When it comes to souvenirs, I’m not big on the sheep and shamrock theme that seems to be prevalent around Ireland. Tourist souvenir shops line the streets of Dublin, and a few of them are set up on Galway streets as well. Personally I prefer to wait a while, and find something that depticts how the place made me feel. Something local that I can look back at, and be brought back to the place I visited. So far on my trip, artwork has been the story teller for me.
As you walk the streets of Dublin and Galway, there are markets where artisans set up shop to sell jewelry, artwork, clothing and more. If you feel your stomach grumbling, or are simply drawn to the smell of fresh food and coffee, those are equally available.
This morning, I wandered Galway’s Sunday market. Most shops are closed on Sundays, but a small market pops up, and in my opinion, provides the best place to pick up something unique. As the smell of fresh doughnuts and Indian food filled the air, I looked through hundreds of art prints, talked to the artists who told me the stories behind the paintings, and picked a couple that really spoke to me.
Diana Pivovara studied art in Latvia but she now lives in Galway. This painting really captures the traditional music that permeates the streets of Ireland. On weekends, nearly every bar and pub offers free or inexpensive live music. It’s easy to find traditional Irish music here. If you’re not familiar with traditional Irish music, it’s basically a mix of fiddle, accordeon, acoustic guitar, hand drum and flute. Personally, I love it because it reminds me of French Canadian folk music which, I think was heavily influenced by the Irish who moved to Canada a long time ago. I still have to look further into this, but I would be surprised to find out I was wrong.
This print comes from the Blow-In Gallery. The Blow-In Gallery is a duo of artists, including Peter, whom I spent a great deal of time talking to. He’s a humble man, happy to tell you the stories behind every one of the paintings he sells (of which there are many!) I purchased a couple of the prints, and as a part of the ‘January Deal’, each print came with a choice of magnets. The print above really captures the main pedestrian street of Galway, lovingly dubbed ‘Shop Street’ by every local you’ll talk to. Buskers line this street while passerbys pause to listen, or walk by with their multiple shopping bags to the nearby cafes and pubs. On multiple occasions I have stopped to listen to individuals playing the flute, or the guitar, or the fiddle for a couple of coins. Bands also gather in this street to promote themselves. I saw one six-piece band the other day that captured the attention of a lot of people, and I’m sure that if they played a show later that day, they charmed the change of many pockets.
This print is of a local craftsman that operates a shop out of Roundstone in Co Galway. He is one of the few remaining hand drum makers in Ireland, and his drums are highly sought after by local musicians. Apparently you can tour his workshop and he will take the time to show you how the drums are made, and explain the art that goes into creating the perfect drum. I’m planning on taking the tour while I’m in Ireland.
This print, I picked up in a market in Dublin. It’s signed and numbered, which is pretty cool. Yes, those are Canadian geese flying over O’Connel Bridge in Dublin. In the background you can see the Spire shooting up above the city landscape. It was created by an artist called John Frazer. He sets up shop in the George’s Street Market in downtown Dublin, and is also keen to meet his customers and talk about his artwork. As you can see, it’s completely different from the other prints I picked up, but it’s also fitting, because Dublin is very different than Galway.
Where I’m going to hang all this artwork has yet to be figured out, but that’s a problem for a different day. For now, I’ll keep listening to the local artists tell stories of the scenes that inspired their artwork, and find the ones that best reflect my experience in that part of Ireland.