Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley's Design Column

Deirdre Breen | The Marie Varley Design Column

Irish Artist Marie Varley searches the country for the very best in Irish design to bring to you here on HeadStuff. This week she spoke with Deirdre Breen from Cork.

“Deirdre Breen is a designer and printmaker from Cork, living and working in Dublin city. Her new series of striking geometric prints are gaining a lot of attention lately and rightly so! I can’t wait to get my hands on one. This week I sat down with Deirdre to talk about creative processes, design inspiration and screenprinting…

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Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in design?
I’m a Graphic Designer and Printmaker based in Dublin. My first introduction to design was during my foundation year in Limerick School of Art and Design. From the outset, I enjoyed both areas of visual culture, but chose to study graphic design as I felt it would accord me more space and prospects to work in a creative environment. After college, I lived in London for a few years working as a Graphic Designer in various capacities and became an active member of the organisation Graphic Birdwatching, a platform and network dedicated to promoting and supporting women in Design. I moved to Dublin in 2013 and have since been working with Design Factory. I’ve always enjoyed the interplay between art and design, and wanted to explore this area further in my own personal work. This year I became a member of the screenprinting studio Damn Fine Print where I’ve been working on a series of graphic prints.
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley's Design Column headstuff.org
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley’s Design Column
What is your design process? 
My creative process usually begins with something that has provoked my curiosity ­ this can range from themes in nature, shapes from architectural landscapes or art that I have been excited or inspired by. I’ll research and explore potential themes, collating and observing my findings and mapping them on a concept/mood board. There comes a natural point where I’m ready to use my resources and abstract selected elements or processes. Then I’ll start to play with shapes, colour and compositions. I’ll work up permutations on the computer and refine the visuals until I’m ready to start testing colours, patterns and processes on paper. Then I move to the print room. The process can vary depending on the print. For more representational pieces, I’ll try to replicate what’s been done on screen, but colour mixing and selection will always be refined in the print studio, where I see on paper which colours will contrast or complement best. For abstract compositions I take a looser approach, using a shape toolkit and exploring compositions in the print studio. This leads to unexpected results and will often influence progression. It can often take numerous attempts before getting it right and there is a lot of testing and trial and error throughout the print process so patience is key. Mistakes always give you something to reflect on.
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley's Design Column headstuff.org
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley’s Design Column
Where or what do you draw inspiration from? Who are your favourite artists/designers? 
Since my introduction in college to The Bauhaus school, it has always been a point of return for me. The vision to unify all the arts and create a utopian craft guild was progressive and impressive, and I take a lot of inspiration from the work of both its faculty and students, particularly the textiles of Anni Albers and the photography of Lazlo Maholy­Nagy. Both explored geometric shapes and experimental modernist design which are big influences on my work. I’m also drawn to minimalism, and the work created by Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin and later James Turrell. I admire their manipulation of space using light, colour and shape. I often look to find my own inspiration in the spaces I inhabit, cityscapes and landscapes, and draw from the forms and colours I observe in my surroundings.
Anni Albers | Marie Varley Design Column headstuff.org
Anni Albers | Marie Varley Design Column
James Turrell | Marie Varley Design Column headstuff.org
James Turrell | Marie Varley Design Column
Your current series is so vibrant and striking. How are you considering colour and geometry when designing your prints?
Once I’ve collated all my reference material, I’ll begin to tease out colourways that I’d like to explore, that are relevant to my theme but not necessarily constricted by it. I’ll take creative license if there’s a colour I think will work well with the composition. I’ll try some colour permutations on screen so I’ll have a general idea of what I want to achieve in the print studio. Once I’m in the studio, I’ll start testing colours on paper, and see which ones present interesting contrasts. Once I’ve fine­tuned the hues, I’ll start printing. With geometry, there’s a lot of play with line weight, the interrelationship of forms and tension between shapes. For this celestial series, it was all about trying to find the right balance between meaning and a dynamic aesthetic.
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley Design Column headstuff.org
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley Design Column
What do you enjoy about screen­printing in particular?
 I enjoy the process, and the happy accidents that can lead to a new idea! I love colour mixing, and the level of colour control that you can have on the finished piece. The stages make for a very meditative process and achieving crisp lines and solid colours can be very satisfying.
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley Design Column headstuff.org
Deirdre Breen | Marie Varley Design Column
Lastly, what do you think of the Design Scene in Dublin? 
Naturally I compare it to London, after living there for a few years. I was genuinely surprised at how inclusive it was when I first moved back. A lot of people opened their studio doors and were happy to impart their own insights, and I’ve found the smaller network to be a very supportive one. The design scene is very enlivened, with lots of events on a regular basis. Festivals like OFFSET and it’s rapid growth and stature on the international stage are a testament to this. I think the last two years have been a formative time for Irish Design, with the Year of Irish Design showcasing our talent on an international scale and engaging the general Irish public on what design can achieve. It’s a very exciting time for design in Dublin.
Deirdre’s prints are available to buy on the Damn Fine Print website here… http://www.damnfineprint.com/deidre-breen
Instagram: @deirdrebreen
Twitter: @deirdrebreen
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