Crafty Gals: Four Irish Women Who Turned Their Art Into A Business

Megan Roantree talks to the talented Irish women creating stained glass, prints, and more.

Kellymarie Nurney, 25, runs Happily Handmade

“I started Happily Handmade about a year ago. I wanted to decorate my little boy’s room and started making a few bits myself as I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I had a few family members and friends interested in what I was doing, so I decided to set up pages on social media and on Etsy where people could buy the products if they wanted to.

I’ve always been interested in art and it’s kind of always what I’ve been good at. I studied model making, design and digital effects in IADT Dun Laoghaire and graduated in 2014. I never really found my niche or what I really wanted to do, it wasn’t until I had my little boy, Odhrán, in 2016 that I started crafting again.

It can be very challenging. To be honest I don’t make much money from my crafting at the minute as every penny that I make goes back into my business for more materials and equipment. It can be very tough at times when I have to go to work, mind a toddler and make up orders. I wouldn’t have it any other way though as I love what I do.

I’ve always loved making things, so it’s great to be able to do just that. I find it so therapeutic. I love when I get feedback from customers when they receive their items. It’s great when you hear how much they love something that I’ve made for them. I find it so surreal sometimes but it’s a great feeling.”

33 year-old Orla Barry has branched out into prints from painting

“I use acrylics and watercolours, and my one-off original paintings are exhibited in galleries. I also reproduce the art I create as framed prints, greeting cards and laser cut wooden brooches and necklaces. I supply this range to gift shops around the country. I did my degree in Fine Art in DIT and graduated in 2007 at 22 years old. I’ve been making art ever since and over the years I’ve learned a lot and tried out loads of mad ideas. I’m lucky to still be at it!

In my style of painting I favour a dreamlike quality with a lot of at colour, clean edges and patterns. My inspiration comes from animals, nature, surrealism, fairytales and a search for perfect colour combinations.

In 2013 I started making brooches and necklaces and the response was great. I liked the idea of making quirky, wearable art. This led to me getting prints and cards of my paintings made which meant I can sell work through gift shops as well as galleries. It’s a way of reaching more people with my work. I combine my own creative business with teaching art part time in community groups and evening classes. It gives me plenty of variety day to day and I get to meet lots of people!

I’ve always loved art but would like in the future to study to be an art therapist too. I did a certificate course through CIT in art therapy last year and found it fascinating. It can be challenging to keep the motivation going. You need to be able to balance your creativity with all the diverse skills needed to run a business. I find it great to be in a group studio for the support and shared knowledge from other artists. Being creative and making my own schedule is my favourite part of the job!”

Shop Orla’s prints and gifts here 

Caoimhe Clifford, 22, and Jessica McKeon, 23, are the women behind Everglow Glass

“We’re a couple living in Dublin but originally from Wicklow and Leitrim respectively. We got into this because I (Caoimhe) saw some amazing stained glass pieces on Instagram and wanted to know how to do it myself. There happened to be a stained glass workshop a few weeks later that we booked into for the day! We loved it and bought our own equipment to make stuff from home and everything just took off from there.

We didn’t always plan on doing this, and right now it’s a hobby for us as I’m a full-time student and Jess works full-time. I was always very creative growing up and now use it as an outlet to escape the harsh realities of final year physics. Jess is one of those people who likes to be good at niche things (and just things in general) and since starting stained glass has become more interested in other artistic endeavours too, like lino printing.

Glass is incredibly expensive, as is everything else needed in terms of equipment and supplies. Plus there are only two stained glass shops in Ireland which are both awkward for us to get to and only open during working hours. The biggest issue with motivation is settling on a design or an idea because you don’t want to waste anything, especially when it’s so expensive. You always want it to be perfect and it’s incredibly disheartening when things don’t turn out as planned. There’s also the obvious problem of glass being quite fragile and it definitely doesn’t always do what you want it to! But it’s so beautiful when it goes right.

Everything we make is one of a kind and it’s something that we’re both so proud of because we really jumped into it so impulsively, for it to be going well is so unexpected honestly that we love when anyone compliments our work at all or buys something.”

Find Caoimhe and Jess’ work on Etsy and Instagram