Alan and Terri Shoosmith moved to County Clare in June 1990, raising their two sons and farming a smallholding in the Sliabh Aughty mountains for twenty-two years. They grew vegetables, made cheese, jams and chutneys, and kept goats, sheep, pigs, poultry and bees. Terri spun the wool from their own sheep and taught hand spinning, and Alan developed his interest in watercolour painting, taking inspiration from the natural world and the scenery of the Burren and the Sliabh Aughty mountains.
Gradually, farming gave away to a career for Alan in teaching art courses to groups of people with disabilities. After their children left home, Terri fulfilled a long-held ambition to go to University. When arthritis forced them to leave their seven-acre smallholding, they moved to the edge of the Burren National Park in June 2011.
At Rockvale, they set about creating a garden which provides food and pleasure for themselves as well as creating a variety of habitats which attract and nurture local wildlife.
Alan is a watercolour artist who has been painting local landscapes since moving to Clare in 1990. His work is inspired by the natural beauty of the area – he believes that the West of Ireland with its outstanding scenery and unique light provides as much creative inspiration as anywhere in the world. His Clare work has included the landscape and wildlife of the Sliabh Aughty mountains, the Burren and the Atlantic coastline, as well as commissioned paintings of homeplaces, local landscapes and historical subjects.
Since 1997 he has run courses and workshops for adults and children of all abilities and has worked with people with disabilities and mental health problems through the Clare Arts Office “Embrace Programme”, a project he has co-ordinated since 2008. He is a qualified trainer (IITD Certificate 2008) and displays his own work regularly with local art group Inis Artists as well as working to commission.
He hopes that Rockvale Garden Studio will provide an opportunity to feature a gallery of his latest original work together with a range of prints & cards, and open regularly to the public.
Terri has been a keen gardener since the 1980s, when she began growing organic vegetables to feed her small children. A keen cook, she enjoys using organic produce and herbs, making preserves, and harvesting wild food to make pestos and hummus.
Terri returned to education as a mature student, taking a course in Women’s Studies at the University of Limerick before going to NUI Maynooth to study History and Anthropology. Gaining her degree in 2006, she obtained her MA in Irish history two years later. In 2009, she was awarded an SPAHSS Fellowship to continue with her study of settlement and change in the Barony of Tulla in east Clare, from the post-Cromwellian period to the decade before the Great Famine.
In June 2015 she was awarded her PhD. Her unpublished Doctoral thesis is available at the Local Studies Centre in Ennis. A published fiction author, she has lectured widely for local history societies and at historical conferences and has written articles for a variety of historical and gardening journals. Her current research interests are in the development of gardening and garden design in Ireland.
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