Eimear Maguire isn’t a member of the British Ornithologists’ Club but such is the young Belfast artist’s precise rendition of some of our fine, feathered friends she should be handed lifetime membership immediately.
Born of a craftsman father, Eamon, who made bodhrans, a traditional Irish hand drum, and painted and sculpted bog oak wood and a mother who made clothes, both Eimear, her two sisters, Olra and Aoife, inherited creative genes, the former becoming architect at Oscar & Oscar, the latter a teacher and painter.
“Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of drawing with my father,” recalls Eimear, a friendly mother-of-two, Ché and and Etain. “He would take my sister and I to the countryside every weekend for walks, so I suppose it was then that my real appreciation of nature developed. My work is the result of my love of both art and nature, things that have been instilled in me since childhood.”
Living in an area known as the Cavehill, on picturesque hills overlooking Belfast, studying birds has become an enduring pastime for Eimear. “I start my day with a walk – with my head in the air looking into the trees watching the birds. I take photos, sketch them and finally paint them. I have a growing collection of vintage bird books, which I paint from as well,” she said. “I paint them as I meet them, the next one will be a song-thrush that has been singing at the bottom of my sister’s garden.”
Eimear’s on-going interest has developed into ‘Dollybirds’ (a title gleaned from a childhood nickname she earned due to her fascination with face make-up), her very own brand of artistic output, ranging from notebooks and paintings to postcards and screen prints.
Already, her creations are sold in ‘Avoca,’ a chain of 11 stores throughout Ireland, making her the first Irish artist to have work stocked by it. She has also just started working with London-based ‘Timbergram,’ which will screen print some of her art onto wooden postcards. The company took some of her work to Hong Kong last month. Two of Eimear’s new ‘Dollybirds’ – a lady chaffinch and a nuthatch – will be released as limited edition prints very soon.
Eimear is also developing her own stationery range. “I am designing new patterns for smaller notebooks and have designed the first three ‘Dollybirds’ cards,” she said.
How does she describe herself as an artist? “I’m a painter, but have recently started to screen print, which has challenged me to think and work in different ways,” she said. “I recently studied Photoshop, which enabled me to use my paintings to create a range of patterns and extend the products that I can develop. I have introduced patterned notebooks to my range. With everything I create my hope is that it will make people take a second look at nature and ultimately appreciate the beauty we have around us.”
As to her other tastes and interests in art.
“I have always loved looking at art and I’m lucky to have visited galleries in cities like London, New York and Paris over the years,” she said. “I go to as many exhibitions as I can in Belfast and love seeing what other artists are creating.”
Her favorite artists? “I love the paintings of David Hockney and Frieda Kahlos. Also, Oliver Jeffers, local but known worldwide, creates beautiful paintings and illustrations. Paper artist Diana Beltran Herrera makes amazing 3-dimensional birds using paper and Annie Montgomerie uses bits of old dolls and fabrics to create strange new creatures.”
As for her immediate and long-term goals.
“I still have lots of birds that I really want to paint and my aim is that my ‘Dollybirds’ will migrate all over the world,” she says with a modest smile. “My long-term goal is to develop a range of ‘Dollybirds’ home-wares. I am currently in the early stages of developing my first children’s book, with other ‘Dollybirds’ book ideas waiting to hatch. I’m also working on new patterns for notebooks and bags and a brand new ‘Dollybirds’ product which should be ready later this year.”