Irish creativity in craft and design is flourishing says Carol O’Callaghan and is in high demand internationally

OPEN those recession dulled eyes and see the glittering success stories going unnoticed under the dark cloud of economic gloom. Irish-bred creativity in craft and design is flourishing and in high demand from international collectors and museum curators.

On Thursday next, London’s Saatchi Gallery will launch its annual event Collect, an invitation-only showcase of international crafted design. Amongst the invitees is our National Craft Gallery which will exhibit the work of eight designer makers working in metalcraft, ceramics and glass.

“Collect is the most exciting international collectors’ event in Europe,” say Ann Mulrooney, manager and curator of the National Craft Gallery. “It’s wonderful to see the reaction that Irish work has gotten there over the past few years from galleries and collectors. It’s such a competitive field at that level, and — as with fine art — only a tiny percentage of practitioners end up with gallery representation.”

Among the international galleries quick to spot the potential of Irish crafted design is London-based Erskine, Hall & Coe which this year will show the work of ceramicist Sara Flynn after seeing her work at Collect in 2011. They’ll launch her new bronze vessels to add to her existing collection of contrasting red and black finishes and exquisitely delicate celadon.

The Adrian Sassoon gallery which represents some of the biggest names in international craft, including silver artist Hiroshi Suzuki, will show furniture by Joseph Walsh. This Riverstick-based designer maker is one of the great success stories of Irish crafted design in recent years and already enjoys an international reputation, thanks to an aesthetic quality that has evolved beyond the definition of design into functional art.

Previous participants for whom a steady stream of high value orders continues to come in since they exhibited at Collect in 2011, is Nest Design, founded in Cork and headed up by Neil and Annabel McCarthy. “We were thrilled to be invited for a second time in 2011 to such a prestigious exhibition,” says Annabel. “We were delighted to receive an order for the piece in a granite grey for a stunning architect designed house near Toulon in the south of France. We are now working on a series of commissions for our signature pieces and bespoke work.”

The previous year Maynooth-based John Lee, maker of the new chair for President Michael D Higgins’ inauguration ceremony, sold his Iasc tall-boy cabinet on the opening night of Collect 2010. His penchant for sideboards inspired by the textures and ebb and flow of the sea and its impact on the environment arrests the viewer.

Collect, Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York Square, Kings Road, London SW3 4RY from Friday, May 11 to Monday, May 14. Entry: prebooked £10, at entrance £15

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