Inside the bustling Limerick Printmakers studios in John’s Square, Brian Fitzgerald is flicking through a stack of prints that he has been painstakingly working on.
Brian is the co-founder (alongside Suzannah O’Reilly Mullaney) of Parallel Editions, the fine art print publishers that commenced operations last year.
As a child, the Limerick School of Art and Design graduate was encouraged by his parents to engage with his artistic side. Growing up in Garryowen, and later moving to Rhebogue, Brian went to secondary school at St. Clements.
While he notes that “back then, in my neighborhood, it was unusual to go to college”, Brian made it to LSAD. There, he quickly realised that playing hurling for St. Patrick’s would not necessarily complement his artistic endeavours. “I got a lot of injuries. I was getting belts of hurleys and realised that I need my hands.” During his time at art college, he also changed direction in his future career.
“I went in there with the idea of becoming a graphic designer and coming out the other side and getting a good job. Instead I got really into fine art, and realised that’s what I always enjoyed. Basically, that led me here. I really enjoyed printmaking, because it had machines and was hands-on. My Dad was a mechanic so I like being around machines.”
After gaining his degree in Limerick, Brian relocated to London in 2007, where he received a Masters from the University of the Arts, and fell in love with the city. It did not happen overnight, however.
“I suffered an awful lot of homesickness, and my wife did as well, when we were initially over there. I was in college, so you had to watch what you were doing. We knew nobody and only got home once that year. Once I got out of college, we were coming home a lot more, and seeing a lot more. It is one of the best cities in the world.”
With their first child Dylan (now aged 7) en route, Brian and his wife Laura knew they could not raise a family in London and came home, with Brian gaining a Higher Diploma in Art and Design Education.
When a group of Limerick printmakers took a short trip to Spain for a residency, he started talking to Susannah O’Reilly Mullaney about a niche for a business such as Parallel Editions, that could produce handmade prints at a fraction of the cost of one-off works of art.
“They are not posters, which is a common misconception. One-off artwork is going to get more expensive by established artists, so people think they are out of the game, when in actual fact they’re not. We’ve Alice Maher in there; anyone can walk in and buy them for less than the price of a chair. The chair will depreciate in value, whereas that print will accumulate value.”
While he feels he may not come naturally to it, Brian seems to be skilled in the process of selling art.
“There’s no such thing as a typical day, bar we need to make prints and we need to be out there meeting people. They’re the two constants. The concept of doing business was brand new to me and I had to learn on-the-job.”
He describes the past year as “non-stop” in terms of getting the business off the ground, and spends whatever downtime he can manage with Dylan “who loves drawing and painting” and his daughter Áine, who will be 3 in October. “I’m lucky to be working in a job I love, contributing to the arts industry in Ireland,” Brian says. “It feels good to come home to my family at the end of the day, having hopefully made their future that little bit brighter.”