Thursday 14 December 2017

Labour of love: Designer Roisin Gartland reaches 30 years in business

Suede and leather top, €395; leather leggings, €825; lambskin collar, €220, all Roisin Gartland
Suede and leather top, €395; leather leggings, €825; lambskin collar, €220, all Roisin Gartland
Curly lambskin hood, €490; two-tone lambskin poncho, €450; merino gilet, €1,450 (worn underneath); leather top (worn underneath), €625, all Roisin Gartland

This year, Roisin Gartland celebrates 30 years in business. For the designer and artist, it has been a career of two halves. For the first 17 years, Roisin ran a commercial business, supplying various retailers with her beautiful leather pieces, and employing a large staff.

But the business was consuming her, and her creativity was suffocated. Several days into a trip to Anam Cara, the writers and artists' retreat on the Beara Peninsula, she had a revelation. "I went to try to find a space for my artwork. I thought I'd lost my creativity. In the middle of the week, it started to come back. The relief was just incredible," she recalls.

Two days after returning to work, she felt the creative flow leaving her again, as the pressures of the business left room for little else. "I knew if I didn't change things then that I wouldn't have anybody to blame but myself," she reflects. "So I made a decision to close down the commercial business, and get back to the essence of my creativity."

Roisin had been studying fine art on a part-time basis for years. After closing the commercial studio, she did a master's in sculpture in NCAD, in an effort, she says, to "fuse all the different elements of my practice together. Because the materials that I work with are all very sculptural anyway."

Her master's became a way of integrating the practical and creative. "I've married my pattern-making skills, my ability to form a fabric to the body in a very highly skilled, technical manner, to working with a very natural, organic edge," she explains.

The combination of these skills has led to Roisin's most creative, powerful work yet."Every piece has its own energy," she says. "I could have something hanging around for a long time, and just love it, but not really know what to do with it, and then, in a matter of days, something might stir and then they [the pieces] form. It depends on my mood, how inspired I might feel on a given day, or how free I might feel. It's all very fluid. I don't work nine to five. These days, I tend to go with my instinct an awful lot.

"I'm not dancing to anybody else's tune," Roisin reflects. "I did it for a long time; laid the ground work for everything that I do now. I know how to operate a business, how to run a production unit - now, the work just needs to have the freedom to be what it wants to be without any other dictates. It's important for my creativity that it is not determined by other forces."

Shortly after embarking on her new direction, Roisin met the man who is now her husband.

"My life just opened up," she explains. "I didn't realise how trapped I had become by the business. Everything has changed for the good. I feel I have a pretty balanced life." Now, if she stays late in her studio, it is because love for what she does has led her to become immersed in her work. "I'll get a phone call, saying, 'Did you forget what time it is?'" she says with a smile.

Photography by Peter Evers

Fashion Edited by Constance Harris

Words by  Liadan Hynes

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

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