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Artist drops anchor in a sea of perky pigs and fish

IT seems it's a case of Triple A for Gillian Dwyer. Art, Ardmore and Anchors have been the constant that have seen her emerge through the past five years, to the setting up of her new Anchor Art & Design boutique overlooking the water on Cliff Road in the beautiful village of Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Cork-born Gillian Dwyer, the youngest of a family of three, was both academic and arty and did her Leaving Cert at age 16. "They wanted me to do law, but art was always number one with me and the arty side overruled. I went to the Crawford College of Art and at the end of the first year I was told I'd be good working three dimensionally with clay, so I moved into second-year ceramics which I really loved."

After a period working on figurative models for public art schemes and learning technique, Gillian discovered her new subject matter -- fish!

The family had a house in Ardmore, Co Waterford, and this is where long childhood summer days were spent, with much of the Dwyers' time spent fishing.

"Every summer I helped Dad haul in lobster pots. He has been doing this all his life, for far longer than many fishermen. I too have done it all my life, fishing or selling mackerel on the hill for20p each, six for £1 and I would head off then, off to Perk's amusements with the takings."

Gillian discovered she just loved making fish. "I was making bland ones at first, then tropical fish. I then got into Raku, an ancient Japanese low-fired work, very black pots, or jewel-like colours. I was always very commercial about it and made a lot of big ones which sold very well."

Gillian then spent a year in Thomastown doing an intensive training as a potter, which she describes as a fantastic course. She then went to work in a pottery in east Cork.

"I made all the teapots. I was very good at spouts," she says with a laugh. "Spouts are very important -- there are eight different bits to a teapot! I then set up my own pottery, Dwyer ceramic design, in the stables beside the house at home in Midleton, and ran that for 10 years."

The Anchor Gallery came to pass just before Christmas and it is an oasis of understated style, artistic flair and design. The first of Gillian's painting that I saw was The Princess, a gorgeous creation of a perky, porky feminine pig with attitude.

Gillian paints the wonderful pigs bred by her sister on her farm in Macroom, but these artworks are just the tip of the iceberg for you will also find a glorious range of gifts including beautiful pieces by Kilcooley pottery, Michelle Butler ceramics, Declan Killen silver, Thomas Wollen ceramics, O'Riain pottery, Agnes Gormley Earley ceramic pictures, Locker 13 lamps, Anne A Bologna batiks and felting from Christina Jasmine Roser.

Gillian has found her natural anchorage in Ardmore, and it's well worth visiting.

The Anchor Art & Design Boutique, Cliff Road, Ardmore, Co Waterford. Tel: (024) 87740

Sunday Independent