4 Up And Coming Creatives On Turning Their Passion Into A Career

Turning an innate skill into A VIABLE OCCUPATION
takes guts, graft, grit and grace.
For these single-minded ones to watch, it’s as simple as that, writes SARAH BREEN


Writer, editor and columnist Zoë Jellicoe has crowdfunded a book

By day I’m an editor at Liberties Press, a small publishing company, and I also write a weekly arts and culture column in the Dublin Inquirer. It’s a unique independent newspaper which has just bravely moved to print when everyone else is going the other way. It’s really inspiring working alongside so much determination and originality.

My mother was an editor-at-large at Wallpaper* for twelve years and our house was always full of books. Both my parents love to travel: I was born in London and we lived in the States, Rome and Switzerland until I moved to Dublin to go to Trinity. I’ve been here for ten years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere – it’s the city I belong in. The creative community here is very small but it means that if you work really hard you can make it in your industry.

I got into video games when I started reviewing them about seven years ago. There’s a huge gaming scene in Dublin that I wasn’t aware of and it’s been very welcoming. Critical Hits, the book I’ve just crowdfunded, will be a collection of the most vibrant voices within the indie gaming community, published by Liberties Press, and available in September.

When you’re an editor it can be hard to read for pleasure because you’re critiquing everything. I have been attending a writer’s group and I do at least 20 minutes of flash fiction a day. I’m so used to giving feedback in my job that I should be better at receiving it, but I still have a lot to learn.

So many people my age are already on double book deals, but you need to be alone a lot to write novels and I’m not very good at solitude. I’m constantly terrified that projects won’t work out, but keeping something going is often more of
a challenge than bringing an idea to fruition. The main thing that drives me is the desire to be challenged intellectually. Creative fulfillment is more difficult to achieve, but I’m working on it.



Film producer Anna O’Malley is carving out a niche in the industry

My grandmother Mary O’Malley founded The Lyric Theatre in Belfast during The Troubles. They had bomb scares and threats to the family home but she persevered. Granny was a formidable force – she instilled in me the belief that anything is possible

After I completed my Masters, I worked in television for a few years producing current affairs programming, but I really wanted to work on feature films. I contacted about 100 companies trying to get anyone to meet with me. Finally someone called me back.

After four years as a freelance production manager I realised that the trajectory of my career was not what I wanted it to be. I knew that to become a producer I needed to take some time off to develop my own projects and say no to some job offers. It was a risk but it paid off.

I’m currently working on My Mother and Other Stories, a BBC One drama set in Northern Ireland during World War II. Working in Belfast reminds me of what my grandmother achieved and how relentless she was. She left a tough legacy to follow.

Last year I met Irish writer/director Alexandra McGuinness in Los Angeles. She told me about a film called The Highway Is For Gamblers and I knew we had to make it together. It’s is in pre-production now and we have Bonnie Wright (Harry Potter), Nikki Reid (Twilight) and the Irish actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes already signed up. Room and Brooklyn are such a testament to the writing and storytelling talent we have in this country. Their success has put us on the map.



Furniture designer Simon Doyle was named one to watch by The New York Times

I think about my work constantly. If I’m excited about something, it consumes me and I spend my evenings and weekends working on personal projects. I exhibited at Maison & Objet in Paris in January and was part of the Design Ireland showcase at Heal’s London in March, after which The New York Times named me as an Irish designer to know. All exposure is good exposure.

As well as the technicalities, the creativity of designing and making furniture appeals to me. I look at it as a problem you have to solve, and the methods are very satisfying.
I worked with instrument maker Frank Tate for nine months when I was just starting out. The raw material might be the same, but the construction is more precise when you’re making guitars and mandolins. I took a lot of what I learned from Frank with me when
I went out on my own.

Starting my workshop was a big decision but I felt it was the only option for me. I knew it would be difficult but I didn’t realise just how much so. On one hand, you’re trying to develop your work, but of course you have to generate income too. It takes a while to get the balance right and I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend it. Then again,
I wouldn’t like to do anything else.

The Swedish furniture designer Åke Axelsson is someone I look up to. He’s still working at 80-something years old. I can see myself doing that – it’s what happens when you’re passionate about what you do.



Irish/Sierra Leonean singer Loah is releasing her debut EP this summer

When I perform everything goes still. I forget the world and feel very focused on what I’m sharing. That’s the thing about music – it draws everyone in. When you study it, you’re studying yourself too, especially when it becomes emotionally challenging. You have to find a resilience within. You’re the source – if you’re buckling, the whole thing is buckling. Sometimes it can feel like life or death.

My parents always urged me to express myself musically. I got into jazz at college, which opened up the worlds of funk and soul music. Talent is all well and good but it’s just potential. You have to support it with effort and practice.

The more you learn about music, the more you want to know. It’s a feedback loop and I’m now developing a deeper interest in the music of my father’s side of the family – my African roots.

I try to do something creative first thing in the morning to relax that side of my brain. Then it’s easier to answer emails and approach the business side of things, because that’s what supports my creativity. If I didn’t look after my management, where would I find my audience?

You need to believe in yourself to make it in this industry. Glen Hansard embodies that; he sings with the same beauty and commitment at a private party as he does in a sold out venue. It’s overpoweringly gorgeous and it wins you over. ^


Make-up by Anna O’Callaghan

Images by Doreen Kilfeather

Sarah Breen

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our June issue, out Thursday June 2.

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