Artist Martin Marley: ‘Sculpting with clay is very relaxing’ Building communities




For as long as he can remember, Martin Marley has loved be­ing creative and was fortunate to be able to turn his natural skill set into a flourishing career. Based just outside Bagenalstown in Co Carlow, the designer-mak­er, specialises in decorative, mainly one-off, ceramics, ex­ploring different clay bodies and finishing processes. He will be exhibiting his cre­ations during the month-long craft fair in August.


“I love making figurative sculptures, mostly from my subconscious, exploring the intricacies of the human face and how different we all look,” he explained.


“Sculpting with clay is very relaxing and I’m always fas­cinated by how by a simple change of a head position can alter the emotion of the fin­ished piece. I also design and make jewellery pieces and I am the co-founder of Sidereus Watches.”

The Carlow countryside is the inspiration for his work and his motivation is derived from the sheer satisfaction of finishing a piece and seeing others take pleasure in it.


“I find inspiration in the surrounding landscapes, where there is an abundance of various forms, textures and colours to behold,” he said.


“Our gardens at Kilgraney House, a series of intercon­necting herb gardens over­looking the Barrow valley, provide endless inspiration.


“I’ve also explored the con­cept of ‘nature’s mark’, not only finding inspiration in the shapes and colours of the plants but also using plants to mark the clay. I’ve also used both plants and leaves for printing directly on fabrics, with techniques like cyano­type and botanical printing.


“In addition to this, I am motivated to create truly hand-crafted items, con­trolling the materials, in­vestigating various craft techniques and realising the beauty of the end products. I am constantly exploring shape, scale, form, texture and finish, and currently I’m exploring metal and patina finishes on jewellery pieces.


“My jewellery is most­ly mid-level as I rarely use precious metals, relying in­stead on copper and brass, sometimes augmented with applications of silver or silver plating.


“The figurative ceramic pieces are mid to high lev­el depending on the scale of the pieces, but it is difficult to pinpoint who my pieces are aimed at as there’s such a diversity of product and price points.”


The artist trained as a fur­niture designer at Belfast College of Art and moved to Kilkenny after graduation to begin his design career at Kilkenny Design Workshops, before moving into retail and merchandising. In the late 1980s, he also worked over­seas as a design consultant on development projects for UNDP, World Bank and the European Community in the Far East, Africa, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.


Most of this overseas work focused on designing, prototyping and develop­ing furniture, gifts, toys and housewares for international markets – and this interna­tional exposure has had a significant influence on his creations.


“I’ve worked mostly in the Philippines – an incredible country with a diversity of ethnic cultures, warm gener­ous people, and some of the best food and dining experi­ences I’ve ever had,” he said.


“I have also worked in Pa­kistan, Malaysia, Ghana, Bar­bados, Vietnam and Kosovo and these experiences have helped to expand my interest and love of craft and hand­made products.


“To celebrate August Craft Month, I’m holding an ex­hibition called Silhouettes which features a collection of jewellery in mixed media and a new collection of fig­urative sculptures. The ex­hibition, which including a separate display of watches by Sidereus, runs until August 20, from 2pm to 6pm daily at Kilgraney House Gallery, Borris Road, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, R21 W527. Oth­er times are also possible by prior arrangement.”


For more information, email or call 086-8587472