From learning her craft in inner city Dublin to honing it amongst the forests and lakes of rural Co Clare, artist Lynn Kenny feels the west of Ireland is the perfect fit for her, her business and her family.
Lynn grew up in Dublin and loved the buzz and creativity of the city. But when she hit her 30s, she had an urge to leave her teaching job and the night life behind for a gentler pace of life. “I worked mainly as a facilitator in adult education across Dublin and always had an art studio in city centre communal studios. Teaching was my main income as I built up my profile as artist/designer.
I realised I wanted to get out of the city for a slower pace of life, settle down and move with my then boyfriend, now husband to the West. I used to love visiting my grandmother and relatives in the midlands and always fantasised about ‘returning to my roots’ – I always thought it would suit me.”
They made the move 13 years ago and settled in the pretty Clare village of Killaloe, near enough to Limerick for her husband’s work, and rural enough to deliver a real change to their lifestyle.
This move meant Lynn was able to focus her energies on her art, producing quirky, playful products and artworks for the giftware market: “I started to focus on my own creative work so that my business began to really take off. I supplied several outlets nationwide, including the Kilkenny shops and Carraig Donn, and started to become a recognisable brand. This gave me greater brand awareness and, when I had kids, I pulled away from producing volumes for retail and started selling directly to my customers online.”
The digital set up in the village and the local government support meant Lynn was not alone and her business was able to expand. She said: “There are many resources and a lot of help for SMEs in the West that can be tapped into. I received an online trading voucher from my local Enterprise Board and had an online web shop www.lynnkenny.com built, which has meant that for the past few years, I have been able to sell mainly directly through my online shop. I still have time to develop new products – just this month, I launched 40 new products on my website shop in time for the Christmas period. Living in the West has given me the space to develop my business and make it work for me and I’m not tied down to a 9-5 job to pay the bills.”
And it’s not just about the business. Lynn says the local community is one of the best things about living rurally: “It has definitely enriched our lives as a family and I find I have a fantastic local customer base – they are so supportive.”
What living in the West also gives Lynn is the time and space for family life: “We have busy lives like most families but because I work from home and my husband only has to travel 10 minutes to the local village, we all spend less time in the car stuck in traffic, giving us more time and meaning less stress. Ten minutes in the car around beautiful Lough Derg beats sitting in traffic on the M50!
Being self employed means having flexibility so I’m there for my kids most afternoons if needed. Living rurally doesn’t mean we have less activities for the kids either. We are really spoilt for choice on sports activities, we get our cultural stuff locally in festivals and go to Limerick for shows and gigs.
The weekends are the time to wind down, there’s the usual sports that you get with having two young boys, but we spend time catching up with friends, working on our land, going for nice walks, visiting the local market and whiling away afternoons in great local cafes.”
The family have recently gone that bit more rural and have set up home ten minutes outside Killlaloe where Lynn finds the views and sounds of the country around her both relaxing and inspiring. The land means she has studio space to hold creative workshops which provides another revenue stream and a space to hold stock.
And she has plenty of plans for the future “We’ve got two acres and are thinking about how we can grow our own food and plant a native Irish broad leaf forest. We want to get more animals too to add to the dog and cat – hens, maybe a Llama, donkeys, sheep, pig – we’re currently working through pros and cons!”
You can find out more about Lynn’s work at www.lynnkenny.com.