Aileen Lee chats to Deirdre Breen, a designer and printmaker based in Cork
I studied Visual Communications in Limerick School of Art & Design. I then moved to London and worked there as a graphic designer before moving back to Dublin in 2013.
I’ve always been inspired by modernist designers who maintained a practice in both art and design — people like Max Bill and Eileen Gray. In 2016, I came to a point where I wanted to explore these areas more freely and did a course in screen-printing in Damn Fine Print in Dublin. I was hooked on the process from the get-go and the effects that can be achieved — beautiful clean lines and intense depths of colour. A year after that, I had a solo show in Damn Fine Print, and it was after that exhibition that my practice really developed.
In 2017, I moved back to Cork. I maintain my graphic design and art practice and I’m a full-time member of Cork Printmakers, a fine art printmaking studio in Cork city. Last year, I painted a site-specific mural on Western Road which was presented by The Glucksman, UCC, as well as working with Ceadogán Rugs on a collection of rug designs.
I start my day early with a cup of coffee and launch into admin. This can involve liaising with galleries, discussing details with clients and different aspects of project management.
If it’s the early stages of a project, I’ll spend the day working on designs in my home studio. This involves sketching, creating compositions on-screen and carefully selecting and trialling colour combinations. I’ll loosely select colours before creating my stencils for screen-printing.
Once I’m ready to start testing the colours, I’ll move to the print studio. The process can vary depending on the print, but I find my colour decisions always change. When I’m happy with the colour combinations, I’ll begin to proof and edit the print. This can be quite a long process, but quite meditative when you have nice music playing and you’re into production mode.
Last year I collaborated with Denis Kenny and Fiona Gilboy, owners of Ceadogán Rugs, on a collection inspired by my favourite shape, the circle. The collection was an opportunity to celebrate its beauty. We spent a lot of time testing combinations and palettes early in the process. The yarn store is a colourist’s dream, arranged by colour and shade. It’s a big sea of colour. The yarn can be very different on the spool to when it’s tufted – hue and brightness can change a lot. It was a great experience.
My practice focuses on form and colour by playing with abstract geometric compositions and colour theory. Because of my design background my work is very much informed by form, symmetry, proportion and repetition – these are all details a designer would consider when making work.
The urban landscape. I love finding shapes and colour in unexpected places in and around cities and towns. I’ll often begin with photographs of buildings and architecture from places I’ve visited.
I try not to consciously follow visual trends, as I feel it can take the work down a direction that’s less meaningful. In saying that, I am always interested in colour trends and the reasons why certain colours become popular at certain times.
I’m slowly building an art collection with work from artists I love, some of whom I know personally. I love the stories behind the pieces. The other item I treasure is my mother’s ring that she gifted me a few years ago. It’s vintage and holds three beautiful sapphires.
I’ve always loved the work of Anni Albers and at the moment I’m really enjoying work by London-based artist and designer Yinka Ilori.
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It’s been waaaaaay too long... Spring fever has set in so itchin’ and scratchin’ to get printin’! Looking forward to getting my screen babies back next week from the doctor and getting into the workshop for some play! ♥️ #thehiatusisover #screenprinting #silkscreen #printmaking #workshop
I love the work of multi-disciplinary collective Assemble in the UK. They have a diverse body of work, with some amazing social projects such as communal gardens, a not-for-profit social-enterprise restaurant, social housing and architectural installations. I’d love to work on an architectural installation for a development in collaboration with local people, something that truly enhanced the lives of the people who engaged with it.
Keep it simple and don’t overcook, trust your gut. Make work for yourself and not other people.