Jethro Sheen – A Passion for Stone

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Jethro Sheen – A Passion for Stone

 Jethro Sheen has created an oasis of calm and beauty in his showrooms in the old fever hospital in Gort. His stonework business has evolved into something special and he has created a space to celebrate what he loves about stone – its texture, its complexity, its surface finish and its potential to be turned into something breath taking. The showrooms are filled with a range of hand crafted art pieces made from Irish stone and created from his imagination and life experiences The designs are a combination of using Celtic La tene style designs and Jethro’s own imagination and skill. What’s consistently evident in his work, is his love of stone,  his capacity to transform the raw material into something beautiful without losing the natural qualities and integrity of the stone itself.

 Jethro grew up in the Burren in Co Clare and the environment clearly influenced him and how he regarded stone. Building walls from the age of 12 and helping with various projects as a teenager including designing stone floors and arches tapped into his skills for working with stone. He spent three years working with a stone carver from Limerick – and honed his technical skills for his art there. He travelled in Australia and South east Asia for a time which greatly expanded his experiences and developed his creative influences further. He moved to Gort in 2002 on his return and set up his business, naturally gravitating back to his love of working with stone. Initially at this time his work was largely in construction but his true desire and passion lay in the creative aspects of his work with stone and the potential of what he could create.

 With the slowdown in the economy he began to redirect the business to focus more particularly on stone. This entailed work on commissions, specialised projects and restorations. Restoration work included refurbishment work at the Lough Cutra Castle estate in Gort where he restored the main entrance to the castle, re-shaping and carving the five metre high piers back to their former glory - work he his justifiably proud of. Over time his name spread for his skill, quality and the imagination of his work. The need to develop and grow his business encouraged him to make contact with his Local Enterprise Office Galway (LEO Galway) for guidance and support. His need to improve productivity and his ability to accept larger commissions was limited by a lack of specialised equipment. He was also keen to seek advice on how best to access a larger market that would better serve the specialised work he produces. Jethro’s vision for his business is to grow and expand in a sustainable way over the coming years, it is also very important to him that the business uses Irish materials which are sourced in the country and all products are handmade on site in Co. Galway.

 A key factor in the growth and development of this small business is the ability to access skilled workers or train and develop people with the necessary skills – this is a limiting factor that Jethro is well aware of. He is currently searching for the right person to take into the business and help it grow. He has also registered with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland and hopes to take on an apprentice. It’s hard dusty work and the person he hires will need to have the same passion for stone and its potential to become art as Jethro.

Like all small businesses facing growth surges Jethro needed to critically analyse his business and identify a plan for growth. In order to help him with this and to make a proposal for funding support from the LEO Galway, Jethro was assigned a mentor to help him analyse the business potential and identify the actions needed for growth. Like a lot of busy business owners business planning was not high on the agenda of actions – but he admits it’s a necessary process to guide thinking and identify priorities. It was important to put his plans down on paper and help prioritise the actions required. With the mentors help Jethro prepared a business plan and applied to the LEO Galway for support. His application was approved for support in February 2016 and Jethro received offers of co funding for new equipment, new employment hires and marketing funding and expertise to develop his business further.

 Jethro told us: “The reaction of the LEO Galway to what I have created here was very positive for me – it means a lot when people come here and get what I do, see the beauty of what I create. Its very encouraging that it was followed up with supports such as mentoring, funding and marketing advice which are critical to help me develop the potential of the business”.

 As part of his interaction with the LEO Galway, Jethro became aware of a joint programme with the LEO Galway and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland for creative businesses in the West. The programme aims to support creative enterprises like Jethro’s to inject new ideas into product development and boost the potential to access and develop potential new markets. The programme will run over 6 months and takes the form of workshops and targeted 1:1 mentoring for the businesses. It’s the first time that this programme has been run outside Dublin and while Jethro struggles with the need to take time out from his business and focus on strategy – he acknowledges the programme will benefit him greatly.

 Sheen Stoneworks based in Gort is a business that has grown from the passion and skill of a stone carver who absorbed the beauty of his environment and used its inspiration to create a unique business with original art pieces. Jethro's ambition is to focus on this unique aspect of his skills and creativity to develop his business and he has the support of the LEO Galway to help him achieve his ambition.

The LEO Galway offers a range of supports to any business starting or growing in Galway – Advice, Mentoring, Workshops and in some cases Financial support.  For any queries please call 091 509090 to meet an advisor or visit our website: www.localenterprise.ie/galway

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