Chatting with Sculptor Orla de Brí

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As you travel around Ireland, you’re bound to come across examples of sculptor Orla de Brí’s work, as she has completed 26 public artworks and numerous private commissions.

Perhaps you’ve seen Na hÁrd Rithe in Cashel, Tipperary – five seven-metre-high figures made from bronze, gold and stainless steel? Or there’s the most recent sculpture, Quiet Listening, dramatically placed on top of the 14th century Belvelly Castle in Cobh. Although the sculpture of a bronze human figure facing a gold-leafed bronze tree has only been in place for a year, 100 people stop to photograph it each day. “The location is stunning and it was also quite a technical challenge,” Orla recalls.

Originally from Dublin, she adored drawing, writing poetry and sculpting from clay growing up. “There was a great love of art in our house,” she recalls. “My father was very artistic too, and we were brought to galleries and exhibitions here and abroad. I’m dyslexic so school was a challenge, but I went to evening art classes, which I loved.”

Orla fell in love with the physical aspect of sculpture, and trained in bronze casting, metal sculpture and clay modelling. Her private commissions include artworks presented to Princess Anne and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She has also completed private commissions for UK actress Jerry Hall, and Hollywood stars Hilary Swank and Christina Applegate.

The talented sculptor’s biggest challenge was making an eight-metre bronze and steel sculpture for a Turkish collector. She made it in Ireland and shipped it to Istanbul, where she installed it.

When she married her husband Finn, they moved to Meath, and Orla built her studio beside their house. Their daughter Jeda is a writer/ director who works in film and theatre, and their son Cal is a videographer.

“Finn works in IT and he’s creative in a different way,” says Orla. “I like that his career is different to mine, as it makes life interesting and gives me a window into a different world.”

Orla has held seven major solo shows and is looking forward to her next one in the Solomon Gallery in Dublin this spring. She admits that she’s very disciplined when it comes to the work/life balance, and tries not to work evenings and weekends. “Kerry is one of my favourite places to unwind as it’s so beautiful, and I also have friends in Cork and Belfast, which I love to visit,” she says. www.orladebri.ie