Marlay Markets and Meteorologists


A Walk Through Marlay Park
The past couple of months at Marlay Park have brought almost every type of 
weather except snow. After a run of three weeks of high winds and early departure
we had a torrential downpour without respite in early November. That was the worst
I have experienced in my fifteen months here.

I packed that morning in dry and calm conditions. When I arrived the rain was falling
steadily. I had resolved to go back home but was informed that there would be a 
break in the weather around mid morning. The traders at Marlay are all amateur 
meteoroligists. They talk in wind speeds from Beaufort scales to metres per second 
to knots to miles per hour and gauge the variations in gust speeds. Everyone has a
weather app on their phones - mine just takes calls and texts. The apps never agree
with each other but everyone defers to the guy who has fifteen apps (seriously).
App man had estimated that the rain would stop at 11 a.m. I waited till 9.30 then
headed for the hills. As I made my way round the back of the park on the mountain 
side I could see a chink of light over Tallaght which appeared to be headed our way.
I pulled in to the College road car park and waited. Lo and behold the app man was
right. Rain stopped at 10.30. I was back and set up by 11. What app man didn’t tell
us was that at 12 midday the rain would come back with a vengeance. At 2 p.m.
there was no sign of a let up and with nobody in the park the only options were to stay and wait it out or take down in a downpour.
With water rising around our ankles everyone opted for the latter.

Dismantling in a downpour is the doomsday option but sometimes you have little

The one thing you can say about market traders is that there is a great sense of 
comraderie - the all for one and one for all mentality. Sometimes their hearts are
bigger than their heads but when someone offers help with a heart and a half it’s
often better to accept than to refuse even if there are consequences.
The problem is that everyone has their own system for packing and loading
especially if you’re trying to get a half ton of gear into a Nissan Micra. If you don’t 
pack everything in a particular sequence it’s virtually impossible to get it all in.
In my case the gazebo weighing fifteen stone has to go first and at the correct angle
to maximize space. Dismantling the gazebo first means exposing the rest of the gear
to the elements. One of the traders offered to shelter my gear while I took down the
gazebo. Things were looking up. I started to dismantle when another offered to
finish while I brought my car around. Very generous I thought. I returned to find the
gazebo folded up and lying on it’s side in a puddle with all the sides in a crumpled
mess in another puddle. While I was recovering from the shock people descended 
and began chucking everything in wily nily. I tried to explain but gave up. I did
eventually manage to get myself into the drivers seat soaked to the skin with no 
visibility to the left or the rear but did manage to get home safely. Everything had to 
be thrown straight into the back yard. It took me the rest of the weekend to dry the
stock and three weeks to dry out the car. It might sound like I’m ungrateful but really
I’m not. They’d give you their hearts and sometimes go above and beyond the call.
To prove the point on that same day one of the traders, a young Spanish girl who 
had a nightmare introduction to the markets over the previous three weeks was in 
serious distress. Her friend was to return at five to pick her up and couldn’t get back
early. She called a taxi and stored her gear with me while she waited. The taxi driver
arrived, refused to take her gear, turned around and drove off. The poor girl was
distraught. Luckily one of the traders had spare capacity in her van and took all of
the gear and the girl home, six miles in the opposite direction. How’s that for

Happily the weather has settled down again over the past couple of weeks. 
The only thing we’ve had to cope with after the prolonged rainy spell was standing
in muck.  


‘A Walk in Marlay Park’      Acrylic on Canvas     16” x 20”     Tony Gunning


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New National Emblem


Blog. 3rd October 2014

New National Emblem

I think it’s time to change our National Flag. This is a Banana Republic and a straight banana at that since that has been dictated by our European masters.

Image:  Eurobanana    Acrylic on Canvas  40cm x 40cm   Tony Gunning 2008


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Who Wouldn't Want to be an Artist?


Open for Business
Who Wouldn’t Want to be an Artist?

Isn’t it a grand life standing at an easel all day painting away without a care in the world with your beret, gown , brushes and palette . Then someone comes along and takes your paintings, sells them for lorry loads of cash, then brings you back the cash less a small percentage taken as commission. Even better still the buyers flock to your studio, don’t disturb you and leave piles of cash on the table. Great work if you can get it. I’m joking of course but it’s amazing the number of people who have this romantic notion or some variation on the theme.

It is a great life standing at an easel all day except for the times when you have to change the bed linen, do the washing, do the hoovering, sweeping, mopping, polishing, cooking, shopping, ironing, grass cutting, hedge cutting, leak fixing,exercising, eating, phoning, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, meeting and all the other things normal people do plus all the things artists really do like writing statements, completing endless application forms for Arts Council funding, making submissions to galleries and Art Centres, visiting galleries, buying materials, researching, recording reference material and finished work etc. etc. In the months leading up to a solo exhibition the pressure intensifies. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It really is a great career and very rewarding. How rewarding? That’s a whole other debate but I’ll leave you with one short story of how rewarding it can be.

This year I had the honour of exhibiting at the Royal Academy’s Summer exhibition in London. They have a very democratic hanging system with Academicians and ordinary artists like me sharing the same space. One of the rooms ‘The Small Weston Room’ is generally reserved for small paintings usually hung in a salon style ( very close together).
Very few of the paintings in this room are by Academicians as they tend to exhibit large for this show. On this occasion there was a small painting by Tracey Emin just to the right of mine. Mine was for sale at £450. Tracey’s was for sale at £66,000. Mine sold but Tracey’s didn’t. But before you all say Ahhhhh poor Tracey save it for a minute. In the very next room Tracey had three prints for sale in limited editions of 100. At the end of the exhibition she had sold about 70 of each print for a giveaway £375 each. That adds up to nearly £80,000. Nice one Tracey.

Who wouldn’t want to be an artist?  


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World Parks Day - Part 2


The Polo Grounds, Phoenix Park
Blog - 16th September 2014

World Parks Day Festival - Part 2

Massive turn out for the Festival on Sunday and big crowds in the park generally. Drive up the main road of the park from Parkgate Street any Sunday and find cars parked bumper to bumper both sides half way to the Phoenix monument. Last Sunday it was like this all the way to the monument. The Visitor Centre car park was even full by noon.

I’ve often wondered how many people use this fantastic resource every weekend. Apart from the usual crowds at the Zoo, the Visitor Centre, Farmleigh House, the Papal Cross, the People’s Gardens and the regular walkers, joggers and picnickers, last Sunday had the added attractions of a polo match, a vintage car rally, a football tournament organised by SARI and of course the World Parks Day Festival.

Crowds thronged the road from the monument to the Mountjoy roundabout for the Festival from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. I’m not good at estimating numbers but it was like Jones’s Road on an All Ireland final day. Chockers we’d call it in Dublin - country people would probably say it was wedged ‘Sure ye couldn’t draw a leg’. The festival was organised by the OPW who always put on a great show. Centre stage as usual was the children’s disco. Even One Direction got an airing - who’d have thought!
There was a spectacular trapeze act - swinging from the trees - left Tarzan in the hapenny place. The glamour was provided by a trio of good lookin young wans (can’t remember the name of the group) singing swing. Chatanooga Choo Choo, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys ... that type of thing. A bit like the Andrews Sisters - not that I’d remember them but my grandfather used to tell me about them.
Then there was the face painting, the hat making and a selection of craft stalls and food vendors. I was selling my prints of the Phoenix Park and Dublin scenes and business was very good on the day. My first customer at 2 p.m.bought 5 framed prints. What surprised me was that I had never sold any of these particular five prints before - you just never know what appeals to people.

Many thanks to Terry Butler, Irene Barry and all the OPW crew. Looking forward to the next one already.


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World Parks Day - Sunday 14th September.


Tea Rooms at the Phoenix Park
This coming Sunday 14th September is World parks Day. To celebrate the event the OPW have organised a free festival from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Chesterfield Avenue (the main road through the Phoenix Park) in the section between the Phoenix Monument and Mountjoy roundabout. Similar to the Midsummer Festival held here earlier this year there will be lots of attractions - theatrical performances, comedy acts, punch and judy, children's disco, craft stalls etc. Yours truly will be there selling my Phoenix Park prints.

This section of the road will be closed to traffic but you may be able to find parking in the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre (entrance beside the Phoenix Monument).

This is a brilliant initiative by the OPW - it's not often you get a chance to entertain the kids for a whole afternoon at no cost and the entertainers are top class. So if you're looking for a great day out this Sunday come along and bring the kids. 


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What's So Special About Marlay Park?


Marlay House and Demesne
What’s so special about Marlay Park?

Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, County Dublin is one of the largest suburban parks in Dublin.
It covers approx. 300 acres and is about 2.5 miles around the boundary path. On the East and North sides it is bordered by Grange Road and by College Road and the M50 to the South. The West side borders the Three Rock Hockey/Rugby club and the Grange Golf club.

Marlay House itself was once owned by David La Touche, first Governor of the Bank of Ireland, in the 1760’s. He named the house after his wife, Elizabeth Marlay. The house was donated to the County Council in the 1970’s.

The courtyard next to the house is surrounded by old buildings converted for use as craft workshops and studios. There’s a sculptor specialising in bronze, a harp maker, a guitar maker and restorer and a gift shop. The bookbinder who occupied one of the spaces died earlier this year and this workshop now remains unoccupied. There is a question mark over the future plans for these buildings. Plans have been mooted for the construction of purpose built craft studios elsewhere in the grounds and the re-development of the courtyard buildings. There’s a farmer’s market in the courtyard every Saturday 10 - 4 with a craft market along the approach to the courtyard from the main car park. On Sundays 11-4 the market in the courtyard is a mix of craft and food stalls.

There are two large car parks, one on the North side and one on the South side. An overflow car park on the North side completed just two years ago is still inadequate to cope with the the number of visitors. So what’s the big attraction?

The big thing I have noticed during this recession is the number of people taking advantage of public resources like this one. It fits with the healthier lifestyle and there’s so many things here to amuse children.

For walkers and joggers there’s a network of pathways and woodland walks and every Saturday morning at 9.30 there is an organised 5K run over a set route which attracts hundreds of participants - old and young, serious runners and fun runners. The Wicklow Way also starts here in the North car park and zig-zags through the Dublin and Wicklow mountains ending at Clonegal, County Carlow.

There are Gaelic pitches, soccer pitches, tennis courts and a cricket ground. A par 3 golf course (closed for construction of a new club house and coffee shop) will re-open again shortly. There are 2 playgrounds, a duck pond and a dog exercise area. A miniature railway runs on a monorail at the West side of the park every Saturday.

The former head gardener’s house, now a coffee shop, adjoins the Regency style walled garden which is beautifully kept with peacocks strutting around, an aviary and an orangery which occasionally acts as an art gallery. Next to the coffee shop is a children’s climbing wall.

Marlay House is open to visitors on selected weekends during the Summer and hosts a Craft Fair in November each year.

A woodland walk follows the Little Dargle river which runs through the park. This walk has a Japenese Bridge and a couple of waterfalls but the highlight is the fairy tree. For some reason the Council have not signposted this little gem. This is no ordinary fairy tree - it’s more a work of art. It’s only half a tree about 15 feet high - the top half probably blown down in a storm- but someone has taken the trouble to build turrets and lookout towers on top and carved out windows and doorways with ornate doors and window shutters. The whole thing is very Gothic - Tim Burton would love it. Usually when I hear fairy tree I think of a bush with all sorts of rubbish and rags tied to it - just an eyesore. Perhaps this is why the Council have kept it secret but the word is spreading. Every week at least one person asks me where to find it.

Wooly Ward’s Pet Farm sets up at the back of the house on Saturdays during the Summer.

For one weekend in August every year there are free open-air movies with children’s movies in the afternoon and adult movies in the evenings. Correction: ...respectable adult movies. This year the rain came down in sheets on both days but a few hundred brave souls still sat out in their rain gear and suffered on. The things people do for a free movie!

In June/July there are a series of concerts in the park which are extremely disruptive to traders and the public alike. It’s hard enough to get some decent weather to work in but it becomes impossible during this period. The stage area and arena is a wide open space at the back of Marlay House which has to be boarded off for the duration. Capacity at the concerts is about 30,000. The problem is outside the boarded off area with marquees and portakabins popping up all over the place and with traffic diverted or restricted. The overflow car park and half the main car park is closed to the public. I’ve seen the queues along Grange Road - most people just don���t have the patience - and by the end of June most don’t even bother. The only people coming to the park are those living within walking distance and not many of these bother either with all of the restrictions in place. I’m all for concerts in Marlay Park - it’s a great venue - but this is extreme. This year we had Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, The Pixies, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and the Longitude Festival featuring Kings of Lean and Kodaline amongst others.

Anyway, rant over, things are beginning to settle down again. This is a particularly good time to visit the park with the leaves changing colour. This Sunday 14th September the National Organic Food Fair takes place in and around the house and always attracts big crowds.

The next big event is at Halloween with a spooky fancy dress woodland walk. I haven’t been to one but by all accounts this is well organised by the Council and is one of the highlights of the year in the park. The event is free but admission is by ticket only to control numbers. Last year there were people lining up all day right around the house for tickets on the weekend before the event. Unfortunately it was cancelled due to a serious storm that weekend.

I’m sure there are things I’ve left out but pay a visit sometime and see for yourself - and while you’re there drop by Blue Sky Art and say hello.  


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If you loves yer metals like I loves me metals


Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham, County Dublin
Last week was Heritage week - the week when you can visit any heritage site for free and

 get educated at the same time.


This year we managed to get to a few really interesting places - those places that were always

on the list but you only ever really make the effort in Heritage week.


A tour of Arbour Hill cemetery on Sunday 24th was a revelation. I’d been to Easter commemorations

there but never knew the whole story before.


Got a one day visa to cross the Liffey on Monday and headed out to the martello in Howth 

for  talk on the martellos of Dublin. That was interesting enough but the real highlight was 

the Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum which is housed in the tower - nostalgia heaven. If you’re

interested in radios or the history of radio, wireless or otherwise, this is a real gem and well 

worth a visit. The staff there are real characters and eat, drink and sleep this stuff.


Tuesday was good and bad. We took a trip out to the Pearse Museum at St. Endas,

Rathfarnham (pictured here) for a talk by Liz Gilleece about her book on the siege of
the Four Courts and the beginnings of the Civil War. She was absolutely brilliant.
We came out to find the car had been boken into and Ellen’s briefcase had been stolen.
The briefcase would have been worth a lot more than was in it.
To cut a long story short, the following day I was out in Tallaght having the glass
replaced when I got a call from Rathfarnham Garda station to say the briefcase had
been handed in so I picked it up on the way back - how lucky is that? 

Nothing in the briefcase ad been touched. Hats off to the boys in blue and the good citizen 

who handed it in.


On Thursday night we did a walking tour of historic Dun Laoghaire with Michael O’Flaherty. 

I was teacher’s pet for the night and got to carry his old photographs - thought I knew

Dun laoghaire well but discovered I know nothing.

Left the big smoke behind on Sunday and went to the Battle of the Boyne site at Oldbridge,

just outside Drogheda. Great place to visit and very well run. Will definitely call here again

- probably on the next occasion that Lord Henry invites us for tea in Slane Castle which is

only a few miles up the road.


Anyway, back to the title of this blog. On Wednesday we were to do a tour of the ‘metals’

- the pathway alongside the railway line that was built to ferry granite from Dalkey Quarry

to Dun Laoghaire when the harbour was being built. We chickened out when the rain came.

Maybe next year. 


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So you want to be a market trader


Marlay House


I’m often asked for advice by people thinking about setting up a market stall. So for anyone interested here are a few tips:


1. Trading licenses are granted by the local council on the advice of the market manager. 

   Your first approach should be to the market manager who will let you know if your  

   proposition is likely to be approved. You stand a better chance if what you are 

   offering is innovative and does not compete with current stall holders - something 

   unique has a better chance of success anyway;


2. Apply in Spring with a view to starting in Summer allowing you to get a feel for   

   things before investing in expensive shelters;


3. Make sure you get your costings right. Apart from material and labour costs in the  

   production of what you are selling there is the monthly license fee and annual public 

   liability insurance. Costing in time spent on market days is down to the individual. 

   Some see the market as a promotional opportunity for an online business or a business 

   in a permanent high street location. Some use it for market research. Some will not 

   fully cost their time and see it in terms of cash flow or simply as a social outlet. It 

   should be borne in mind that for a market that runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (6 hours) 

   the working time is approx. 11 hours allowing for loading/unloading at each end, 

   travel time, set up and take down. Even at minimum wage the gross profit for the day 

   would need to be at least Є150 to break even (remember that’s profit and not 

   sales) and much greater if you are to consider this as a business. The chances of that 

   happening are slim to none. So why do we do it? For all of the reasons mentioned 

   above or a combination of these.

   Of course I’m only referring to craft markets. Turnover on hot food is much greater 

   but that also has it’s own risks and exceptional costs. License fees are greater and 

   electricity charges are extra. Food safety and hygiene standards are very exacting.  

   Judging perishable food stocks is almost a science but requires lots of assumptions 

   and accurate weather forecasts. Getting it wrong can lead to serious losses. Too much 

   and you face the prospect of dumping the excess. Too little and you go home early 

   kicking every cat and dog along the way. The initial investment for mobile food 

   vendors is high and it’s hard graft. On a busy stand you may also have a couple of 

   extra staff to pay;


4. The key to success is low priced, high turnover items with novelty value. I’ve seen 

   quite a few traders with high quality, beautifully designed and crafted work come and 

   go. Their work may be stocked by Avoca or Kilkenny Design but this is not what 

   people buy at markets. I do understand why they come to the market. The design 

   stores sell at high prices but the producer only sees a small percentage of that. They 

   come to the craft markets for a greater return but must substantially undercut the 

   design shops. The product loses it’s cachet and the design shops are none too happy. It 

   can only end one way;


5.  And finally - follow your own instincts and only take advice from those with 

   experience. Listen carefully to all of your customers but beware of their helpful 

   money-making suggestions. I’ve learned that to my cost more than once.


If none of the above has deterred you you’re probably on your way to being a great success or else you’re just as stubborn as me.  


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Mister Blue Sky


Saturdays at Marlay Park

August 18th, 2014 - 12:02 PM

Back to Basics:

I should start with a clarification before I receive any more comments from Wall Street or the IFSC. I am not a trader in the financial markets - I work strictly in the more humble arena of the craft market at Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland. You could call me a stall holder, or anything else as long as it's printable, but I'm sticking to the title used in my contract with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
When the art market took a nosedive after 2008 and finally hit the wall in 2011 many artists had to find alternative ways to make a living. In my case four of the six galleries I was involved with in Dublin had closed their doors by 2012. The remaining two, to their great credit, continue to ride out the storm. At the end of 2012 I made the decision to sell prints of my work. Initially I tried selling through retail outlets which was and is very frustrating.
In June 2013 I decided to take the direct route and applied to the County Council for a license to trade at the craft markets in Marlay Park on Saturdays/Sundays and at the People's Park, Dun Laoghaire, on Sundays. The People's Park didn't work out but I did get a license to trade at Marlay Park on Saturdays and Sundays. Marlay Park operates on two levels. On Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Courtyard of Marlay House is for food vendors and the route from the car park to the Courtyard is lined with craft stalls. On Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the market is confined within the walls of the Courtyard with a mix of food and craft vendors. Craft vendors generally don't do well here on Sundays as this tends to be more of a family day geared to picnics and most visitors tend to congregate here just for food. I gave up Sunday trading earlier this year and now concentrate on Saturdays only selling original and prints. As an open air market It's a tough way to make a living particularly with the weather variations we get in Ireland.

Reasons for this Blog:

I began this blog with the intention of sharing my experiences as a professional artist over the past fifteen years and as a market trader for twelve months. I am also happy to offer advice to anyone wishing to embark on either course.
My journey as a self thought artist has been a very steep learning curve which never ends. For every artist there is a unique journey. No two artists will ever use the same roadmap but it is possible to learn from other artists. The visual arts nowadays are hard to define and can range from painting to installation to video/film to performance to audio installations and beyond. Besides painting I do have a lot of opinions but have little advice to give. Many people have asked me why I don't teach. The answer is that I can't. Not because I have no formal training but because I cannot teach someone the techniques of painting when I work only on instinct. My painting style is very unconventional. My preference is for acrylic but I will use water based emulsions and cellulose based household paints occasionally. I mainly use flat brushes but will use any weapon that achieves the effect I'm looking for - I use damaged and worn brushes a lot for specific effects.
What I can offer are insights into the art world with particular reference to Ireland. Over the coming weeks I will recount some of my experiences and offer invaluable tips. The things they don't tell you in Art College.
In the meantime I'm sharing this image. It's a painting of the Saturday market at Marlay Park. The stall to the left is Life Moments owned by Una. Una came up with the clever idea of taking thirty or forty words which have special meaning in a persons life, arranging them in an artistic way, then printing and framing the finished work in a choice of sizes and framing styles. The next stall is Blue Sky Art run by yours truly. To my right is a toy stall run by my good friends Shane and Colette who are in the process of tying the knot this very day. Congrats to a very special couple - the salt of the earth. On the extreme right is Eco Services. This is owned by Pat and Damien (that's Damien with the cap). Damien makes bespoke wooden furniture - truly wonderful work. The stand is mainly for display purposes - the furniture is generally made to measure - although he does have some some small pieces like coat racks and wine stands for sale. Don't know where they came up with the name. In the background are numerous stall selling everything from Lazlo's strawberries, jams and fruit juices to Jetta's dog treats to hand- made jewellery to wooden toys etc. etc. The house in the distance is Marlay House.


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Mister Blue Sky


Kerry Humour
Isn't it a small world?

It's a phrase we use regularly in Ireland because no matter who you talk to here if you talk long enough you'll find a connection. Sometimes you don't even need to talk. Sometimes lightning strikes twice in the same place. The following is a true story.

On Saturdays I have a market stall in Marlay Park selling prints of my own work. One of the prints is reproduced from an original which is currently on display at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in London. The title of the painting, acrylic on canvas,  is 'Kerry Humour'. I painted this from a photograph I had taken somewhere near Kenmare, County Kerry, about ten years ago but wasn't sure exactly where. The print caught the eye of a young couple who were passing. "There's Joe Blogg's (not his real name) house", says he. I was sure he was mistaken as the house was in such a remote part of Kerry. He knew the exact location as this was his next door neighbour on the road from Kenmare to Kilgarvan (colloquially known as the Healy Ray highway). I couldn't believe the coincidence. As it happens the man in question is slightly eccentric and the silage bales with the markings 'Fek Off Crows' are still there ten years later.

The following week a more middle aged couple were passing the stall. "There's Joe Blogg's place", say she. Again I was sure she was mistaken. "Sure he's our next door neighbour". When I explained what happened the previous week she said "that would be Mary and Pat - they're the neighbours on the Kenmare side - we're his neighbours on the Kilgarvan side. You just can't beat that for a million to one shot. I went out and bought a lottery ticket that night and guess what - not one number came up. Just goes to show - lightning never strikes three times.


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 blue sky artCo. Wicklow, Ireland353 89 4611522