This St Patrick’s Day, Delvin Studios in Dublin is hoping to establish itself as Ireland’s largest exporter of leprechauns.
Trading under the O’Gowna brand, the company has sold five ranges of ceramic products to the US home shopping channel QVC which will all go on sale on the day with live introductions from company founder Philip Gaffney.
“We are launching a new leprechaun toadstool house and have an order for 30,000 of these as well as 5,000 garden leprechauns, 10,000 fairy doors as well as several thousand leprechaun chess sets and fairy bridges,’’ Mr Gaffney.
And as the demand for ceramic leprechauns spikes, Delvin Studios will also be supplying leprechaun chess sets and figures to 45 Irish shops around the US and to 15 US-based gift websites.
Since last December, the Balbriggan company’s 22 staff have been working to meet the St Patrick’s Day orders which are set to account for 60% of revenue for Delvin Studios this year.
Although there is strong competition in the leprechaun market especially from product manufactured in the Far East, Mr Gaffney says his company is carving out a niche for itself supplying leprechauns which are handmade in Ireland from crushed limestone.
“Our products are unique. We carve them, mould them, cast them and paint them in our own studio. We are the only ones doing this,” he said. A craft ceramics maker who trained at Aynsley and Royal Doulton in the UK, Mr Gaffney is scornful of the “Hollywood leprechaun” and has researched Celtic mythology and literature in order to create his characters.
“Leprechauns are the artisans of the fairy world — cobblers , tailors and keepers of the secrets of the world,” he says. Although Mr Gaffney only established Delvin Studios with his wife Teresa in the summer of 2015, he has been making leprechauns for 20 years and has created 215 original designs which include a variety of Celtic figures, bronze sculptures and chess sets.
He previously designed a Quiet Man leprechaun figure for Maureen O’Hara.
Mr Gaffney sold a larger ceramics business in the late 1990s and ran a small operation until last year when he and his wife decided that the time was right to scale up.
This change was prompted by the rise in the value of the dollar against the euro and by the receipt of an order worth almost €4m from QVC, which Mr Gaffney had been supplying for seven years.
“We needed funding to meet the orders but even though we had an order from QVC the bank wouldn’t give it,” says Mr Gaffney who was unable to supply QVC’s Christmas order. The Gaffneys used their own funding to convert a small facility on an old mill on their property in Naul, Co Dublin to a 557sq m workshop and they took on 20 staff in December.
Since then they have filled QVC’s order for St Patrick’s Day. Mr Gaffney now plans to spend 10 days in the US, promoting products on QVC and stores. Next month, Delvin Studios will attend a gift trade show in Birmingham with a view to breaking in to the UK market.
Self-financed to date, the company has ambitious plans to increase sales, selling handmade ceramic products to the mainstream gift market as well as to speciality Irish stores.
Mr Gaffney sees an opportunity to develop virtual leprechaun gifts to compliment the limestone ones too.
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Philip and Teresa Gaffney
Produces ceramic figures and bronze sculptures
US and Ireland