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Mar 17 2011

Guest Interview – Jane from Love Ireland

Published by at 10:18 am under Guest Posts,Posts to Blog,Shop Products

Instead of the usual guest post on a Thursday, I’ve decided to bring you our guest interview of Jane Steger-Lewis who owns the company I love Mayo and whose collection Love Ireland is stocked at Garrendenny Lane. What could be better on St Patrick’s Day than pictures of the beautiful West of Ireland scenery and pubs? So I asked Jane all about where she lives and how it inspires her work.

Jane’s house is in a beautiful spot,  perched on the edge of Clew Bay.

For as long as I can remember, my heart has been in Mayo. My mother is  from this village (Currane, near Achill Island) and I spent all of my  summers here as a child. My father is from Egypt but we never went  there on holiday, I’ve still never even visited once! So many things  have changed since my holidays here but so many other things have not changed at all. There are a few more houses and certainly more cars on  the road but the places I used to play and rocks I used to lie on at  night to look at the night sky are still exactly as they were. The  night sky is wonderful here because there is so little light pollution.

Prior to my move over here in 2000 I had a very stressful job in  London for a major UK publisher, in charge of the production of 11  million magazines a week. I felt so hemmed in all of the time.  Security was very strict at work, traveling too and from work by car  we had to ensure that our doors were always locked and when at home,�
the door was locked and the alarm system was always on. Hardly the  kind of environment  that encourages creativity!

I yearned for air to breath and space around me. I also wanted to  live a simpler, less money oriented, life. Luckily I met and married a  man who feels the same. He even revels in the terrible wild, stormy  weather we can have here.

I’ve always loved the house we now live in. It’s the old landlord’s  house built in around 1840 (I later discovered that the last addition  to it from the 1930′s was worked on by my own grandfather). The  gardens here were once renowned bog gardens with walled areas too. As  a youngster I used to play in the now overgrown, wild gardens here and�
in later years, kept a postcard with a picture of the house on my  beside table. “One day”, I said, “we will live in that place”. I  didn’t really believe that we would end up living in the actual house  on the postcard and being lucky enough to look at that wonderful view  every day but here we are!

The postcard image of Jane's house
The postcard image of Jane's house
When we first moved over here our plan was to build our an eco-house on a plot of land we were trying to buy but things have a way of  working out differently. The plot of land we were trying to buy didn’t  actually ‘legally’ belong to the people that were trying to sell it.�
Meanwhile, 2 years had gone by when the owner of my dream house and  which also happened to be our favourite local bar arrived on our  doorstep asking us if we would be interested in making an offer. That  was it, we moved in. The house was in need of a lot of work (and still  is) our surveyor told us that buying an old house like this was a  ‘lifestyle choice’ and boy, was he right!

The bar at our house was very old fashioned, just one small room. The  population here is quite old (sadly, the age of our customers made the  eventual bar closure inevitable) and with it’s big open fire it was  the perfect venue for a good sing song. We were happy to carry on  running the bar although the hoops we had to jump through and the  money we had to spend to keep the local fire officer happy were  ludicrous. The bar was only open at night (there is another much  larger bar in our village) and was no trouble to run.

Many weeknights, we would sell just a handful of pints of Guinness but  then, in the summer time,  the place would be alive, everyone would  ‘come home’ and we would have amazing community get-togethers. I’m so  glad we have those wonderful times to remember.

August bank holiday weekend was always the traditional time for  homecomings here with traditional Yawl racing in the bay just outside.  In 2006 things were much quieter than usual. The reason? Someone in  Castlebar didn’t come home for the weekend. They decided to have a  barbeque at home and buy cheap beer from Tesco. Who could blame them?�
Most of the village was there. Such a little thing but it was a sign  of the beginning of the end for our bar. In November 2006 we had to  close. The landscape might not have changed here but other things  have. We were very sad to have to close but it was our own savings  that were subsidising every drink.

At the time we sold our license, one small bar in Ireland was closing  every day and time ran out for us. The sale of the license did mean  that we were able to fix our roof. Some of my ideas about escaping the  rat race and living simply were a little naive really. It’s all very  well to say material goods aren’t important until your roof starts  leaking!  4 years of a leaky roof in one of the wettest and windiest  parts of Europe was certainly a wake-up call!

A summer's evening at The George
A summer's evening at The George

Living here and running the bar have inspired me in so many ways. I’ve  always needed a creative outlet , I love to renovate old furniture and  always like to create my own decorations if I can’t find something  that I can afford or that appeals to me. I even created our own signs  for the bar toilets:

I started painting pretty much as soon as I arrived. Watercolours and  first and then acrylics, something I hadn’t done since I left art  college. I worked mainly on landscapes at first but after a while I  wanted to produce something else, something that captured the essence  of the place. It is very beautiful here but I’ve learned that it’s so  much more than the landscape that makes this place what it is. The  sense of community and the wit and warmth of people are just as�
important. I wanted to try and capture some of that feeling too.

What made you decide to adapt traditional irish blessings into  modern prints?

I want to create things to decorate my own house really.  We have a  large house to renovate. It’s a project that’s going to take a very  long time. I’m very selfish as a designer. I want to create things  that I like myself and would be happy to display in my own home. I  live in an area with very few shops except those that are primarily  there to serve tourist demands. I love Ireland and Irish things but  not a big fan of the usual traditional leprchaun and shamrock thing�
(although some of the items I’m working on do actually include  shamrocks… very stylish shamrocks of course!).

I like to have things around me that mean something, have some  relevance to my life. I like beautiful things too and I guess I want  my home to reflect me and the things that are important to me. I  wanted to create something that captures the essence of the West of  Ireland and there is nothing better than the wonderful sayings and of  course Fr Ted. My background is graphic design and typography and so  as well as painting, I enjoy working with type. I’ve seen that there  is a fashion these days for prints using type but I really wanted  something that reflects my own life, something that is relevant to me.  Father Ted is  has been a big part of our lives.

 ‘Aw go on’ poster in Jane’s Kitchen

When vistors come to see us they always remark on how our house  reminds them of the programme. Not just the house and this remote area  but the way people are. It is so easy to recognise various characters  from the programme around here. It might not be a documentary but the  programme and the humour in the programme is very accurate and very  Irish! We noticed this when running the bar. People here are very fond  of the programme and refer to it and use sayings from it all the time.

We had some visitors last Summer from Holland. They stayed here for a  month. They always spend a few months out of every year in this area  but it transpired that they had never seen Fr Ted although they were  familiar with lots of the sayings. I bought the box set containing all  of the episodes to watch in the evenings.  I’ve never got sick of  watching those episodes, they are like old friends now. In fact the  more I watch them, the funnier they are. I was interested to see if  our Dutch friends would understand the humour and keen to watch their  response. They understood it straight away and recognised so many  aspects of life here.

You have also created lovely prints from Irish sayings. How do you  decide which ones would work successfully as a print?

I make the designs, print one copy, frame it and live with it for a  while. If I’m not happy with it and if visitors to the house don’t  respond to it or it doesn’t make them smile then it’s “back to the  drawing board”!

Your print ‘Aw go on’ is very funny and yet very pretty with its curvaceous teapot and tea cup. Can you tell us a little about the design process behind it?

I just wanted something pretty and cheery for my kitchen. I’m a great  fan of Emma Bridgewater’s and particulary love her teapots and the  teapot lids. If Emma Bridgewater made one like this I would buy it! As for the cup. I just like a nice big  chunky cup. Regarding the type, I wanted something with a bit of wit  and I like the idea of the Aw, go ons’ looking like an eye sight test  with the final GO On in capital letters, the way that Mrs Doyle shouts  it. I chose that red mainly because it is the highlight colour in my  kitchen and there is something fresh about it.

Have you any more ‘Father Ted’ inspired prints up your sleeve?  Or  any from any other Irish programmes or films?

I’m working on a few at the moment actually and I have lots of ideas  for new products floating around my head. There are a couple that come  from ideas after watching Fr. Ted and some ‘as gaelige’.

So there you have it – I can understand now where Jane’s  inspiration comes from, having seen her beautiful home and heard about the history about it.  If you would like a chance to win one of Jane’s set of blessings, head over to Ally’s lovely blog From the Right Bank and enter the giveaway that is there for a week.

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Guest Interview – Jane from Love Ireland”

  1. Susanon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:49 am

    What a wonderful post, Jane & Lorna! I too never get tired of Father Ted, & your prints capture so much of that fun perfectly! Jane, your story & photos really made me want to revisit the west coast- one of my favorite places (aside from home in Kilkenny!) I am sorry to hear you had to close your pub- I bet the craic was mighty there :-) In my hobby/job of spreading the word on all the great events/places/activities going on in Ireland, I see lots of posts on such things, and your post/interview really captures the spirit of some of the special little places out there– I get the feeling your place was a wee gem. Luckily for us punters, your prints continue to spread some of that special atmosphere of Irish village community & fun. Best of luck with all you do! Susan

  2. Marie Ennis O'Connoron 17 Mar 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Lorna and Jane what a lovely post to read on St Patrick’s Day. It really brought a sense of place and culture vividly alive for me and I am sharing this post with friends of mine in the US who have their roots in the west of ireland – i know they will love to read it as much as I did.

  3. Lornaon 17 Mar 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments Susan and Marie, it is a lovely post and it is so nice to get such a lovely response – thank you.

  4. Lisa McGeeon 20 Mar 2011 at 8:46 am

    Lorna- this is a fabulous post – Jane – I love your description of where you live and your life- it sounds idyllic and I am a huge fan of your beautiful prints.
    Does “Aw Go On” come in any other colours? Would love to add it to my kitchen- just red is not quite right.
    Brilliant post- thanks for sharing.

  5. Lornaon 21 Mar 2011 at 9:17 am

    HI Lisa,

    Glad you enjoyed the post so much, yes, Jane can do the Aw Go On print in other colours but it costs quite a bit more I’m afraid due to the single print. I can let you know how much it would be. I’d imagine, though, it may be available in other colours/formats before too long :-)

  6. Janeon 21 Mar 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for your kind comments Susan, Marie and Lisa. Really appreciate them. This is all quite new to me and Lorna has been such a great support of my work.
    Lisa, I can do any colour you like as a one off high quality giclée print. You could even supply a swatch or show me a pic of something you want me to match. I’ve produced another one off for a friend especially to match her kitchen.

  7. Lornaon 23 Mar 2011 at 11:41 am

    HI Lisa,

    if you are interested in having the print in a different colour, Jane has worked out that specially ordered colours in the print will work out at €55, she can email you colours to check etc, if it is something you’d like, do email Jane at Jane{at}

    Thanks again for your comment and interest :)

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