‘My husband and I agree on things but it could take us three years to buy a couch’
Pieces of Me: Deirdre McLoughlin, sculptor
The living room in Deirdre McLoughlin’s apartment in Amsterdam.
Deirdre McLoughlin is one of Ireland’s leading sculptors who lives and works in Amsterdam. Originally from Walkinstown, Dublin, Deirdre moved to Holland in 1972 where she developed a passion for ceramics. From 1981, inspired by the Japanese Sodeisha movement, she learned from masters of the craft in Kyoto for three years. Deirdre eventually found her way back to Amsterdam, where she has lived with her husband, Henk Brouwer, since 1988. The artist’s prize-winning creations, typically multi-fired and brushed with diamond pads, have been exhibited all over the world.
Deirdre and Henk, a retired expert in medical informatics, rent an apartment in East Amsterdam, in an early 1800s building that housed Napoleon’s troops. Deirdre currently has work in Shadow of Sodeisha at the National Museum of Ireland. Her sculptures will be on view with Touchstone at The Farmleigh Gallery from today.
Describe your style
Eclectic. Henk and I agree on things but it could take us three years to buy a couch. The dining table is by Mark Visser. I found the Noren (a Japanese divider curtain) at the King’s Day market. Henk has family in Connemara – his sister is Willy McMurray – the mat is by McMurray Carpets. The cover on the couch is from Capiscum and I have others in the house because the materials are gorgeous.
Years ago I went into a house and the floors were painted white; I hadn’t been aware of white floors. I got these floors because you have light coming in but then it’s reflected up. There are other apartments here with dark floors and it’s different. So when the floor is light, you kind of float. It was in China that I picked up on the yellow that’s in my room. Amsterdam is big on design. The Dutch like the sense of being an individual.
The artists you admire?
When I came to Amsterdam, Wicher Meursing was my favourite sculptor. He made sculptures that move with the wind. Towards the end of his life, five of us got together and we raised €60,000 to set one of his sculptures out in Amsterdam. He was there in all the preparations. It was unveiled a couple of weeks after he died in August 2015; he was 84 years old. My Wicher Meursing piece is very Dutch – it’s the parallel lines and details. This is a country full of straight lines.
Who is your favourite designer?
In design, Maria Blaisse (a friend) has done some lovely work with Issey Miyake. Maria Blaisse inspires me in her beautiful and very professional way of working and we both enjoy dancing. I have a set of glasses from Maria’s Lazy Love series. Each is hand blown. It was her vision in the very first place that a sculpture of Wicher should be placed in the city.
What items do you love the most?
My own ‘Mrs Bauhaus’ piece which was made in 1999. It’s architectural. I like it because the light changes inside it all the time. Sometimes at a certain time of year you get a pure glittering red line of light. I lived in 62 Mountjoy Square and I’ve taken a wardrobe over and a chest of drawers. There’s stuff here that has history.
Favourite travel destinations?
For years Allihies, on the Beara Peninsula, was my favourite. Outside of Ireland, Kyoto’s in my heart, in a way.
I spent four months in a temperate rainforest last year in Oregon in a place of preserved beauty by the sea. It’s a Sitka Center, so at any one time there’s about four or five artists, writers. You have the house to yourself and you have your own studio as well. You place yourself in a totally new situation. You don’t carry your habits with you.
That’s one of the things that sent me to Japan. I needed discipline – it’s like joining the army. I landed in Kyoto so that my work could grow and become free. I set up my studio and took lessons in handling porcelain from Tosai Sawamura every Saturday.
I was also learning Japanese and singing in a nightclub, along with teaching.
You know what’s really brilliant? Vipassana meditation. Ten days on your knees in silence. You don’t talk to anybody and for the first three days, you concentrate on the hairs in your nostrils. I did it in Japan first and then I did it here in Amsterdam a few years ago. What happens is, you have pain but when the hour is up and you can stand, then the pain is gone. And that’s how it is – pain passes. You just have to sit through it. It’s pushing your mind to keep it focused on entering inside the different parts of your body.
When I was in Japan my friend did the Vipassana for 10 days and when she came back, I noticed she was writing the novel that she had always been talking about. I thought oh, I’m going to have a bit of that. It was to do with discipline. These things are useful.