Carol O’Callaghan has a day out to see some of the Cork Craft Month events taking place in September

The eight annual Cork Craft Month is underway with a programme of over 50 events around the city and county, involving 100 members of the craft collective, Cork Craft and Design.

Running it all is the collective’s operations manager, Siubhán McCarthy, who is based at its permanent retail premises in St Patrick’s Woollen Mills.

Four years ago, having a permanent home for Cork craft makers seemed like a pipe dream, but it was the success of a pop up shop at Douglas Village Shopping Centre, that prompted the centre’s management to invite them to stay, followed by the more recent expansion into St Patrick’s Woollen Mills.

It was from here I started my mini-grand tour of Cork Craft Month, managing to snag one of the coveted free parking spaces.

The standard in making is impressively high — each member of Cork Craft and Design has to go through a rigorous assessment process to become a member, so this organisation is not one for the hobbyist.

Maura Whelan’s lit glass wall pieces are part of the Configurate exhibition at Cork City Hall (€390).
Maura Whelan’s lit glass wall pieces are part of the Configurate exhibition at Cork City Hall (€390).

“Everything at all of the events is for sale and made in Cork,” says Siubhán. “Some of the makers get commissions from visitors, and others sell on the spot.

“Last year at the ‘Home’ exhibition in Kinsale, a mantelpiece sold on the first day for €1,800.”

Inside the Douglas shop is a lovely contemporary space where you can expect to find items starting as low as €15 for bookbinder Barbara Hubert’s prettily bound books, ideal for doodling and note-taking, to furniture pieces in the hundreds of euro.

Potential gift-giving items in between could be Charlie Mahon’s Mackeral plates (from €35) and Molly Ellis’ Butterfly paperweights (€25).

Right next door is On The Pig’s Back Cafe, where you can have a refreshment while planning your next move, and where they’re being decidedly neighbourly and getting into the spirit of the month, by hosting a selection of craft pieces.

From there, it’s a dash to town to Cork City Hall for an exhibition of things made with a mix of age old methods and new technologies in the new, modern atrium.

“Every year we have one large showcase exhibition, and this year it’s Configurate, curated by Tina Darb,” says Suibhán. “Each piece has to have been made in the last 12 months and not been seen anywhere before.”

Seasonally appropriate Mackerel plates by Charlie Mahon from the Cork Craft & Design shop, Douglas (from €35).
Seasonally appropriate Mackerel plates by Charlie Mahon from the Cork Craft & Design shop, Douglas (from €35).

Watch out for the work of Sonia Caldwell whose vessels made in West Cork from Kilkenny limestone show an aesthetic contrast between the polished exteriors and rough hewn interiors which look like they’ve been carved from centuries of water erosion (from €280).

In contrast, Maura Whelan’s playfully-lit glass wall pieces are crafted in vibrant colours, making them straddle the boundary between art and function (€390).

Should another pit stop beckon, right across the street is l’Atitude 51 café, home to a fine cup of coffee, before motoring onward, or take a 15-minute stride to Clark’s Bridge and the CIT Wandsford Gallery, for a show called Emerge, where this year’s stable of local craftmaker graduates are showing and selling their work.

GMIT Lettefrack might be the flagship college for turning out furniture makers, but Cork can justifiably brag of three courses ringing with young design and crafting talent: CIT Crawford; Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and St John’s Central College. All graduates’ debut their work in furniture, ceramics and wood turning at the show, curated by Róisín Foley.

If that’s not enough for one day, a drive out of town will take you to ‘Home’, the big event for home interior enthusiasts located in the James O’Neill Building in Kinsale town centre.

Barbara Hubert Bookbindery’s recipe books with food themed covers are on sale at the Home exhibition in Kinsale (€29).
Barbara Hubert Bookbindery’s recipe books with food themed covers are on sale at the Home exhibition in Kinsale (€29).

It’s a lovely, characterful venue, having previously been a mill, not far from the water with something suitably fishy being served up in the form of witty sea life ceramic pieces of Monica Fergus (€125).

At the same venue between now and Monday, there’s a last opportunity to see Woodspun, where members of the Cork chapter of the Irish Woodturning Guild have an exhibition of their wares and where the public are invited to chat to the makers about their techniques and finishes, make a purchase or just admire the work.

From Wednesday, until September 3, Woodspun will be replaced by Textiles at Home, where the notion of home is explored through yarns, threads, textiles and fibres.

As for the next refreshment break? You’re in Kinsale and spoilt for choice.

corkcraftanddesign.com for a full schedule of events, and facebook.com/CorkCraftDesign/ for daily updates.


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