Emma Bourke


Elixir, a new work created for Custom House Studios, Sculpture at Westport Quay, refers to a substance held capable of prolonging life indefinitely or a medicinal concoction to cure disease. Through my research into traditional uses of plants I found a prime example of an Elixir at work. During the Bubonic Plague doctors wore long beaked masks filled with Theriac; a compound of 55 herbs, including Rosemary, to enrich the doctors immune system, protecting them from disease. While traditional medicinal plants may have no effect on our current pandemic it may help to hold it off by supporting the body.

Elixir is based on the wild flower, Rosemary, a notorious medicinal plant held in high regard for its anti-inflammatory compounds and as a rich source of antioxidants. This bright pretty plant boosts the immune system and improve blood circulation. Traditionally used in teas and cooking to fight off disease. This image of an Elixir may brighten the dark isolation which current restrictions place upon us.

I took a scientific approach when creating the petals and branches in glass, to scrutinize the physicality, scale and fragility of the Rosemary plant. Recreating the physical form of the plant in another material, such as glass, is another way to share information about a plant. Elixir is made from three materials: glass, metal, wood. These materials are timeless and sustainable, it’s important to me that I create works that exist both then and now; that speak both of our history and presence in 2021.

Emma Bourke graduated from NCAD with BA(Hons) in Craft Design Glass in 2009. She went on to achieve a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Sunderland in 2013. Emma has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally including; Portfolio at the Coach House in Dublin Castle, IRL, The Ireland Newfoundland Trail, NL Crafts Council Gallery, NL, Sociolect at The Biscuit Factory, UK.

Bourke was recently commissioned to create the trophies for Allianze Buisness to Arts Awards 2019, she also won Irish Fashion Innovation Awards; Jewellery Designer 2016, the Golden Fleece Award 2014, IRL, Future Makers Practioner Award 2014, IRL, Futures Fund 2013, UK, John and Elsie Burton Flamework Scholarship, Pilchuck Glass School 2013, USA. Bourke facilitated the Education Programme and was Director of Visual Arts for Westival in 2018 and 2019.

The Museum of Ireland has a piece of Bourkes work in their Collection and Emma’s thesis; Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka and their glass models of sea creatures was also acquired by the Corning Museum of Glass, as part of the Rakow Library’s Blaschka Archive. Bourke’s Ethnobotany Collection will be on perminante public display in the offices of Maurice Ward Art Handling in Dublin later this year.

Photograph: Conor McKeown