Artist Tom Meskell working on some of his creations.

Lighting up Cavan Town

Tom Meskell and his team of Cavan artists will bring the county to light this weekend in a beautiful display of creativity and togetherness.

The ‘Gathering In’ project, featuring lantern sculptures of animals and shepherds, will be showcased in six locations around Cavan Town on November 26, 27 and 28.

An artist for the past 20 years, Tom studied glass design as a student but was always “really fascinated by light”, which is why he decided to start creating lanterns.

However, he decided this “wasn’t inclusive enough” for him.

“Another strand of my work is working with people,” he said, explaining this is why he shifted from craft design into sculpture, more specifically mobile sculptures.

“Making things with people,” he furthered.

“That’s what it’s all about for me.”

No stranger to working with large groups of people, Tom was thrilled when he was asked to work on the ‘Gathering In’ project as part of the national Faoin Spéir Programme.

He explained the “lovely link” he created with the Cavan artists due to the pandemic. They first met last year over zoom, when the project was initially due to take place.

“We transformed that into an online project,” he said, explaining they embraced the “heavy first lockdown” together.

Finally, they had the opportunity to meet “in real life” this summer during what Tom remembered as “the hottest weeks of the year” to let their creativity flow.

“We felt like we knew each other already, there was a great bond we had made,” he remembered.

The theme of animals brings in Cavan’s history as a market town, where people would bring their animals to be sold.

“That was our initial inspiration,” he said.

The team got to work as Tom explained the “very simple” creation process of the sculptures. Hailing from Mayo, he uses materials that can be sourced in rural Ireland’s co-ops and hardware shops. The base of the animals are made out of fencing wire, held together using masking tape. The frame is then covered with cling film to “get a basic foundation” to work from. Wet strength tissue dipped with PVA glue is laid on the frames and left to dry. LED lights are positioned inside the sculptures, bringing them to life.

“It’s beautiful when the light comes through it,” he said, marvelling at the finished result of the project.

“It’s been a lovely journey.”

Tom is looking forward to November 22 when he and his animals will hit Cavan’s soils.

“I’m arriving up and I’m bringing a truck load of the lantern animals from Mayo,” he said, also hoping to bring “good energy” and “good vibes” to the town.

“It’s a very positive project,” he said, hoping that it “inspires people and makes them happy".

“The lovely thing about doing work in the public is that people will put their own layers of understanding on it,” he said, encouraging people to “put their own meanings on what they see.”

Music and poetry

Members of the public can come and view the sculptures. They can also interact with them by scanning a QR code on their phone, opening them up to a sea of poetry and music to enjoy thanks to poet Noel Monaghan and composer Darragh Slacke.

“They’ve gave this whole other dimension to the work,” Tom enthused.

“People will be able to go and see that work, and play the music and listen to the poetry that goes with those lanterns.”

The event will take place from Friday to Sunday, November 26, 27 and 28, from 6pm-10pm. The sculptures will be located at the Egg market, the Abbey, Cavan Cathedral, Church of Ireland church and at the Town Hall. The artists involved will be standing by the work with ‘Gathering In’ logo on their jackets.

The work will then do a tour of Cavan for the Christmas period appearing in shop fronts around the county.

Finally, a limited edition book will be created explaining the project with statements from each of the artists.

“It’s a good vibe and the music and the poetry reflects that,” Tom said, encouraging people to go along and view the work.