Cheese Art: 5 Questions with artist & cheese lover Malachy Egan
We all know that good cheesemaking is an art form and that all great artists love cheese (there’s no way that this isn’t true, right?), but did you know that some of the coolest art out today is an ode to cheese? Cheese art. And Malachy Egan is one of my favorite creators of it.
Malachy and I met three years ago on a group cheese trip to Wisconsin and hit it off right away because we’re both a tad obsessed Irish cheese so we had tons to talk about. When over a massive pile of fried cheese curds, he told me he was an artist and showed me his latest artwork project with Essex Cheese, I immediately asked to see more of his work. Then, I hired him. See that “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” logo above? He designed it. And my business card. I love them. It was cheese and art kismet.
One of the reasons Malachy’s cheese art touches my heart so much is not because his illustrations are of beautiful cheese, but because they tell stories of the cheese word, and its makers and mongers. Malachy has visited many of the regions he illustrates and has spent time with the makers, so you really get a sense of what it’s all about. As in, you get a cheese of who the cheesemaker really is, or, get some behind-the-scenes peeks at secret (ish) cheesemonger cheese paper folds. His art is also damned cute and I love the colors.
Below is an interview with artist Malachy Egan. Because I know you’ll love his stuff too, here is a link to his online shop. You know, in case you’re looking for a gift for the favorite cheese lover in your life for the holidays and all that.
5 Questions with artist Malachy Egan
1. How the heck did you get into cheese art?
I’ve been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. My love for cheese arrived late in my life – I was a veeerrrrry picky eater as a kid. I didn’t even like grated cheese on pasta (insert face palm emoji)! Things changed when I studied abroad in Italy and then after college when I cooked my way through my Mom’s Marcella Hazan cookbooks. After almost a decade of working in advertising/design I got laid off. I knew I wanted to learn about food and food production and I had a friend who was a cheese buyer for a local cheese counter here in Philadelphia. He just so happened to be looking for help, so I jumped in. I would hand draw some signs to pin in the cheese and designed some small chalkboards for promotionals. So I guess that was the start of my cheese art.
2. Your family is Irish and you travel back to the Isles A LOT! First of all, that’s awesome, and second, I think we should meet up there someday! Third, what Irish cheeses or cheese-inspired products should we be trying or eating tons more of here?
Yes! We definitely should meet up! My Family is originally from Co. Mayo, in the west of Ireland. We try to go back every few years. One of my favorite Irish cheeses is Crozier Blue – made by the Grubb family in Co. Tipperary, the same folks who make the popular Cashel Blue. Crozier is a pasteurized sheeps milk blue. Since its sheeps milk (sheep have a shorter lactation cycle than cows) it is a very seasonal product. I noticed recently that it’s being imported to the US which is amazing! If you see it at your local shop definitely grab a wedge. It’s fudgy, rich and sweet and has a nice smoky, spicy finish to it. Great paired with a little honey and maybe a dram of whiskey.
There’s also a fantastic sheep’s milk tomme called Rockfield that I tried for the first time this past summer. It’s made in Co. Mayo (so I may be a bit biased) with pasteurized sheeps milk. It’s creamy and nutty with a little bit of a citrus-y tang to it. Although it’s a relative new comer to the market it took home a silver the World Cheese Awards this year. Hup Mayo! I don’t think it’s being exported as its a small production but if you’re over in Ireland head to any of the Sheridan’s Cheesemongers counters to give it a try [side note from Kirstin, love these guys!].
2. If you could draw 3 cheeses for the rest of your life, what would they be? Why?
Oooohhh, that is a tough one! I love softer cheeses and washed rinds because their shapes and textures can change so much throughout their life – it keeps it interesting. I also love clothbound cheddars. The wild flora that grow on the muslin are a fun challenge to illustrate. Large alpines are fun too because the wheels are often adorned with amazingly elaborate and colorful label designs.
3. What are the hardest things about drawing cheese? What should burgeoning cheese illustrators keep in mind if they want to sketch the wheel, too?
There are so many different cheeses – styles/shapes/sizes – that you could spend years drawing them! I think it’s best to focus on an aspect of the cheese that’s relevant or interesting to you – whether its the history, the science, the geometry, etc. I like to focus not just on the object itself but the people, the animals, and the process behind the product.
5. What do you have available if say…. anyone wanted to get a cheese lover something from you for the holidays? Can you tell us the stories behind the art? I heard it might be gift-giving season soon….
I am currently working on getting some prints made of some sketches I did when I was interning in Holland. While there I worked at Fromagerie L’Amuse and helped out at a couple dairies. During my stay I kept a little illustrated journal and these prints represent a few (of the many) things I learned.
Thank you, Malachy!