Interiors: Artist Rachel McDermott on the healing power of art after the loss of a child

All About Interiors with Louise Higgins from Aspire Design

Interiors: Meet artist Rachel McDermott

Artist Rachel McDermott at work

This week I caught up with talented Irish artist Rachel McDermott to discuss the inspiration behind her artwork, her tough journey through loss and despair, her beautiful paint techniques, and the impact of the coronavirus on her work.

“Losing my only child three months short of her third birthday after a failed stem cell transplant was a devastating blow that would find me consumed with grief and staring into the bottom of an empty glass most nights. Katie was born with an immune problem that would introduce us to the rules of isolation and cocooning long before Covid-19 reared its ugly head to the world,” says Rachel.

“For four years after her death, I threw myself into work by day and oblivion by night, trying to escape the crushing despair that was the undercurrent to all my days.

“Having another child was not an option for us as we were not willing to toss the dice on a one in four chance of it happening again. I continued on the dark road I was on.

“One morning, hungover again, I was flicking through Irish Interiors magazine, House and Home, when an article on Annie Slone Chalk Paint and upcycling furniture caught my eye.

“‘NO PREP NEEDED’ jumped out at me. It was all I could manage at the time but it had definitely sparked something inside me. As I began to create, something began to stir inside of me and in that awakening, I decided to put down my crutch, pick up a paintbrush and with that the light came flooding in. Instead of mourning Kate’s loss, I began to celebrate her life and paint colour where grief lived.

The Military Road by Rachel McDermott

“I spent the next few years doing various workshops with the experts in that field - American sisters Josie and Sally Celio of Iron Orchid Designs, Jonathon Marc Mendes of Painted Love, and even got to meet and watch Annie Slone herself doing her beautiful magic on an old sideboard destined for the skip. I really enjoyed turning junkshop finds into bespoke furniture for friends and family and people liked my style so I began selling the odd piece to keep me in supplies,” Rachel explained.

“This all gave me the confidence to pick up another type of paintbrush and I began to try my hand at oil paintings, joining a local art group The Eden Art Studio. As a child I remember looking on in wonder when I visited my Aunt Helen Mulkerns selling her paintings down at the railings of St. Stephen’s Green with the The People’s Art group.

“When I took up my own spot there, the positive reaction and connection with people gave me the confidence to keep creating and with that, was born,” said Rachel.

When asked about the impact of the corona virus on her work, Rachel explained that “Unfortunately, the coronavirus has put a stop to public exhibitions so I am in the process of relaunching my website thanks to the LEO trading online vouchers, an initiative for small businesses to realize their potential in the online world of selling.

“That, coupled with my social media offerings of www.facebook/coloursofkate and www.instagram/coloursofkate under the mentorship of Tara Prendergast of Bite the Biscuit (an online group for creatives) things are really looking up again.”

It was a delight to speak with Rachel and hear her story. An inspiring courageous lady who has reminded us once again of the great healing power of art and that there can be life with meaning after child loss.

Rachel has a selection of original paintings and prints available to order through her website We wish Rachel continued success as she grows her business.

If there is a topic that you would like covered in one of my weekly interior columns then please drop me an email with your suggestions.

Louise is a former winner of TV3’s Showhouse Showdown. Contact 086 3999926; email;

Victor by Rachel McDermott

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