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Belmont-based artist leads mosaic charge

Saturday, 10th February, 2018 9:00am

Belmont-based artist leads mosaic charge

Artist Aidan Byrne.

Mosaic classes are becoming increasingly popular across Offaly, thanks to local visual artist Aidan Byrne.

Aidan, who is based at Belmont Mill, is introducing the art to dozens of people every week in his popular classes.

He has a huge interest in all forms of art and recalls taking up art for the first time when he was in his late teens.

"At around 19 I took an interest in art so I did a course in Abbeyleix Further Education. I then studied Fine Art at Cluain Mhuire in Galway (Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology) and sculpture was my specialist area," recalls Aidan.

He also completed a Start Your Own Business course in Tullamore.

After he completed his studies, four years ago, he moved to Belmont Mill, and since then he has began to focus on mosaics, both working on mosaics himself and teaching.

His classes take place in Belmont and in various venues in Offaly, Westmeath and Galway.

He has also taught art in schools and has done children’s classes and summer camps in schools across Offaly, including Banagher, Ferbane, Cloghan, Mucklagh and Tullamore.

"I worked with community groups and I was involved in a couple of exhibitions in Galway. It was then that I realised I was good at working with people. That was one of my first experiences working with adult learners. It was very rewarding and fulfilling. I saw the therapeutic nature of working with people who have no experience in art.

"People say they are not creative and you show them how it's done and you see the amount of fulfillment they get," he says.

He presented workshops to adults in Offaly. They showed an interest in mosaics in particular and he subsequently decided to focus on this form of art.

"I had a good base. I had studied sculpture and I had worked with timber. That was back in October 2015. It has pretty much taken over my life since," he enthuses.

In March 2016, Aidan started classes in Belmont. The attendance was low initially, but it has really taken off.

"In March 2016 I opened up for classes here. I had one student," he says. Now, people travel from all over to attend the classes. "I have people travelling from Leitrim and Enfield," he says.

He says it is wonderful that he can "provide something that is enriching for people".

"It is really rewarding," he says. "One of my main selling points is I'm building up a wide range of tonal values of colours."

"It's a social thing for people as well as learning art," he says.

So what do those who would like to attend his classes need to bring along? "Nothing . . . only a bit of willingness and enthusiasm," says Aidan. "I have all the equipment."

He has a collection of images, glue, mosaic tiles and backing boards and people choose where they would like to start. Learners generally start with a small piece, the size of a coaster, and work their way up to bigger pieces.

"The larger pieces take time. The craft brings you to its speed," he says.

One of his students, a lady from Athlone, created the biggest mosaic any of his students has done: an outdoor table covered in 18 square feet in mosaic.

The design was a giant sunflower and the finished product was really impressive.

At the start of each group of classes, Aidan provides examples of potential design ideas and people work to their own interests.

"Everyone is different. Some people will work to a design and others will freestyle it," he says.

Aidan loves what he does and his aim is to transfer that passion to his learners.

"I get to meet really interesting people. I get to work for myself doing something that I love. It's a dream for me," he says.

"I seem to attract brilliant characters. If I'm not sharp in every class the joke will be on me! It's very interesting. I'm intrigued by how people learn. I've a small part to play in directing the pieces. It becomes more of a collaboration after a while compared to when they come at first as I'm the tutor then," he says.

"As far as I'm concerned everybody is creative, given the right encouragement. The biggest thing that stops people doing creative things is telling themselves they are not creative. The fear of not being creative can become an obstacle for people," he says.

Age-wise, there are no limits, with attendees at his classes ranging in age from 20 to those in their 60s and beyond.

Aidan is based at Belmont Mill and is also looking into the possibility of setting up another base in Athlone.

He is just starting six week sessions of classes, for beginners and improvers, in the Dean Crowe Theatre in Athlone and the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre.

The Athlone classes take place on Thursdays, from 7pm to 9pm, while the Ballinasloe classes take place on Fridays, between 7pm and 9pm.

There are also weekly classes at Belmont Mill on Tuesdays at 7pm, Fridays at 10am and Saturdays at 10am. The cost of the six-week classes is €120 and this includes all material and equipment.

Places are limited so booking in advance is required for all classes. For more details contact Aidan on 087 137 5415 or check out Mosaics at the Mill on Facebook.

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