Oh, Ireland! I must say this country is dear to my heart. After spending quite a bit of time here, I find myself more and more inspired by the makers, designers, and traditional craft. Whenever I visit, I only want to dig deeper because there is endless talent and innovation happening on this small island. Due to high rents in Dublin, many makers work in small studios from home. This makes it more of a hunt to find these fabulous gems dispersed all over the island, but the journey is well worth it.
This January, I attended a trade show called Showcase Ireland, which marked the show’s 41st year. It featured more than 450 Irish designers, manufacturers, and craftspeople. Products spanned all categories including home décor, jewelry, gift, and apparel, but what especially stood out were wool, tweed, mohair, glassware, wooden tableware and furniture, ceramics, and linen. I would say this has been one of my favorite shows for unique, quality craftsmanship.
Producers here have a keen eye for detail and the manufacturers are proud of their heritage. Inspiration is often sought from the dramatic beauty of the Irish landscape. Maybe my attraction to these products is the sense of timelessness many Irish products evoke, from the classic Aran sweater which never goes out of style to the tweed blanket which you could easily have purchased hundreds of years ago. If you know the manufacturers, there is a sense that quality has been maintained and never compromised. I found a pleasant mix of designers and producers, so if you have your own design concepts, the family-run mills and manufacturers can still cater to client specifications and match your design specs.
The "Design Ireland" section of the show was my personal favorite, featuring extremely unique and authentic product that is exclusively made and designed in Ireland. The Design & Craft Council of Ireland selected 91 participating companies from a large pool as the best in design, quality, and craftsmanship. Producers exemplify heritage as they combine traditional methods and materials with contemporary ideas, “creating a new standard when it comes to modern heritage and luxury,” says Emma McGrath, Trade Development Manager of Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.
One interesting brand based in the bohemian city of Galway is a small company called the Tweed Project. They take traditional tweed from Donegal and Irish linen to a whole new level, designing one-of-a-kind jackets, shawls, and coats. If you are able to visit Galway, be sure to visit the restaurant close to their studio called Ard Bia (http://www.ardbia.com). It's always a memorable experience. Another is Ciaran McPhillips of Cooper Handcrafted Furniture, who has proudly learned his father’s craft and taken over his business. With a keen interest in furniture design and desire to keep the tradition of Irish woodcraft alive, Cooper Handcrafted Furniture was born. He sometimes upholsters his wooden furniture with Donegal tweed: a fabulous combo!
Interested in sourcing from Ireland? Email me for more info! I would love to help.