Carol O’Callaghan looks at what’s on offer at the Glucksman Craft Fair at the UCC gallery next weekend.

AN OPPORTUNITY to see, buy and even commission work from some of Ireland’s designer craft-makers is on offer at the Glucksman, University College Cork, from November 12 to 14.

Now in its ninth year, the fair has grown from occupying one floor to extending across all three, and is a testament to the commitment of this gallery, noted internationally for showing contemporary art, to supporting crafted design.

For the public, it’s an opportunity to get ahead with Christmas shopping, while buying something hand-made, unique and local.

Over 60 makers across home interiors, fashion and toys will set up shop, with some items selling for as little as €5, from a mix of new and established makers, mainly drawn from Munster, but with a presence from Wexford and Dublin too.

“As a local cultural institution we want to bring attention to makers who might not have opportunities to sell elsewhere, so about half are new, maybe just out of college,” says Sarah McAuliffe, the Glucksman’s retail and development manager.

“But we’re also keen for the public to see the gallery spaces without art, which shows the architecture of the building and its potential as an event space.

“And, of course, we want to encourage the Cork and wider community to buy Irish this season.”

So expect an event which has the Glucksman exhibition experience stamped all over it, utilising the space, light and white walls which characterise this distinctive gallery, and which will act as a backdrop to a wide range of products on offer, from artist prints and ceramics, to lighting and Christmas decorations.

Highlights include Luke Sisk’s porcelain cups and tumblers (from €22), finished in muted hues of yellow, grey, pink and blue. Practical and beautiful, they’ll make a lovely addition to a Christmas dining table, or place them on a tray in front of the fire when a friend pops by to share a pot of tea.

Textiles in the form of reversible cushions from Michi will add a welcome pop of colour to brighten up winter days (€70). But just see if you can resist the adorable Owl cushion from Magic Forest Toys (€35-€45). It’s probably intended for a child’s room but really ought to be on show in a living room where everyone can enjoy it.

Handmade Christmas decorations from Adele Stanley can grace your tree and also make a lovely gift as a stocking filler, or as a house present to take visiting.

If you haven’t thought of it already, tap into the newly developing tradition of giving a child a Christmas decoration as a stocking filler. In later life they can take with them when they move to a home of their own, rather like an heirloom in the making.

For more substantial purchases to enhance your own home interior, check out Pat Casserly Furniture Design’s floor lamps in a streamlined contemporary wood base with a choice of colour shades to match your room scheme (€400-€500). Table lamp versions are also available (€150-€200).

If you need to get a gift in the post for someone living abroad who can’t make it home for Christmas, Petal-to-Petal’s Bloom tea-towel depicts a map of Ireland made from a pattern of flowers (€15). For another lightweight option, check out their selection of giclee prints which are easy to roll up and feature a choice of botanical, maritime and topographical themes inspired by Ireland (from €45).

But what really makes the fair a special retail experience is the chance for customers to meet the makers and learn the story behind the products, making a refreshing change from mass-produced items, although the gallery does have that essential component of the typical high street shopping expedition — a coffee pit-stop.

In-house café, Fresco, will be open throughout the weekend, whether you want lunch or just half an hour to refuel with a beverage and a muffin.

Just in case you can’t make it next weekend, the Glucksman’s permanent shop has a range of craft which is constantly added to and updated.

  • The Glucksman Craft Fair, Friday 10th November, from 1pm-7pm, including the opening ceremony from 5pm by Cork City Council’s CEO, Ann Doherty, which is open to the general public. 10am-6pm on Saturday, and 11am-5pm on Sunday. Admission is €5 to support the Glucksman’s artistic programme.

White Gold

Helena Brennan has been making ceramics for more than 50 years, with her 1968 Dublin exhibition being the first show in Ireland to explore this enigmatic, translucent material.

Having just celebrated her 75th birthday with an exhibition called White Gold — echoing the name applied to Chinese ceramics in the western world before the mystery of its composition was fully understood — she has continued to work with this expressive material, including the development of glazes made from the ashes of sycamore trees which grow around her home and studio in Avoca.

Her latest work is a series of vessels, including drinking cups, beakers and decanters, with one bought by a Chinese collector. 

Stocking fillers

Think about a home interiors goodie from the Glucksman Craft Fair to take to friends as a gift when visiting at Christmas.

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