When life and art intertwine, bringing passion and skills to social aspects of life, it was a natural outcome that Gift of Hands, a volunteer group, take root and blossom in Mulranny, County Mayo. Started by Cheryl Cobern Browne in April of 2010, this is her story:
For years I had been bringing Americans students to Mulranny for residential craft workshops with a specialist teacher. Because they were designed as workshop holidays, no one in the community was able to attend. These programs not only happened in Mulranny, but I was leading craft groups in small villages all over the world from Yunan Province in China, to Cappadocia in Turkey, meeting with the Zulu bead workers of South Africa and beadmakers in Ghana and India. Ireland was one of 9 countries I worked in and was by far my favorite. For 13 years, our summer home in Mulranny grew to accommodate more guests and more workshops and once my new studio was built, it was time to settle down and focus my energies in one place. It was time for a change.
Gift of hands came about for several reasons, the most compelling for me was to expand my own creative horizons on a local level and share the skills that gave me so much pleasure. A second motivating reason was to develop a source of funding for a group I belong to – The Mulranny Environmental Group. We had so many wonderful ideas for heritage programs focusing on nature awareness, conservation, invasive species management and high on the agenda was preservation of the almost extinct breed of magnificent Old Irish Goat, now feral, currently interbreeding with other goat types and losing its fine characteristics.
I realized that as a strong motivated volunteer group making beautiful things from locally sourced and mostly donated materials, we would provide a funding stream to support Mulranny projects.
This group of over 20 women have become a wonderful example of how in the spirit of giving and becoming a member of a creative social network, the rewards are personal enrichment and skills enhancement. Most of all, we find that in the joy of sharing, the creative synergy results in a community that makes things happen!