Bernie’s Hidden Treasures in her hometown

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TALENTED Cookstown artist Bernie Quinn has returned to her hometown for her ‘Hidden Treasures’ exhibition which is currently running at the Burnavon.

The collection of textile-based work is a fitting tribute to her mum Joanie who passed away in December 2006, and Bernie is delighted that elements of her mum have come through in her pieces.

Bernie’s father Cllr Tony Quinn, chairman of Cookstown District Council, is a strong supporter of her work, and she cites her close family ties as a factor in her success.

Bernie was brought up surrounded by art from an early age and went on to graduate from the University of Ulster at Belfast with a degree in textile and fashion design.

“In the early days I was set down with packets of markers and colouring pencils and that was me for the rest of the day,” she recalled.

“I remember getting a fashion wheel when I was six, and I used that to make clothes, so it really wasn’t a big surprise that I ended up studying fashion and textiles,” she said,

Bernie was encouraged to develop her talents, both at home and at school, but she said it was art that she really had a flair for.

“I had a great teacher at Holy Trinity - she was fantastic and she encouraged me a lot,” she said.

Now living with her husband Johnny in Donegal, Bernie (now Wilson) runs Art Farm Creations, an arts facilitation which engages the community and inspires children and adults to develop their talents.

Bernie loves to work in the community and before she left for Donegal, she played an instrumental part in the Re-Imaging project in Cookstown with young people from Ratheen, Greenvale and Sullenboy. The project involved the removal of sectarian graffiti and the creation of murals to enhance the open spaces.

“My dad is a great supporter of my work. Mum would have pushed me on and encouraged me and since she passed on, Dad has taken on this role. Mum was a big part of our lives because we are a very close family and it was very difficult,” she explained.

“The exhibition ‘Journey’ was a difficult time and I was in a dark place, because it was just after Mum had passed on, but this exhibition is more ‘look what I have come through’ and Mum is very much in my work. It’s very intricate and textured.

“Mum was into alterations and she used to make clothes and curtains and that is where the stitching comes in,” said Bernie.

“Everytime I create a piece of work, I make sure Mum is in it. Each piece to me is special and often it’s difficult to part with. I always have a favourite piece. Mum was very much in the community, like Dad, and she worked with families and children, so the way I see it is that each piece goes to a family, so that makes me happy,” said Bernie.

Bernie always enjoyed education and went on to volunteer in schools which she loved. After graduating from the University Of Brighton where she completed her PGCE, she returned home.

“I never got a permanent job which was a shame, but I was glad because I learned so much during that time.

“I worked in some fantastic schools, like Wellington College in Belfast, Drumcree in Portadown and St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon. The last school I taught in was Drumglass High and the teachers and staff were fantastic,” she said.

Bernie married Johnny in June 2009 and moved to Donegal that September.

“I was sad to leave Cookstown, but Donegal is where my husband is from and I always knew it was an arty place and that it would give me inspiration.

“When I first moved there I was unemployed for four or five months. It was a great creative time for me because there was nothing in the way, so I was able to go places,” she said.

Through Art Farm, Bernie organises group lessons in oil painting, watercolours, silk painting, ceramics and sculpture. And you have to be a ‘jack of all trades’, as Bernie pointed out.

“I put that down to teaching. They tell you if you want to teach you have to be able to do a bit of everything,’ she said.

Bernie believes that anyone can take up art. Art is not about the final product, it’s about the experience, she explained.

“I remember setting up a group and the adults were all so nervous and rigid and I started teaching them watercolours. So I said ‘stop’ and I looked around and they were all so uptight. I told them to loosen up and enjoy it - ‘you’re not on death row,’ I said, and it was then they realised art was fun,” said Bernie.

And what’s next for Bernie?

“I had a dream when I moved to Donegal and that dream was to have a studio where I could hold classes - it’s still a dream though!” she added.

Bernie is excited about the new exhibition which has been on public view in Letterkenny. But this one is special, because it’s back home in Cookstown.

The exhibition ‘Hidden Treasures’ runs at the Burnavon until Friday, October 5 and everyone is welcome to call in and view the items on display.

Bernie’s website can be found at - simply follow the link to Facebook and ‘like’ her page.