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.”