Take a break from the high street to see the full spectrum and prolific output of innovative craft makers in Cork, at locations which include the city centre, suburbs and country towns, writes Carol O’Callaghan

Awash as we are with high street retailers and suburban shopping centres, it’s easy to forget, or even to be unaware of, the number of craft makers in the country, mainly because many of them beaver away in little workshops far from the main shopping hubs.

To make us sit up and take notice, for the seventh year in a row, the craft collective, Cork Craft and Design, brings us Cork Craft Month with a programme of exhibitions, workshops and pop-up shops around Cork to while away a wet afternoon or two between August 2 and September 4.

Turned wooden bowl by Tony Farrell features at iNNOVATE in Macroom, Co Cork.
Turned wooden bowl by Tony Farrell features at iNNOVATE in Macroom, Co Cork.

There’s something for everyone — adult and child alike — at locations which include Cork city centre, the suburbs and country towns. With time and a little planning, try dipping in and out of the Open Studio Trail which takes craft lovers on a route across the city and county, providing a rare opportunity to visit the studios of craft designers and makers and to see them at work.

In Cork city centre, the bookbinding studio of Barbara Hubert on Tobin Street is a hive of quiet activity, where paper pages become everything from notebooks to albums and decorative boxes, all finished with time-honoured, ancient skills.

Light shade by Fergus Somers at Cork Craft and Design, available at the HOME exhibition in Kinsale and Douglas Village, Cork.
Light shade by Fergus Somers at Cork Craft and Design, available at the HOME exhibition in Kinsale and Douglas Village, Cork.

Venture just outside the city limits to Waterfall and the workshop of Tony Farrell. He’s just one of a number of wood turners keeping the craft alive and flourishing, with his output including wooden bowls, plates and lamp bases. 

It’s mesmerising to watch a wood turner at work, if not calming and meditative.

Journey further west to stop in Nohoval, and the ceramic studio of Sara Roberts where she’s offering workshops for adults in porcelain hand-building techniques from August 16-19 at a cost of €100 per day.

If you have time to meander around Kinsale town, stop at the James O’Neill Building to see the wood-turning exhibition, Woodspun. 

In the same venue, you’ll also find Cork Craft and Design showing and selling items exclusively for the home, including accessories, furniture, and gifts for housewarmings, engagements, and weddings at wallet-friendly prices.

Ebonised oak coffee or side table by Tony McAvoy showing at Emerge, Cork City Civic Offices
Ebonised oak coffee or side table by Tony McAvoy showing at Emerge, Cork City Civic Offices

Should you miss this event, Cork Craft and Design also operates a retail presence in Douglas Village Shopping Centre all year round, where you’ll find a constantly evolving collection of products by local makers.

County towns feature prominently in the programme this year, with Midleton, Fermoy and Macroom all offering events. 

The latter hosts iNNOVATE, an exhibition which is led less by the finished product, and more by processes and materials, aiming to demonstrate the resourcefulness and even avant-garde practices of designers and makers who are intrinsic to the development and evolution of craft work.

But a must-see show takes place in the atrium of Cork City Civic Offices, where emerging craft makers will exhibit recently completed work. 

This year’s graduates from the furniture design and making programmes at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and St John’s Central College are participating with an impressive body of work.

Watch out for the work of Tom Healy, an imaginative and brave innovator, whose table made from ash and plywood chairs exhibit soft, rounded angles and the cleanest of lines, belying the painstaking planning, experimentation and sheer hard work, to achieve what looks like effortless simplicity in the finished product.

Lamps by Martin Horgan are part of the iNNOVATE exhibition in Macroom.
Lamps by Martin Horgan are part of the iNNOVATE exhibition in Macroom.

Similarly, Tony McAvoy’s ebonised oak coffee table, in a continuous loop, is presented as an immaculate product that meets the definition of design as something practical and beautiful in equal measure.

Such high standards in this show are a testament to the ongoing development of crafted design in Ireland, not only reflecting the students’ commitment, but also the quality of teaching and course management by the likes of Cork’s Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa’s Fergus Somers, himself an accomplished furniture designer and maker.

Cork Craft Month’s inclusivity means the general public has the opportunity to see the full spectrum of craft available in Cork city and county, from the talent of craft students, through to those developing their practice, right up to established makers who sell at home and abroad.

For more information, dates and opening times, www.corkcraftanddesign.com 


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