Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh with Barry Keoghan who won his first BAFTA award last year for Best Supporting Actor in Banshees of Inisherin. the pair worked together on the now iconic movie.

Meet the Emmy-nominated costume designer behind the creation of a local artist collective

An Emmy-nominated Dunboyne costume designer whose latest role was kitting out the cast of Oscar-nominated film Banshees of Inisherin is behind a creation of a local artist collective.

Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh was nominated for an Emmy for her costume work on David Copperfield with Hugh Dancy and Sally Field and has joined forces with Lynn Johnston, herself an Oscar-nominated make up artist to create the North Light Art Collective.

Their shared credits include The Banshees of Inisherin with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, The Professor and the Madman with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, Love and Friendship with Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny, the Wind that Shakes the Barley and Breakfast on Pluto which both starred Cillian Murphy.

Given such an illustrious career in film, the duo who met more than 30 years ago working on set in Morocco are more than qualified to guide others in igniting their creative spark.

Each month, the workshops offer art mediums focusing on life drawing, watercolour art, botanical art and fashion and costume illustration with renowned fashion designer Peter O’Brien.

“I think what’s really nice is that we are bringing in professional artists,” said Eimer.

“A lot of people go to art classes and just enjoy the whole process of painting but this is about trying to really move people on a little bit and have an intensive workshop where people will get to really kind of fine tune some of their skills,” she added.

“It is open to all levels. It's really trying to be supportive and to really try and create a group of like-minded people who just love art. I think there are a lot of people in Ireland who love painting and drawing but ended up getting a job after school and kind of forgetting about it, it’s just to try to rediscover that. At the end, everyone is going home with a finished piece of work and that is really gratifying.”

Elmer’s career in costume design spans over 35 years and she is still as passionate as ever about helping to tell a story on film.

“I went to the School of Art in Limerick and I studied fashion design and after that I lived in Madrid for a few years and I had some friends there who were film students,” said Eimer.

“I didn’t realise that there was such a thing as working in film and I just found it really exciting and I loved the fact you could be working one day on a period film and your next job might be something contemporary,” she added.

“It just seemed really incredible that there was this whole world out there and there were job opportunities.

“I came back to live in Dublin first in the early 1990s and I think the film industry was really taking off at the time and I just thought I’d give this a go and see what happens. Like most of us looking back it’s about being in the right place at the right time and getting an opportunity and running with it.

I just really loved it and I can’t believe I’m still doing it!

Eimer says one of her most exciting projects to date is working as head costume designer on The Banshees of Inisherin.

“That was amazing because we filmed it during Covid so we were a very close bunch, the actors and the crew, it was a fantastic experience,” said Eimer.

Explaining what was involved behind creating costumes for the Oscar-nominated movie, the Dunboyne designer said:

“The process is the same whether it’s contemporary or period. With the Banshees we had eight weeks, you have to do a lot of research on the period, you have to design all of the costumes and get them made.

“We had a work room with tailors and dress makers. You have to source the fabric and the fabric was woven especially for some of the costumes.

“I was lucky that I was able to get a lot of fabrics in Ireland because we used a lot of linens and wool and there are still some small producers that are manufacturing them and I was absolutely delighted to be using Irish fabric.”

The Banshees of Inisherin brought global attention to Irish knitwear thanks to the talented costume designer who was responsible for the now iconic red collared jumper worn by Colin Farrell’s character in the movie. Handknitted with Irish wool by 83-year-old Delia Barry from Greystones, the design was based on an old photograph Eimer found of a fisherman on the Aran Islands.

“I showed her the photos and asked if she could do something similar.”

“Colin really pulled it off as well, if you say to a good looking guy look here’s this jumper and I want you to tuck it into your trousers and then put a big belt over it and he goes ok, you have got to admire him!”

Such has been the hype around the sweater, it has even been featured in Vogue and has attracted attention around the world with fashionistas falling over themselves to get their hands on a version of the knitted garment.

Elmer says the sheer scale of the operation was “huge” with much to oversee.

“We had to do all the fittings with the actors and finish the costumes, you are trying to oversee all of these different things that are going on and make sure everything is coming in on time and on schedule and that the first day of shooting the actors and all of the extras will have costumes to wear!

“When we went to the Aran Islands we were using the local community hall and there was 20/30 rails of costumes and the extras would come in and they would have a half hour each to be fitted. Then there are alterations to be done. It is a team effort.”

Eimer says her role was ensuring the clothing worn by the cast reflected the story being told by director Martin McDonagh.

“The thing with the Banshees is that because it was a Martin McDonagh film there is a kind of heightened reality to it.”

“He wanted it to be very cinematic so there is was a little bit of poetic licence within the costumes so some of the colours are quite strong but the thing I always say to people is that you are a costume designer, I am not trying to recreate something for a museum, I’m trying to tell the story with the costumes and be true to the script and the character, that’s the most important element,” she added.

“The costumes have to tell that story as well.”

Speaking about being a part of such a globally successful film, the Dunboyne designer said:

“It has been fabulous, I got to go to the Baftas last year which was brilliant.

“People love to tell me if they didn’t like the film and expect me to be offended which always makes me laugh. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s creating emotion, it is creating conversation, that’s what film is about.”

Eimer also worked on another critically acclaimed film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence. Although set in the same era, the two films were worlds apart in a creative respect as she explains:

“That was completely different in that it was the same period but it had to be much more authentic. With the Banshees of Inisherin it is a fictitious story in a make believe world, there is no such island as Inisherin, it is almost like a fable or a fantasy world.

“But with The Wind that Shakes the Barley it was all kind of based on fact, the Civil War and there were lots of documentary photographs available and Ken Loach the director wanted it to be very authentic.”

When asked about what it is like to work alongside famous actors, Eimer said:

“I’m doing a job and their doing a job, I think with social media there is a lot of people on show 24/7. I think when they come into work it is kind of a safe space for them where they are just there to do their job. And they know they are as good as their last film as well, they have to work hard. I have to love them or I wouldn’t be doing it!”