WEXFORD woman Mary Kirwan has lived in London ever since she graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design.
She came to the British capital to begin her career in the world of fashion and soon she was Creative Director for a high street fashion brand.
Later she met and married the “love of her life” and would travel the world at the drop of a hat.
Kirwan was living the “busy, hectic, yet extremely exciting and rewarding” life she had yearned for as a young woman growing up in a small Wexford village.
However, all that would sadly change in 2019 when the Irishwoman suffered a painful surfing injury whilst travelling in India.
“Last year my life came to a sudden halt”, Kirwan, 35, who lives on a floating houseboat on the River Thames, told The Irish Post this week.
“I suffered a painful and traumatic back injury whilst surfing in India,” she added, explaining: “What prevailed was a year of chronic pain, panic attacks, anxiety and departure from a job and lifestyle I had worked my adult life to achieve.
“My identity was completely lost and my passion for the fashion world had evaporated with the loss of my physical and mental health.”
It would take a complete career change and lifestyle turnaround for her to overcome the pain that now engulfed her daily life.
“Late last summer, under guidance from my therapist to address my chronic pain, I started to paint for pain relief,” Kirwan explains.
“The challenge was to rewire my brain away from pain to a place of harmony,” she adds, “so what started out as watercolours for close family has now become my full-time passion and career.”
Now Kirwan works as an artist full time from a private studio on her houseboat home – which has also proven the perfect spot to sit out the Government enforced lockdown.
“I have been extremely fortunate to be able to continue to paint from my private boat studio on the river Thames during lockdown,” she says.
“I just make the short walk [to the studio] through our floating gardens from the houseboat I live on.”
“Working on water has its pros and cons,” she admits.
“To be surrounded by water and watching nature develop as the seasons pass is a real privilege and a secret sanctuary in the centre of London.
“However, working my day around tide times and river traffic creates its own challenges when brush is in hand, but I do feel very lucky to live and work here during such times.”
And now, as lockdown eases, Kirwan has taken time to reflect on the path that has brought her to where she is today.
“For me, painting has allowed me to go back to the purest form of creating,” she admits.
“With people spending more times in their homes, art has started to creep into lives and homes even more so over the past few months - creativity and craft is soaring during this pandemic.
“But while social media and the digital medium is an amazing tool which is largely sustaining the world right now, there is just something so magical about the physical.”