Boat builder and artist, Irish
I first came to Barcelona on a visit in 2002, but I didn’t get to live here until 2008. What struck me most the first time was the number of large-scale art spaces compared to Dublin.
I learnt to build curraghs [traditional Irish rowing boats] as an apprentice to a master boat builder in Galway. I was renting a cottage on an isolated lake in the countryside and needed a job, so I went into the town and asked if they had anything.
I’ve always had a relationship with the sea. I grew up in Dublín, on the Irish Sea, and used to go out with the fishermen. I like to get out and look at Barcelona from the water; it’s total disconnection.
I’ve been working with kayak expert Narcís Fors in Lloret. We are trying to blend the principles of kayaks and curraghs to make a super curragh. We go squid fishing and I’m hoping to go out tuna fishing soon. I have this idea it will be like The Old Man and the Sea and I’ll have this big tuna dragging
We held a curragh tournament last year in Moll de Espanya. There were eight teams, and two curraghs. We’re hoping to do another one this summer.
I co-founded the Imraimh Foundation to organise more building projects. ‘Imraimh’ means to row, but in old Irish, it can also mean dream quest or spiritual journey. The ancient Irish monks used to head out in a curragh with just a set of oars and let the wind and the waves take them, as a way of cleansing themselves spiritually.
Curragh rowing is great for team building and coordination. You don’t have to be a beast to pull the oars, it’s all done with your own weight, like walking.
I have a fantastic nave to work in. I like the nave culture here; all these post-industrial buildings which are used as studios. To have a large space to work in is good.
My art is evolving all the time. My first piece was called Gaudistan—a representation of the Sagrada Familia with a big crescent moon above it.
It signifies the presence of both Islam and Christianity in Barcelona.
Going to the studio every day is like going to the office. You have your off-days and your productive days.
Curraghs get lots of attention because of their simplicity. People can’t believe they are capable of floating. It’s a cloth-covered basket, at the end of the day.
My next plan is to build a Galway Hooker, a 14-metre-long sailing vessel, and sail it from Barcelona to Dublin. We’ll need a lot of wood, a couple of dedicated people and then hopefully, we’ll have hands passing through. We’ll also need 100 grand and a large space to build it in.