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Mary’s Story: From Cloudlands to Colours of Life

Mary Bracken met artist Rachel Tynan on Rachel’s first day as Cloudlands artist in residence at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital. Rachel approached Mary with one of the conversational boxes Cloudlands’ artists use to spark story ideas and creative themes. As Mary, a teenage dialysis patient, explained to Sheila Wayman of the Irish Times, “I wasn’t too sure about this lady coming into me with a blue box and a feather inside. I wasn’t sure what was going on really.” However, within a short space of time, Mary, a keen writer and poet, had alighted on a story about a blue phoenix called Grace which she immediately began writing down. The blue phoenix would inspire a number of collaborative artworks by the two over the following months, including an illustrated book. 

Mary undergoes dialysis in the renal unit three times a week and during her time as an outpatient at Temple Street she was not always in on the same days as Rachel. Hospital play specialist Olive Kelly agreed to act as a carrier pidgeon between the two and every week they would leave art packages for each other, adding, as Rachel says, “an air of mystery” to their collaborations.

Inspired by her work with Rachel, Mary began writing more poetry, which would culminate in Colours of Life, a collection of poems published in October 2013 with proceeds in aid of Temple Street and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. Mary had attended both hospitals over the years. Colours of Life contains illustrations by Mary in collaboration with Rachel as well illustrations by Rachel and other artists. These artworks were auctioned during the launch of the book at Bridge House Hotel, Tullamore, on 16 November 2013.

The poems, Mary told Sheila Wayman, are about “whatever popped into my brain … the stress the illness has put me under; the pressure to make sure to remember to take certain tablets. I thought some days I would go insane because I thought it was never going to end. It is a good way to express yourself. You need some outlet; some days you are very angry: ‘Why is this happening?’, but there is no particular explanation.”

‘Dreams’ by Mary Bracken

A lovely way to spend time
Sweets become gold
Impossibilities become realities
Wishes become real
Everything is possible

Live you’re deepest, deepest
Desire for a few hours
This is what dreams are made of.

To order a copy of Colours of Life please email Cloudlands Artist in Residence, Rachel Tynan:

Sheila Wayman’s Irish Times article on Cloudlands can be accessed here.

Artsist Rachel Tynan with Mary Bracken. Photo by Aidan Crawley.









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