Monday, January 16, 2017

The curiosity of Curious Quirkes

It’s often the case that a new business can start almost by accident, writes Brian Byrne, and that could truly be said of a young Kilcullen woman’s craft venture, Curious Quirkes.

And no, that’s not a typo … the spelling of ‘Quirkes’ is deliberate, a quirky take on ‘quirk’ which represents the underlying ethos of Niamh O’Connor’s enterprise.

The products of Curios Quirkes are artistic, and crafty, underpinned by an interest in art which Niamh showed early on, and which was initially nurtured by the late Brenda Scullion, a teacher of art at Cross & Passion College. “She held art classes as well at her home, and I attended those,” Niamh recalls fondly.

That was later the impetus for her studying TV and Media in Carlow IT, and subsequently completing a course in animation at Ballyfermot College.

“I decided then that I wanted to continue with animation at my own pace, so that’s why I haven’t at this point headed for a career there,” she says.

But in the meantime, a living has to be made, and the commission of a caricature by a friend as a present about a year ago tripped off what has become a new small business. The emphasis at the moment is on ‘small’, but there’s opportunity for growth which Niamh is just about to tap with the launch of a dedicated website to her works for sale and commission,

“People who saw that first caricature liked it, and I was asked for more, and it simply grew like that. I took a stand at the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town Expo in Kilcullen in April, and that led both to more exposure and new orders.”

The ‘Quirkes’ are not just caricatures, but pithy one-liner comic scenes, such as how a conversation by two men hard of hearing in a pub might quickly come to mean something quite different. There are also artistic collages of nature scenes, and in recent months Niamh has branched out into designing bespoke seasonal and family event cards, which have become popular. “I really had a lot of interest in the Christmas cards in December.”

Niamh spends most of her day devising and making the ‘Quirkes’, with inspiration coming from a variety of sources, often just an observation of an everyday situation.

While most of the custom to date has come from the Kildare area, the vast bulk of it by word of mouth, Niamh hopes the new website — designed by her boyfriend — will extend both the reach and the variety of her opportunity.

There are, for instance, directions in corporate gifts, and events such as weddings, where the ‘Quirkes’ and her talents can be offered. If it all continues to grow, there will have to be thought as to how to meet a larger demand. Collaboration with other artists and craftspeople may well be part of the development.

But in the meantime, Niamh is just keeping her head down to the work. It will be interesting to see how one of the latest embryo businesses in Kilcullen moves on through 2017.

This article was first published on the Kilcullen page of the Kildare Nationalist.