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16 October 2014

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Sweet Work

By Maureen O'Kane
October 2006, Cardiff
A digital story from Capture Wales

Maureen's proper job

How do you get the best job in the world? Maureen found the answer.

"As a practising artist I am used to people not being able to understand what I do for a living. "When will you settle down and get a proper job?"

I have been an artist now for many years and my mosaics are in some very public places - schools, hospitals, art centres and even the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona - so these days they realise that it's not just a hobby.

I always thought I'd inherited my desire to create from my father, who was a draughtsman and photographer, until I found out more about his mother, the grandmother I never new.

Joyce Martin, known by all as Maisie, took over the Grand Theatre sweetshop in Wolverhampton from her mother in 1913.

The Martin family were sweet makers and there used to be jars of sweets in the shop that were made in the family business. Maisie ran the shop for more than three decades greeting customers with either her lovely smile or a haughty air. I think I must have inherited my artist gene from her as well as my Dad.

In Maisie's shop there was an elaborate display of gift boxes that she had arranged herself. I imagine her delight in dressing the window and placing the chocolates in little dishes for display, with the same passion for design and detail that I have.

At theatre time the shop would be packed and she would have the sweets already weighed up in quarter pound bags - just as I bag up the tile pieces in preparation for mosaic workshops.

One evening Maisie came home from her shop and just fell asleep in her chair after supper. She was 79 years old.

I'm told my grandmother always said she would work until she died because she loved it so much and I am sure I will do the same."

Maureen O'Kane

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am an artist specialising in public and community art, particularly mosaic. I was born in the Midlands but I have been living and working in Cardiff for the last 15 years.

What's your story about?
My story is about my Grandmother, my Dad's mother, Joyce Martin who, though she died before I was born, I believe was influential in my being a mosaic artist in Wales. The Martin family were sweet makers and 'Masie' was well known in my home town of Wolverhampton as she owned the Grand Theatre sweet shop where she worked until she died at the age of 79.
I chose to tell this story because I saw many similarities between what I do as a mosaic artist and what my Grandmother did during her long career in the sweet shop. She obviously had a creative flair and it's nice to think she left something to me.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Having the chance explore this part of my history and make the link with my life today. Also, I loved the process of making the film and hope to be able to recreate the experience and facilitate for others to do the same.

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