Irish crafted design by local makers is a wholesome alternative to mass-produced items, offering a unique gift-giving opportunity which might make a happy couple even happier, writes Carol O’Callaghan.
Spring is in the air, and so is the traditional season for nesting and weddings, as Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds are keen to point out these days.
With a wedding invitation comes the obligation to give a gift, made extraordinarily easy in modern times by the advent of gift registries. Ideal if you’re not in the mood for hitting the shops, and a guarantee that the recipients get something they actually want, while the giver avoids the infliction of yet another toaster on the couple.
Not everyone wants to go the registry route, however, preferring to give a more personal gift, so what about something hand-crafted?
Not only is it beautiful and unusual, it’s also full of eco-worthiness by being sustainable, low on carbon footprint and, for all-out virtue, helps keep craft skills alive.
If you’re not au fait with the Irish craft scene, don’t fret, as there are some seriously good shops specialising in handcrafts and, of course, they all have online shops, so buying is as convenient as the gift registry option. It’s easy to think something handmade will carry a hefty price tag, but that is not necessarily the case.
If you’re in Dublin, visit somewhere like the Irish Design Shop, a treasure-house of handcrafted homewares which thrived and survived the economic downturn by selling affordable products, and now creates collaborations between makers to offer something conversation-worthy.
New in for spring are tumblers by Criostal na Rinne, produced in the Co Waterford Gaeltacht area by an ex-Waterford Crystal maker, Eamonn Terry, to a design by west Cork artist Mary Callaghan, blending traditional skills and modern design(Dursey collection, €70 each).
Textiles by Wild Cocoon are inspired by the coastline of Mayo and the muted tones of the landscape. Blankets are among them, so think how useful one might be for newly-weds to fold on a sofa arm, as a styling option on a bed, or keeping laps cosy on evenings sipping wine outdoors in the coming months (€130).
For the couple who takes coffee drinking seriously, a set of espresso cups is an option and a modern departure from the traditional set of china.
Caroline Dolan’s selection (€20 each) is made from sturdy earthenware, hand-decorated in three different colour glazes. Going a la mode, they have no saucers, making them more like mini-mugs.
Cork Craft and Design in St Patrick’s Woollen Mills is another shopping destination. Set up by a collective of local makers, there are products to browse from lighting and textiles to ceramics and wood-turning.
A particularly lovely object is Ronan Power’s bread bin (€100). Typically taking up precious space on the kitchen worktop, this version earns its keep by being multi-functional: The door, when open, doubles up as a breadboard.
For something unusual and particularly appropriate, the wedding goblet in ash made by wood-turner John McCarthy draws on the Celtic tradition of a man making a wooden goblet with two rings around the stem for his true love.
On their wedding day they drank from it together, and as long as the rings remained unbroken, love would last (€120).
As well as craft shops, there are individuals worth checking out too. Furniture maker James Carroll from Co Wicklow makes a little stool which is big on charm and even has multi-function built in.
Made from locally sourced sycamore, with legs made from branches collected after a forestry thinning, it can also be used as a table to rest a cup of tea (€95 at www.stickman.ie).
A particularly conversation-worthy gift is a Bunbury Board, produced by William Bunbury of Lisnavagh House in Co Carlow. The idea came about when he first took over the house and land from his parents, and wondered how he could make the place pay for itself.
It was the sight of fallen trees around the estate which triggered the idea of cutting them into chopping boards and presentation boards for cheese and charcuterie, and so a business began.
What’s more, a log reference on the back of each board allows the recipient to download a report which details the tree it was cut from, where it was located, and even provides a photo of the tree itself (from €30 at www.bunbury.ie).