Something crafty to sharpen skills

WHETHER it’s marvelling at the intricate basketwork wrought by Lynn Kirkham, or considering treating yourself to a breathtaking silk scarf by Veronika O’Driscoll, there’s every chance to forget the weather this August.

The very first Cork Craft Month is about to take city and county by the hand. A full calendar of events covering exhibitions, demonstrations, studio trails, seminars and ‘meet the maker’ days will delight, inform and inspire. Keenly talented artists from a wide array of disciplines are converging on Cork to set out their collections and pop-up shops along the historic pavements of Cornmarket Street. This stir of creative folk ripples out to other fascinating happenings at artistic hubs, craft shops and studios, including the cobbles and galleries of the Court Yard, Midleton, Blarney Castle, Clonakilty town and at the Old Mill in Kinsale for a landmark exhibition. A month-long celebration of the abundance of quality craft, the events are certain to stir cramping idle fingers, thrumming on the sill as the rain hits the glass into some homemade adventures.

THE THRILL OF THE HOMEMADE THING

Anyone who attempts a living in craft work will tell you that the return on the hours put into a piece is not reflected in sheer monetary terms. Crafting can repair at least in part, the modern spiritual divorce of turning away from land, bringing us home to a time when people fashioned functional objects from honest materials provided by foraging, barter or cultivation. The act of making not only releases latent creativity, but emboldens us to learn new things, enriching our practical and personal skill-set. Even if we scald our fingers soldering or fail at slapping on the paint in pleasing confections, it speaks to the spirit and leaves a uniquely distilled smudge of ourselves in even the most humble pieces of work. Crafting celebrates and stewards precious inherited skills, and having something to keep, gift or sell at the end of it is for the amateur maker a wonderful bonus. Whether you want to learn to throw a pot, or have a go at making your own soap, there are classes all over the country, well illustrated books and online guides to get you started.

NEEDLEWORK

Only recently set adrift as commonly held skills for women, sewing, knitting and other needle crafts are best learned hands-on with an experienced teacher. There are hundreds of projects for first time stitchers, and a straight line on a machine properly executed and finished can yield large and impressive curtain panels and a variety of soft furnishings. Knitting allows the maker to produce something pleasing from the moment they can cast on. Ask at your local wool or sewing shop for local classes. A renaissance in needlecraft has been propelled on by individual crafters such as Teresa Keogh, whose Smart Sewing circle has gone nationwide. Details of local courses from FETAC qualifications to first-time stabbers can be found at www.smartsewing.ie and you can ask for upcoming details of courses in your area to be sent to you by emailing info@smartsewing.ie or calling 087-9711488. Your local, ICA (www.ica.ie) hold famed masterclasses in every aspect of needlework from basic machine skills to high quality embroidery. Get together a group of creatively challenged friends (men are welcome too) and enter the ICA bastion of ‘an Grianan’ for a crafty bootcamp. Elsewhere, find details of what’s coming up in both community based courses and independent run sewing and craft classes this term at Corkclasses.ie. For all other counties, enter the name of your county followed by –classes.ie for great value courses in your area.

TRADITIONAL SKILLS

Pottery, basket-making, woodwork, textiles and more. The quickest way to find an individual artisan craftsperson in Ireland is to log onto the Craft Councils’ website at www.ccoi.ie. Bastions of our cultural heritage, I had no idea before seeking out an artist on the CCOI website that ceramics could be jiggered and jollyed! Here you can visit the collections of over 2,300 individual artist and groups throughout the country, as well as finding details of funding for formal training and support. Whether it’s for fun and relaxation or the start of a core business, the huge course list is truly exciting, covering everything from boat building in West Cork (www.ruiandanke.blogspot.ie), forging your first blacksmithing skills (www.mojometaldesigns.com) to making your own leather handbag (www.holdenleathergoods.com) or turning a wood bowl (www.joelairdwoodturning.com). You can take a weekend course, weekly classes, or even give it your total focus at home or abroad on a residential programme.

TRY YOUR HAND

Readers of a certain vintage will recall the episode of 1970s sitcom The Good Life (BBC) where Margo Ledbetter, sets up her own potting studio complete with kiln and wheel, only to throw one pot and retire in tightly coiffed frustration. Casting aside a pair of knitting needles is hardly going to break you, but other crafts take a considerable amount of financial investment and floor space. Explore the skill first by joining a course attached to a community centre, school or arts centre. Here you can avail of the facilities together with a dedicated instructor to determine just how committed you are before devastating the garage and your bank balance.

It is possible to learn craft skills from books and online tutorials, but training in a group and having the one-to-one advice of a mentor brings another dimension to the experience, never mind that dash of sheer communal fun and friendship. Keep an eye on boutique businesses like the recently launched Paint Pot, on Anglesea Street, Cork, with their wonderful workshops in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. An effortless introduction to upcycling furniture with traditional materials and decorating techniques. 10-1pm, Saturday and weekdays. www.paintpot.ie. Tel: 087- 2425263.

Minor craftwork such as the now wildly popular area of paper crafting and scrap-booking can build confidence. Scrapbooking only demands the skill to cut, assemble and glue pre-printed paper motifs and can easily be mastered without attending a group situation.

Cork Craft Month is organised by Cork Craft and Design with assistance from the South and West Cork County and Cork City Enterprise Boards, Failte Ireland and the CCOI.

The event runs from Aug 10 to Sept 9. Details of all can be found at www.corkcraftanddesign.com. Admission to all events is free. Meet the Maker classes cost €15 per class. Buy three classes and get one free. Special family deals also available: www.facebook.com/CorkArtDesign


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