“I’m not going to tell a sob story but this is how I am spending my life. The only step further down from where I am is on the streets. I live in a council flat, hand-to-mouth, but I don’t mind that cause I can do this. If I never get successful, I’m not going to worry about it. If you do sell something it gives you a boost and spurs you to make more stuff.”
Gib is sitting in Sun Studios, his space on North Brunswick Street, telling me about what keeps him going and gives him purpose. He’s been working on his collection of robots, made from recycled materials, for the last three years. He’s proud of them and well he should be. There’s a nostalgic happiness trigger with his work which transports one back to childhood days, simpler times, and galaxies far away. His studio is an Aladdin’s cave of invention.
“I just kept seeing all these tins and stuff that were being thrown out at home and thought ‘what can i do with all this rubbish?’ So, the first thing i made was a robot out of tin cans and bits of scrap and stuff.”
“If I was in New York or Japan, I’d probably be making them to order but here it’s…” Mild-mannered and modest, Gib trails off. “I’m not good at selling myself and I basically do it to stop myself going crazy, it would be nice to have some sort of financial success, but I’ve sort of reached the age where if it happens it happens and, if it doesn’t I’m not going to stop doing it.”
“It would be nice to have some sort of financial success, but I’ve sort of reached the age where if it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t I’m not going to stop doing it.”
The itch I try to scratch during our conversation is knowing that there is surely a market for these sort of collectibles. There are people like the fashion designer Paul Smith who has been championing and selling this world for some time. And there’s places such as Japan who would fall mechanised head-over-heels for the ‘kawaii’ of Gib’s work. But a Dragon’s Den ethic isn’t for everyone, or even healthy.
Originally from Brighton, Gib’s been living in the Liberties for the last 20 years or so. “I do suffer from depression and have since I was a kid. Keeping going is a struggle for me but if I get into something and keep focused on it, that’s the best thing for it. I’ve always managed to bounce back,” he says.
“It’s getting them in the right hands with the right people who are going to see them. I ran myself ragged the first few years trying to get stuff into galleries in Dublin and you know they, more or less, tell you to fuck off unless you’ve got a reputation. With my state of mental health, I had to say I’m just going to do this for myself so that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s basically all the stuff I loved as a kid and still do.”
Now, with the help of Kaethe Burt-O’Dea in Bí Urban, Gib feels like he’s getting his “first break” in terms of being noticed through an exhibition of work. He deserves many more.
Gib’s Junkyard Renaissance is at Bí Urban, 3 Manor Street, Stonybatter, until December 23, with 60 robots available to purchase.
words: Michael McDermott
photos: Sadhbh Burt Fitzgerald