with me that when I was first exposed to them I had to go read more and more and more…

This remarkable lady is still one of the most quoted people out there, 50 years after her death. And with good reason. She was an intellectual powerhouse, with an astonishing capacity for compassion and courage.

She also possessed an extremely important and admirable attribute that I would  class as seriously lacking among us all these days: a strong social conscience. She listened to it and acted accordingly. She had many personal struggles, but they never detracted from her passionate quest for social justice.

I won’t go on too much more, as the point of this post is to let the great lady’s words speak for themselves, but I really like this short address about Eleanor Roosevelt from another former First Lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, and it’s really worth reading if you have a minute.

Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes, hopefully some of them may provide you with a little inspiration and possibly the urge to do a quick search and find many more and infinitely better resources to read about Eleanor Roosevelt and the most meaningful life that she led.

Eleanor says:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

Well behaved women rarely make history.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘” have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

Once I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: “No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.

Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.

No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.

Women are like teabags: you never know how strong they are until they’re put in hot water.

I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

To be a citizen in a democracy, a human being must be given a healthy start.

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.

What you don’t do can be a destructive force.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

In all our contacts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted which gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond.

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, “It can’t be done”.

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

Dominick Street “Regeneration”

I was walking through the city centre recently when I came across some work on Dominick Street, which is just off Parnell Street.

Some of the flats there were being demolished as part of a long-overdue “regeneration” plan for the area so I stopped briefly and took a couple of snaps.

You can read Dublin City Council’s Executive Summary of its plan for the area here.

This overview of the plan is from the Dublin City Architects Blog

The matter was last raised in the Dail in June

Poolbeg

I got to Poolbeg as the light was fading last Friday evening and went for a walk from beneath the smoke stacks out along the Great South Wall (or South Bull Wall) to the lighthouse at the end of it, which is pretty much smack bang in the middle of Dublin Bay.

It was a beautiful evening and with my current injury woes I was moving (painfully) slowly. But this just meant even more time to take in the beautiful surroundings as I made my between Poolbeg’s two famous landmarks and back again, by which time the sun had well and truly set.

The interesting thing about the setting sun (apart from the fantastic sky of course!) was that when I was facing back towards Dublin city and the smoke stacks and then facing out into the bay, towards the lighthouse, they were two completely different skies.

Anyway, here’s Poolbeg as I saw it. As ever, click on the images for the big files, if you so wish.

P.S. If you don’t like lighthouses and/or smoke stacks then this is definitely not the post for you!

Shell Cottage

This is a cottage located in Cullenstown in Co Wexford, a very small seaside spot that was the subject of my previous post. However, I felt this remarkable building was worth its own post.

It is known locally as the “Shell Cottage” and it is a charming, thatched cottage. What really sets it apart though is that it is covered entirely in sea shells – as are all the out buildings beside it.

The wide variety of shells, comprising all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes, were collected, carefully arranged and placed on the cottage by the late Kevin Ffrench, who is commemorated on a plaque on his former home (pictured below).

This is a fantastic piece of design work and must have required extraordinary imagination, skill and patience. It is not only beautiful, but entirely in keeping with the surroundings.

The intricate designs and patterns on the walls of the buildings include the well-known Wexford landmark Tuskar Lighthouse and the “Mexico”, a Schooner which was the subject of an ill-fated rescue attempt that saw nine members of Fethard Lifeboat die in 1914.

Cullenstown Strand

I am back home again this weekend. I woke up early on Saturday and Dad, the other early riser, and myself decided to go for a walk.

Cullenstown Strand is a short drive from our house and it’s a small beach, but just about the right size for Dad at the moment as he builds his health and fitness back up following major heart surgery recently.

He has been doing really well and walking a little bit more every day, but as he said himself, has been getting fairly fed up of laps of the house!

Well, he couldn’t have wished for a better change of scenery, as Saturday was absolutely and unexpectedly beautiful. The sun was splitting the stones in Wexford and as we arrived at Cullenstown we could have been somewhere on the Indian Ocean, not the Atlantic, in Ireland, in October…

The Rejects

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the laziest blog post ever.

These are some of the many photos I have taken that have failed to make their way onto this blog in recent weeks (though a few did make my Facebook page), for reasons that will – in most cases – become apparent when viewing them. With others It may have just been my own personal taste.

They are all Dublin scenes and came to light again when I was going through the archives (can they be called archives if they only go back a few months?!) to find some photos for this competition.

Anyway, here are the rejects. I would call them outtakes, but that would be failing to take responsibility for my lack of creativity with this post!

Ringsend, late at night

Public Baths, Dun Laoghaire

Floral Shipwreck, People’s Park, Dun Laoghaire

Back Yards, Dublin 7

The Countess

Smithfield Sunset

Watch out!

After I took the Ringsend photo at the top of the post, I turned right around and took this one. I need a lot of night time practice.

Steps, Dun Laoghaire

Late evening run by Sandymount Strand

The Irish Times

Cheers! Temple Bar.

Rowing boat docking at Grand Canal Basin

Sweets!

Public Lighting, Dun Laoghaire

Guitarist, Temple Bar

Boot Camp, Phoenix Park

Whip Your Hair!

Savannah

Atlanta

So I was preparing to leave my parents’ home in Wexford for Dublin last weekend, a weekend that had seen not a single photo taken.

This was problematic as the weekend is really the only time I get to take photos at the moment.

Then, like a gift from the Gods of photography, arrived my sister and my favourite models; Shauna, Atlanta, Savannah, Kaleb and Gianna. The stars of a couple of previous posts on here.

So I grabbed the camera and we had some fun for a short time before I hit the road.

Getting some heads together

Atlanta

Getting all the heads together!

Shauna and Savannah

Atlanta whips her hair!

Savannah has a go!

Hair-raising stuff!

Sister Slumber

And eyes wide open!

Beware of uncles who can tickle and take photos at the same time!

Jammy Dodger!

Kaleb

Washing up. In the interests of giving credit where it’s due, Atlanta was actually washing up when I came along and took this!

Nana shows her appreciation.

Auntie Collie shows Shauna how to do a neat French plait, with Savannah the willing test subject

I’m missing a what?!

Labour of Love

I had the opportunity earlier this year of observing Luthier and master craftsman, James Beatley, at work.

Below are some of the images I took (click on them for the bigger versions) and some questions that James was also kind enough to answer for me to give us a better insight into the process that sees him produce such exceptional instruments at his workshop in his home in Stoneybatter.

What drove you to make your first instrument?

When I was in  my early 20s, I  was playing the tenor banjo. I  had heard about the short scale banjo, which would be better suited to my style of playing. Back then (pre Internet) it was very difficult to find one in Ireland. After a few years searching with no luck I decided to make one. This was a journey which took me three years to complete – the main problem was sourcing  materials. Now it is so easy just Google.

What finally inspired you to make the jump from mechanical engineering to become a full-time Luthier?

There are lots of reasons. Having been making instruments for about 15 years as a hobby I desired to take the making to a higher level. I  wanted to learn more about restoration of instruments too. My job with the ESB  had  undergone a massive restructuring, which would have left me at the same level  until retirement. It was time to go.

How would you describe your working process when making an instrument?

Almost all the instruments I make are after classical Italian makers from Anno 1700.  I  make the instruments  in the same method and use the same tools as were used then. Nothing really has changed except sometimes I would use some modern tools, both mechanical and electronic, to make more exact measurements.  For example, when making a front or back of a violin you would be most concerned with the stiffness of the finished piece, both across the grain and with the grain. I  like to think of this as a stiffness rather than a flexibility. Whatever stiffness you decide on will be  the biggest contributor to the overall sonority of the instruments. Normally this stiffness is felt in the hands by twisting and pressing on the wood and listening to the tap tones. You can guess a tap tone very easily to within a semitone. For example if  I  want the wood to ring at F# I can  be fairly accurate, but the difference could be as much as 15hz from one to another. By using a sine wave generator you can be exact in matching your front and back. Carleen Hutchings (1911-2009) was an American violin maker and pioneer in plate tuning. In the 1950s she  wrote a scientific paper on violin plate tuning using Eiginmodes and Chladni patterns.

What parts of the process you enjoy the most?

It might be easier to answer what parts I least enjoy. This would be the initial preparation of the  wood – flattening  and preparing the centre joints for glueing and squaring up the neck block. After this initial work is done it is a slow labour of love. On completion the setting up and playing of the instrument for the first time is very satisfying.

What are the most challenging aspects?

I think any Luthier will agree with me that varnishing is the most challenging and difficult part of the whole process to master. The problems here are their is only one  good supplier of ready-made varnish for the violin family of instruments and this maker’s varnish does not meet all of the desired qualities. So most makers who know what is required will try to make their own. Personally, I  have experimented with recipes for about 16 years. The varnish  I’m using now and for the last four years is working really well for me.

What is it about the violin that makes it such a special instrument?

I  think because it is  so close to the human voice makes it universally used in all genres of music. Anyone who has tried to learn the violin will tell you it is very demanding and difficult to learn. The fun of learning is in the challenge and you can take it to what ever level you desire. From a physics point of view their are many scientific papers written about how the violin works, they are all probably a little bit right and many disagree and contradict each other , ut one thing is for sure – the violin is a very inefficient  instrument as most of the energy put into the playing is lost in damping etc  90% of what you hear can be directly  attributed to the musician and the rest to the instrument.

Does making instruments give you a different perspective when playing them?

Not really, being a  maker or not  one can appreciate a good instrument. If  I  pick up an instrument which does not work so well or is set up badly  I  won’t want to play it. The same goes for anyone.

Is each instrument unique and, if so, how?

Yes, no two instruments are the same.  Each will have it own voice and  aesthetic values. Making two violins of the same model when finished there are many anomalies between both. No two pieces of wood are the same or have the same acoustic attributes. Every single part of the instrument has an acoustical contribution. The scroll size and design. The density of the fingerboard will have an acoustic resonance which will effect the body mode, which should match the air mode. The overall set up – type of pegs used the bridge blank, tailpiece etc every part has its own acoustic value.  This is why we make to tap tones and not measurements.

Do you feel you are still learning all the time?

Yes  sometimes even doing a job you have done many times before their is a ‘light bulb’ moment. Recently there has been the publication of a book, Restoration and Conservation of Stringed Instruments. This is a collaboration of all the best makers and restorers from around the world.  It’s a massive volume. Since  I  bought it every time I undertake a repair I consult the book to see how other makers approach a particular task.  Often I will adapt my method with ideas from this book.

Whose work are you most influenced or inspired by?

Giussepe Guarneri del Gesú is my favourite maker. There is a beautiful freeness of the use of his tools, evident by the tool marks in his work. These marks also contribute to the aesthetic beauty of his instruments. The purfling of his instruments is poorly executed, but all these little aspects add to the overall aesthetic beauty. His ideas on design for acoustic value were revolutionary at the time. My preference in making is to make my instruments have an aesthetic desirability as well as being of good sonority. The challenge in making an instrument look new and precise is a bit boring for me.

Do you strive for perfection?

You might ask ‘what is perfection?’ If  I am making a copy of a classical Italian instrument I will have to do every repair which has been done to a violin which could be over 300-years-old.  I  will do all these repairs with the greatest of care so yes I strive for perfection. On the other hand. I  may be asked to make a violin as new, but  I must admit to have softened the corners and the eyes of the scroll and rounding off the inside  top of the peg box to give some character to the instrument otherwise I feel the instrument looks boring… am I striving for perfection?!

Do you feel your instruments will form a large part of your legacy? And do you ever think about that?

I do believe I am making good instruments, so good instruments usually fall into the hand of good musicians who look  after them well. My instruments could be around for several hundred years and just like Thomas Perry( 1744-1818), a Dublin maker,  I also brand-stamp my instruments. This stamp will always be there and will be a point of topic. On the other hand, I  had a life-changing moment recently when my computer hard drive gave up without warning. I  lost 18 years of collected data on all the instruments I have made. This would be an archive for future makers or anyone interested. My computer was just out of warranty and  I  had  a back-up hard drive for about six weeks, which I had not used.  Also all my  images of customer repairs and all of my  business advertising, accounts etc were gone. My initial reaction was ‘Fu… k’ , but then  I thought if I had suddenly died in the morning ‘so what’. Would it matter about my life’s long work? I  guess it only matters to me.