On first spec the assumption is that the artworks of Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova are simply the product of 3-D laser printing – algorithms aesthetics, machine-feed creations, the product of precision engineering. But you’d be wrong. They are intricate, and time-consuming, hand-made creations which adds even more marvel to their existence.
“The reaction to the fact that my work is unique and different has given it a momentum now. If I don’t take it, I feel I will lose it.”
When Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova opens her sketchbook, it’s not what you might expect. There are no mad flourishes or fanciful flights of imagination evident. Or are there? To the non-discerning eye, it contains neat rows and columns with numbers attached and colour swatches aligned, more akin to cracking mathematical formulae than conceiving of hypnotically enchanting artworks. But therein lies the magic and mystery of her output.
And it starts to make sense once Miriam discusses growing up in Slovakia and her mum who was a maths teacher and “loved problem solving” as well as her father who “was in the army, so there’s precision there. He also used to paint landscapes, we lived close to the High Tatras mountain range.” After briefly dabbling in graphic design, Miriam went to the Technical University of Zvolen where she graduated as an Engineer in ‘Industrial Design of Furniture’. “I always liked combining maths and art. I used to carve a lot.” Travels after this brought her to the US and North Carolina where she met her Irish husband working in a summer camp. They moved to Ireland in 2005 and ended up settling in Cavan where she found a job as a civil engineer and started raising their three kids over time.
“I discovered paper art about five years ago – based on reactions and sales to clients, I was seeing if it can go somewhere if I put more time into it. I was working night-time with a day-time job and rearing three kids, something had to go.” Thankfully, in 2019, Miriam decided to take the plunge and commit herself to a full-time career.
“It’s not necessarily a link to my roots,” she says, referring to her creations. “It’s based on an old tradition and technique called paper quilling, which is kind of how I started, using paper strips and curling them with more circles and organic shapes. That’s what I love and eventually I started using geometric shapes.
“People think I create my work on computers which I don’t or that’s it’s pre-prepared. Everything is from scratch. I compare myself to painter when they put the paint on the palette and mix, that’s like me when I am preparing the papers and the shapes.”
The Gallery Kinsale were the first to offer representation to Miriam but Covid and its attendant lockdown has proven fortuitous by spurring on additional interest. “I got my biggest commission so far via Instagram and was approached by an American gallery in Houston – Laura Rathe Fine Art – who have three galleries. When you look at the artists they have, they are my dream, it’s a big deal. One of their artists is Stallman Studio who are heroes of mine. They are two guys who create from canvas strips, the fact that I’m hanging out with them through the gallery is a dream come true.”
She has just completed her first public art commission measuring 2.4m x 1.2m which means she has to “tip-toe around it” in her studio. “The reaction to the fact that my work is unique and different has given it a momentum now. If I don’t take it, I feel I will lose it. There are already people copying me which I will take as a compliment but I have to invest time to progress to the next level.”
She’s leaned on everything from the support of mentoring groups such as Bite the Biscuit to feeling the comforting and supporting presence of her mother who passed away from cancer a while back. “Every time I do the numbers I think of her.”
“It was a hard decision giving up the security and pension attached to a full-time job but I have never been happier.”
Words: Michael McDermott
Photos: Killian Broderick