From his first Light (recycled from a Russian vacuum cleaner) to the award winning steel structures of the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point. Shane designs with inspiration from the nature of Ireland’s Boyne valley.
What is the essence of Shane Holland Design?
I try to be flexible and to listen to clients, create ideas that match expectations, and try to add individuality to a project by not being scared to try things out. We try to create items of beauty and functionality.
You have had an impressive design journey since 1991 – what were your first products?
My first light was recycled from a Russian vacuum cleaner, which was given a base and had a spotlight at the top of a wobbly pole. It ended up getting demolished on stage by my friends the band “Whipping Boy” in Dublin when they “borrowed it”. The first production design was our Babel light, which was like an inverted “Tower of Babel” and made in Irish glass and bronze, which we initially made for a Dublin based hairdresser David Marshall.
How do you approach designing furniture and lighting to get them both right?
I don’t find the disciplines to be so different but just have different functional requirements. With lighting you have to look at materials and reflectivity to get a good drama in the piece in which you also need to have good balance. When creating furniture you need good balance in terms of posture and structural issues. I rarely get everything right first time; sometimes it takes continual development and new editions to get everything right. It took 5 years for me to fine tune the ‘Stule’ for example.
What does it mean when you describe your products as ‘Inspired by nature’?
Inspired by nature is such a general term but it means when you look at nature, rocks, the sea, trees or branches you can be inspired to use things as you find them or just spark off an idea from natural ideas. For example our Ruray desk light, which was inspired by waves and waveforms. The Ghost of Ash lamps were inspired by simple ash branches integrated into lamps and tables or our Sea Clocks use rocks from different parts of the Irish Coast featuring differing geology.
How do you balance longevity with trendiness?
I always strive to use good materials and invest build time in trying to create longevity. If the balance in the design is correct then trendiness does not really come in to it. Some people may latch on to it as a trend. I don’t really worry about trends as I am often both in fashion and out of fashion at the same time.
What advantages do you offer as a company that is able to take a product from concept to design to production?
The reason we really value our workshop facility is that it is the route for us not to just design but to experiment and produce and deliver projects. We were able to design and make the recent lights for the famous Harland and Wolff Drawing offices in Belfast where they designed and made the famous Titanic ship. We listened to the client’s requirement of lights, which replicated the originals from 1910 but also added some new sophisticated features. These were monitored right through design manufacture to delivery and installation for the Titanic Hotel due to open in Sept 2017.
You have created awards for many leading brands. How does designing an award differ from furniture?
Awards are more sculptural in nature and we have sometimes less functional concerns
but they have to look good and be created to reflect the nature of the award be it design, science, architecture or music. Awards are about recognition and celebration so everybody wants to get one but they are carefully designed to give longevity to a ceremony via good design.
Is there an international audience for your brand?
I don’t really know if I have a global audience, but with the Internet and communication anybody can see and buy your product and fortunately we have sent our objects to many countries. As a business I do have to work hard to create an audience by exhibiting abroad. In essence I do think that I have a unique offering and some people react to that wherever they may be.
You collaborated with Diem Pottery on lighting for Eneko at One Aldwych Restaurant in London. What other collaborations can you share with us?
We have recently worked on the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point featuring the Marconi Station and Alcock and Brown transatlantic landing site in Conemara as a collaboration with Denis Byrne Architects where we built Steel structures in this rugged landscape to interpret this historic industrial site for both Radio and Aviation History. We were delighted that this won Best Place award in the RIAI Architecture Awards 2017. The Titanic Hotel Project Belfast was also exciting and we are constantly collaborating on projects with architects, entrepreneurs and companies to bring things through to reality. We also worked with Ciara O Toole of Amelia on an aviation project to make furniture from airplane parts such as the desk from a Boeing 737 engine. This desk now resides in the business School of Edinburgh University.
Your company is based in the Boyne Valley of Ireland – what’s the area like for visitors?
The village of Duleek where I work is over 1500 years old and has 4 stone high crosses and an old Abbey. The Boyne Valley is known as the heritage capital of Ireland having the ancient Passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, not to mention Tara, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland so it is a good area to visit if interested in history. The area has some interesting castles such as Slane Castle and is still quite close to Dublin so suitable for a day trip or a bit of shing or kayaking if visiting.
Find out more about Shane Holland Design: www.shanehollanddesign.com
Meet the man colouring history – his subjects include Immigrants arriving on Ellis Island, the golden years of NASA and the world’s first supermodel.
How would you describe My Colourful Past?
My Colourful Past is a bridge between history and art, made possible through technology that serves to make observers look twice and think further.
This is certainly not the typical artistic pathway – what inspired you to take up this form of expression?
Always I have wondered about the past and the romance of living some time ago. Perhaps in late 2013, I took to reimagining some family photographs using software.
Have you always been an admirer of the early years of photography?
Early portraiture was every bit a finite art as it is today; only the photographers of old were somewhat pioneering the technology. I’ve seen countless glass negatives and have been lucky enough to hold them in hand; they are simply stunning to look over. Stoic faces, evidence of attitudes and trends of an era, they make for storyful imagery.
What are your biggest influences?
I spend a lot of time, outside of art, looking at how the world works or at least trying my best to fathom the social construct. I see trends and attitudes that are, on occasion, the polar opposite to those of old and it makes me question how far we’ve come in a sense of society. These instances train my thoughts back in time and that’s where the colorization lives.
You recently worked on a project on the golden years of NASA that became part of the visual documentary ASTRO narrated by Micah Cottingham - How did that come about?
Like millions and millions of other people, I too hold fascination with the space race era.
In the last few years, the NASA Media Library released a trove of high-resolution imagery, focusing on projects Gemini, Mercury, Apollo and STS. I told myself that I would study them at length, research and colorize a dozen. It was an enormous undertaking and the final imagery warranted something extra. After some consideration it seemed that producing a short, narrated documentary, focusing on these dozen colorized photographs was the way to go. I wrote a script over the course of a month and made contact with voice artist Micah Cottingham who brought her own magic to the project. After a further month and a half of editing, ‘Astro’ was born.
What is the reaction of people that see your work for the first time?
Upon first sight, people are stuck for words but they continue to look. Soon they begin to
understand what they are seeing. I find that particular subjects invoke particular responses and that too is a facet of My Colorful Past that I am continually exploring. The work can fuel a range of emotional responses, from anger to joy. There is essentially no moral compass to the path the project takes, that’s why it has looked into conflict and poverty as well as celebration and peace. What does take center stage is the ethos of the project, which is to reimagine for the benefit of education, in that people look a little longer and ask questions about times gone. People realize fast that their perception of time is magnified when they see familiarity in another era. It’s almost self-reflective.
How can our readers purchase your work – are there exclusive pieces?
These are exclusive pieces and are printed to order in large format only. I encourage any interested party to get in touch where all activity takes place on Instagram, where you can reach me very easily by email or telephone. I enjoy talking to people about what they are seeing, about the overall process and above all making new contacts. It really is incredible who gets in touch from week to week, quite often it’s a relative of a subject I have colorized and we strike up a friendship of sorts. Most recently a relative of William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill and the grandson of actress Mary Anderson. They were humbled to see their family in color and reached out. It completes a circle of sorts and that’s a very satisfying part of the project.
Do you do bespoke projects – how large is the biggest piece you can deliver?
Bespoke projects surface from time to time and are welcome. Finished pieces are made available in large format up to sizes of 90” mounted and framed.
Is this a novelty with a product lifetime – do you believe that long-term interest and growth is sustainable?
Colorization at this level is by no means a novelty, ordinarily a person might offer opinion on preference, for example, a portrait in monochrome but colorized can entertain preference either way, however, when the process applied is 90% accurate we are moving into a new territory, one that borders education. This is why growth is sustainable and increasing.
You have had good coverage recently – especially about your project on the world’s first supermodel Evelyn Nesbitt. How will you maintain this momentum?
Working closely with a U.K based press agency is ensuring that this art meets a wider audience both at home and abroad. The key to enthusiastic response and workflow is originality and that is what interested persons can expect. In 2017 there are some very insightful pieces on the way that have untold stories behind them. One of these is ‘Escape’ and the story of Kenneth Widner - nephew of Clarence and John Anglin who famously escaped Alcatraz prison island. Kenneth and I have been working closely together for the last five months to tell a story untold, along with photographs unseen and colorized.
You’re based in Murrisk Westport in County Mayo of Ireland – what’s the art scene like in your part of the world?
Westport hosts an arts festival each year that attracts visitors the world over; we have poets, painters, traditional musicians, and songwriters. Westport is also home to Ireland’s photographer of the year, Michael McLaughlin. There’s absolutely a creative and accepting spirit in this region, together with the scenery and one of Europe’s most beautiful bays, it’s not difficult to find inspiration and mindfulness for any art form.
What are the 5 best things to do and see in County Mayo?
Credits – Matt Loughrey