Sheena Devitt

A contemporary maker inspired by the Digital Film Archive

When I first watched the archive I was struck by films made by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in the 1960s that showed how much large scale industries relied on traditional craft skills. I saw a parallel with development of the film industry in Northern Ireland over the past 15 years, which has created new opportunities for craft skills and a fresh energy from people coming to work here. Tourism has also been boosted, as people visit the places they have formed an emotional connection to through the films they’ve been watching. This coming and going of people across the water got me thinking about the movement of water as a symbol of the enriching exchange of creativity that is taking place. 

I live close to Strangford Lough which is connected to the sea by a narrow channel through which extraordinary tides sweep in, creating its wonderful marine biodiversity. As I started to draw wave patterns created by this powerful tidal force, I let myself absorb the movements in the current over time while crossing the lough, returning home to feel out the shapes and forms I could translate into stone.

Searching for a stone quarried from the local landscape led me to S McConnell & Sons in Kilkeel. They supplied me with some Scrabo sandstone, its rippled surface formed by the wind blowing over the desert dunes. I was reminded that what seems like a permanent, solid material is in fact constantly on the move, carried slowly from the Tropics to Comber by the endless conveyor of the plates that make up the earth’s crust. 

What’s been interesting creatively is when contrasting things bump up against each other. This has brought a seismic shift to how I work, unconsciously echoing film industry methods by weaving my ideas with a team of skilled workers. I love collaborating, moving in and out of different worlds, crafting ideas and then finding people to play with. Continuing to work with experts like S McConnell & Sons, I am now embracing the opening out that comes from the to and fro between big industry and hand craft. 

Sheena Devitt carves into stone and slate to create site specific sculptural artworks. The designs are inspired by and respond to the site's topography and history, its orientation and present inhabitants. The process of designing the sculptures starts with layers of drawings on paper. The transferred design takes on a new life as the work moves from a graphic image to a sculptural piece about shape, texture and light. A training in drawing and painting, combined with a one to one apprenticeship in stone letter carving, has given Sheena an excellent grounding in using drawing to develop ideas, and the ability to practice a very specific craft to a high level. Works are sited permanently in private gardens, interiors and public spaces in the UK. Sheena has also created sculptures in response to group exhibitions in the UK and USA.


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