Category: Archive

Window of opportunity

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Noelle Clancy makes a living decorating the windows and mirrors of bars and restaurants around New York. Think of all the holly and berries one sees at Christmas, the pumpkins and cobwebs at Halloween and the cupids at St. Valentine’s Day; chances are that the 35-year-old Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, native had something to do with them.
“There are other people around doing windows but very few of them have the energy that I have,” Clancy said recently during a break from her busy schedule. “I do two premises a day and make sure that I am always available.”
Last week, Clancy was prepping Hooligan’s Bar on Second Avenue, between 93rd and 94th Streets, for St. Patrick’s Day. She was expecting to spend up to eight hours on the job. The brief for the two windows and mirrors included a variety of leprechauns, shamrocks and Irish harps.
Clancy explained how she appraised each individual job. “An average window might cost $125, but it all depends on how much detail they want and how long it will take,” she said. “If there is any climbing involved, that adds on an extra hour.”
Clancy was always relatively artistic, enjoying art classes when in school. But it was only when she moved to the U.S. 12 years ago that her true calling revealed itself.
“I was working as a hairdresser when I got the Donnelly Visa,” she said. “I moved over here and started working in a hair salon.”
That Christmas, she offered to decorate the mirrors of the salon by painting a few sprigs of holly and ivy. “One of the girls worked in a restaurant nearby. She told her boss about the painting I did and they offered me work doing their windows,” Clancy recalled.
Clancy enjoyed the challenge of the work enough to look for more. The Christmas jobs soon dried up so she decided to take advantage of the 1994 World Cup fever.
Clancy said she was tireless when trying to drum up business. “I walked around town and went into every bar and restaurant,” she said. “I told them I was an artist and could decorate windows for the World Cup and showed them various logos and emblems that I could do.”
Pounding the pavement paid off, Clancy found herself racing all over the city that year to paint flags, snippets of football songs and lots of shamrocks.
Today, shamrocks and leprechauns are still a major part of her portfolio, though she admits that many clients don’t particularly like them.
“Lots of Irish bars refuse leprechauns,” she said. “They feel that they make fun of the Irish.” The artist herself, however, has no qualms about painting them. “Every country has something to be laughed at — there is no harm in it,” she said.
Clancy claims that she has no interest in artwork as a pastime, preferring to paint only when getting paid. “I would never paint at home,” she said. “The reason I like working in pubs and restaurants is because I am around people and there is a sociable atmosphere.”
Clancy has also met with few setbacks in her line of work. On one occasion, she decorated a mirror with the words of a song. She was so used to painting windows from the inside that it was only on completion of the job that she realized all the words were backward. “There was no problem,” she said, laughing. “I just had to do it all again.”
Her aim this year is to invest in some art classes. “I want to improve my technique,” she said. “Often I am asked to do murals of landscape scenes. I refuse and pass on the work because I am not confident doing cloudy skies. That is something I would like to learn.”
Clancy said she feels sure that she can continue to support herself by painting. “It gets quiet in summer, but at those times I do some hairdressing or work with the elderly as a home care assistant, which I love,” she said.
Clancy lives in Woodside, Queens, and finds herself mostly in Manhattan and Queens, where there is a big demand for her work. Despite the social aspect of the job, Clancy never accepts the offer of a drink when she is working. “I would get too laid back, too relaxed,” she said. “There is a time for having fun and a time for work. I want to be asked back.”
The owner of Hooligan’s, Frank Quinn, said is delighted with Clancy’s work. “She is great and comes highly recommended,” she said. “People look for it on the windows.”
Many of his customers are from the city’s fire and police departments. He asks that Clancy acknowledge that in the artwork by painting the emblems and symbols of the groups.
“Noelle does little extras to make a difference,” he said.
Manager Mary Hardman is also full of praise. “The pub has a football following, so the customers love to see that reflected on the windows,” she said.

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