Isabella Walsh

Contact Studios member since 2015

About Isabella

Isabella Walsh is a multidisciplinary artist with a background as an archaeologist, graduating from Limerick School of Art and Design in 2013 with a 1.1 degree in Printmaking and Contemporary Practice. Having received a bursary membership from Limerick Printmakers on her degree. She is Co-Director of Occupy Space, formerly an artist led gallery now an international artist collective. Isabella works both in collaboration and alone. Recent collaborations include a public project ‘From print to postcard - Limericks Ghost Stories’ (2015) with Pamela Dunne to create an archive of contemporary folklore with an artistic response, winning a bursary from Locating the Gothic to facilitate publication. ‘Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?’, a solo project, is based on the archival case files of an unsolved murder whereby a woman’s skeleton was discovered inside a hollow tree near Birmingham in 1943. Alongside her artistic practice Isabella makes bespoke handmade books (Books by Bella) and teaches workshops such as bookbinding (LSAD), make your own pinhole camera (Limerick Printmakers) and silver jewellery making (with Forgotten Silver at Electric Picnic, Body and Soul). Additionally she is part of the Arba Minch Art Project, a team of Irish artists delivering art education programmes in Arba Minch Prison in Southern Ethiopia (2015/2016).
Upcoming exhibitions and projects:
Nov 2016 - We Occupy Space, Occupy Space at MART, Dublin.
Nov 2016 - Arba Minch Art Project, teaching residency in Arba Minch Prison, Southern Ethiopia
2016 - Ormston House / AllArtNow.
2016 - "Who put Bella in the Wych elm?" Limerick City Gallery of Art curated by Una McCarthy.


This is a project I am currently working on. This page will be updated as time goes on.
“Who put Bella* in the wych elm?” is a true story I first encountered online while researching for ‘The Plane Invasion’, an exhibition in memory of Orlagh Spain, which piqued my curiosity. It is a murder-mystery involving a female skeleton found inside a sinister looking hollow tree in Hagely Wood, Worcestershire 1943.
Upon further research a complex tale of murder, mystery and intrigue was revealed. Theories abound as to why she was murdered: ritual associated with witchcraft, was she a spy or had she connection to German spies? Perhaps she was fleeing an air raid and was unlucky. Description, including a sketch of what she was wearing and dental records were circulated far and wide but nobody came forward with any information. The case, open for 60 years, remains unsolved and her identity unknown.
The story has vast potential and has inspired me to new ways of working – combining archival research and conceptual artworks, reality and the imagination.
(*the similarity in name Bella/Isabella is purely coincidental and does not influence my interest in the story).
The Project

The towpath along the Shannon River between the University of Limerick and Limerick City was a trackway frequently walked by Fergus on his way between his studio and his partners workplace in the Plassey industrial estate where he would get a lift home. This walkway is now closed as it is currently being upgraded to make a well lit 3m wide cycle path / pedestrian route, new bridges, refurbish old bridges and so on (29th October 2015 to May 2016). While in many respects this change is needed it will nevertheless dramatically change the character of the route.

On the 28th of October, the final day of public access, we walked the route from Limerick to the UL boathouse and back. We gathered botanical samples, took photographs, sampled textures in copper sheet, and recorded the conversations we had along the way. These will all act as source material for the rest of the project.

First Steps
The very first result of the project was the found texture plates made by Fergus on the walk. These are a set of six copper sheets that he hammered against different materials on the walk to embed their texture in the metal. Once flattened and cleaned we inked them up and printed them on some etching paper. Both the first prints and the ghost prints are interesting to look at. As the marks are embedded much deeper than your average etched plate there is a lot of ink held and the second print is almost more interesting than the first.

The botanical samples have been pressed and dried. We have begun using them to make etching plates, mono prints and put them through a rolling mill.
In order that we both have a copy of the visual source material I have bound 2 books containing all the photographs from the walk. The images, shot on expired 35mm film, are scanned and digitally printed on Fabriano 5 and bound using a method I discovered recently for binding single sheets and finished with a half leather spine and prints from the found texture plates. One book of the pair is currently on exhibit as part of the Limerick Printmakers Winter Show at the Hunt Museum (December 3rd 2015 – January 4th 2016).

The project is as yet in its infancy, watch this space for updates!

The Collaboration
I am very interested in how a collaboration across disciplines could work out, where are the boundaries between art and craft? Do they even exist? Fergus and I have been friends for many years and we have worked on many other projects and jobs together so there was no doubt that we would be able to work well together.

There are obvious benefits and things to be learned on both sides but I am particularly looking forward to seeing over time the unexpected and surprising changes and influences that may come about. There are many aspects of each practice that could be beneficial to the other in a myriad of different ways. I, for instance, am very interested in metal work, precious metal and the potential of sculptural techniques. Over all I could do with thinking a bit more about design, production and selling. Aspects of printmaking could be useful for Fergus in particular etching as a method of surface decoration. He also does not normally get time to think about a project for its own sake rather than as a means to an end.