At Tent London during the London Design Festival, I was impressed to see the high quality of Irish design at a government-funded exhibition organised by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. Called ‘Ó’, meaning ‘from’ in Gaelic, the exhibition’s focus was on design informed by decades-old craft techniques, remote locations and local materials. And they didn’t just show the finished works, but also presented live demonstrations of the crafts practitioners at work.
I saw ceramicist Adam Frew throw a beautiful bowl on the wheel and everyone around was mesmerised – with very few watching through their phones (rare in this day and age!). He prefers to work by throwing pots, using white porcelain, because it allows him to be fast and spontaneous in his making: “It is important to maintain a flow in the production while constantly developing the work. It is an on-going journey with every new piece inspired by the previous form,” says Adam (ref: Give Irish Craft).
Another demonstration, this time on the loom, was by master weaver Karen Hay-Edie from Mourne Textiles. It was Karen’s mother, Gerd Hay-Edie, who started Mourne textiles in the 1950s, and Karen’s son Mario Sierra helped his mother resurrect it and bring it into the 21st Century. This multi-generational story combines the skill of the craft for over 60 years with contemporary business and marketing, including beautiful photography by Mario’s partner Tara Fisher.
Another outstanding contributor was Superfolk, a design and make studio led by partners Gearoid Muldowney and Jo Anne Butler who had set up a studio of sorts at the event and were creating work. The pair draw their inspiration from nature, creating prints with beautiful drawings of plantlife from the wild coast of West Ireland as well as furniture and design objects also inspired by the local materiality of the wild Atlantic.
The exhibition is a government initiative of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland celebrating Ireland’s craft heritage and showing how it inspires and intersects with new and contemporary design. The curator of Ó is Steve McNamara, while the programme director of Irish Design 2015 is Alex Milton.
Other new work in the exhibition includes furniture from Snug, Aodh Furniture and Klimmek & Henderson; luxurious woollen rugs from Ceadogán; ceramics from Jack Doherty and Andrew Ludick; contemporary lighting from Mullen Lighting; stoneware products in Connemara Marble from Hennessy & Byrne; colourful glass from Catherine Keenan and textiles from Foxford Woollen Mills and 31 Chapel Lane.
More on Ó: Irish Design