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Installation shot of The Artist Writing, Room at ECA
Installation shot of The Artist Writing, Room at ECA
Edinburgh Art Festival 2014
Image courtesy of Claire Walsh

Tell us about yourself

My name is Claire Walsh and I have lived in Edinburgh for the past two and a half years. I'm originally from Kilkenny and before moving to Scotland was living in Limerick city, which, as well as being a dirty rhyme is also a real place in the south west of Ireland. At ECA, I spent a year studying Contemporary Art Theory. I graduated with an MA in 2013 and haven’t found any reason to leave the city.

Tell us about your creative practice?

I am an editor and a freelance educator. I work a few jobs, some of which are paid and I collaborate with artists and writers on various publishing projects. At the moment I teach writing workshops at The National Galleries of Scotland and I co-edit an art journal called Occupy Paper.

Although I trained as a painter at Limerick School of Art and Design, for the past few years I haven’t been painting. As a painter I worked in a similar way to an editor and there was a natural progression for me to writing and then editing. Having trained as a visual artist I always struggled with the place of words in my practice and the idea of correct uses of language in art. I am interested in editing because it implies that you have formulated a set of values about what is right/wrong or effective/ineffective in writing. I want to draw these ideas out by editing artists’ writings and I did this recently at ECA where I held a free editing service as part of Edinburgh Art Festival called Edits-While-U-Wait.

What is your inspiration?

I am inspired by the empowerment of education. My understanding is that studying art not only means learning about artists and techniques, but also learning new ways of looking. Having had the privilege of an education in art, I am motivated by seeing this type of learning happening in public art institutions and so have recently decided to become a freelance educator. I am currently running a series of workshops with Kate Andrews, another ECA alumnus, at the National Galleries of Scotland based on the GENERATION exhibitions on show therein. The blog wordplaysessions.wordpress.com follows this learning-as-we-go experience.

Why did you choose to study at ECA?

I chose ECA because they offered a masters course that covered a lot of ground; writing, curating and the option of continuing a visual art practice. I also chose ECA because of some members of staff that I wanted to work with. Dr Susannah Thompson was an inspirational tutor among many others. These reasons really validated for me the decision to move to the city I had been eyeing up ever since a visit to The Festival circa 2008.

What did you like about ECA?

I liked the experimental nature of the topics and methods I studied at ECA. I discovered Art Writing there, and that one of the main contributors to the discipline and a writer I very much admired was a current Chancellor’s Fellow at ECA. The resources staff-wise were excellent and the emphasis on creative and interdisciplinary publishing at ECA has been very inspiring.

What have been your biggest achievements since you graduated?

My biggest achievement since graduating last year was probably being selected to curate an exhibition at ECA as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2014. I was the first alumni to be selected as part of a new scheme to bring graduates back in to ECA to do a short residency before hosting an exhibition as part of the Masters Festival. The exhibition; The Artist Writing, Room at ECA, was based on independent publishing, specifically artists’ publishing projects and I ran the Edits-While-U-Wait service there.

What advice would you give someone wanting to study, and have a career in, your area of expertise?

Invest in your locality. From my experience it is equally important to decide where as well as what you study. I joined an artist-run space in Limerick city after graduating from the art college there and it was a steep learning curve for me in terms of building my future in the art world. I learned how to self-organise, how to produce a lot from very little and how important it is to collaborate. It also gave me the practical experience of how an exhibition is put together from the ground up. I was worried about moving away from that support structure as Limerick has a very strong and tight-knit DIY art community but I have rediscovered another version of that here in Edinburgh.

I tweet about my creative endeavours at @ClairWals and if you want you can read Occupy Paper at occupypaper.com

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Occupy Paper as part of the Octavo Fika book collection
Occupy Paper as part of the Octavo Fika book collection
Image courtesy of the Kalopsia Collective