Copper Fish Studio | Marie Varley’s Design Column

Copper Fish Studio Eoin Shanley

Irish Artist Marie Varley searches the country for the very best in Irish design to bring to you here on HeadStuff. This week she talked to Eoin Shanley from Copper Fish Studio.

Eoin Shanley is the brains behind the Copper Fish Studio – a business specialising in repurposing fallen wood into beautiful and unique lamps. His handmade designs are all unique and made in Co. Wicklow. This week I caught up with him to discuss all things lighting! 

Can you tell me a little about your background and how you turned your love of craftsmanship and lighting into a business?

I think I would say my journey to “single handedly addressing the worldwide crisis in the mood lighting industry” has been a little unorthodox. I have three passions – Fly fishing, music and making stuff. When I left school I studied fishing, but the draw of rock and roll super stardom was too strong. I spent a few years in various bands, but grew tired of spending my life driving around in the back of a van. I then took a sideways step, and studied at the Gaiety School of Acting. That was a very interesting few years, but acting wasn’t really my bag, so I went back to fishing. I spent a decade in fishing, but all the time was painting, and making things. I started dabbling in lighting a couple of years ago, and people coming to the house started asking me to make one for them, then their friends started ringing me, and it snowballed from there. During this period the fishing business was dwindling away, and I was made redundant in December 2015. I set up Copper Fish Studio in January 2016, and it’s been going hammer and tongs ever since. I am now full time addressing the mood lighting crisis. One lamp at a time.
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio



You use mainly reclaimed and recycled materials in your work. Why is this important to you?

Because I can’t bear to throw anything out!
I love to take something old, battered and beautiful, and turn it back into something lovely. I have a local guy who deals in storm felled timber, and that’s where I get most of my timber. The beauty of storm felled timber is that you can occasionally pick up some very old trees complete with spalting, and the occasional woodworm track, and all the trees came down locally in Wicklow. Beautiful timber sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. I have used wood from old door frames, collapsed roofs, and quite a bit from the shores of the lakes I fish in Connemara. I love the fact that old timber will always do what old timber wants. I cut a lot of my wood by eye, and you can get the occasional wonderful distortions and misshapes which I think really add to the whole thing.

Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio



Can you tell us about the design process of making your lamps from beginning to end. Do you have an idea how the end result or are there some surprises in the design process?


Most of the designs start in the head, and by the time they actually come to fruition, they can be quite different. Also, I use a lot of reclaimed timber and copper, and with that, you are limited to the actual piece of timber you have, and that will alter the shape. I very rarely make exactly the same lamp twice. I use a chainsaw a lot, as well as some very heavy power tools, and they can throw up some great surprises.

Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio



You also offer commercial design. Can you tell us about some of the projects you have been involved with?

I’ve done a couple of coffee shops, and am in the middle of a design for a hairdresser’s. I seem to be getting a lot more bespoke work recently. Actually, in the last 3 days I have been asked;
–       Can you make a lamp from my antique garden sprayer?
–       Can you make any lights from agricultural equipment for my pub?
–       Can you “lamp” my wedding champagne bottle for my granny who couldn’t come?

Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio



You have a new range of tall lamps which will be available to customers soon. Can you tell us about these?

I’ve been developing a range of floor lamps over the last few months. They’re made with copper piping and a great lump of local timber. I had a pop up shop in Dunlaoghaire a few weeks ago, and I sold them all in three days, so I have high hopes for them. There’s a local guy I know who deals in storm felled timber, and will call me if he comes across any huge lumps of the oak and yew that I need to make them. (He told me he’s got a big old oak log for me, so there’ll be more in the next week or two)

Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio



What’s next for Copper Fish Studio?

I’m working on a copper pipe chandelier, and if it’s half as good in the real world as it is in my head, then it’ll be bloody great!
I’m also working with copper brake cable for trucks, it’s fairly tricky but it’s much more flexible than plumbing copper and I think it has huge potential.

On another tangent, my wife and I restored an 18th century thatch cottage in Leitrim using only traditional materials. That’s how I discovered “cob”. Cob is a mix of straw, hemp, lime, mud and sand. It’s what all cottages were made of before cement. I’ve started making lamps with it. When polished it looks a little like polished concrete, but a much richer red / sand colour full of flecks of straw. Early models are very encouraging, but not quite there yet.
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio headstuff.org
Eoin Shanley | Copper Fish Studio
A wide range of the Copper fish Studio lamps are available to buy at Industry & Co., 41 A/B Drury St., Dublin 2

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