Up-coming craft fairs to keep us shopping for the next few weeks

Carol O’Callaghan previews some up-coming craft fairs to keep us shopping for the next few weeks.

This weekend the Cork City Hall Craft and Design Fair is underway, with 85 exhibitors offering crafted products to help tick a few items off the Christmas shopping list.

The perfect gift for a tea-loving friend, and a must-see is the knitted and crochet work of Crosshaven native Helen O’Leary. She’s offering, not only her delightful Michael ‘Tea’ Higgins tea cosy, made in the image and likeness of the venerable man himself but a new product which Trumps it.

Complete with defining yellow blond quiff, The Donald himself is incarnated so as to make himself useful, swathing a teapot for maximum insulation and to catch the spills. Already it’s proving to be a hit as a gift idea for ex-pats living in America.

Other options include Elvis and Daniel O’Donnell, but if you’d like something more personal, it’s even possible to commission a tea cosy to look like someone you know. Make sure they can take a joke first, though.

Now in its 26th year, the fair has significant emphasis on local makers, including Cork Craft and Design’s ceramicist Siobhán Steele whose pottery Christmas decorations would make a lovely heirloom gift, as would the botanical art and Positivity Candles of Belinda Northcote and the fine-textured porcelain of Mairi Stone.


Ceramic mugs from animal and wildlife artist Annabel Langrish come in matching presentation boxes (€19) at Cork City Hall Crafts and Design Fair.

If you don’t finish all of your shopping this weekend, and fancy going further afield, the Gifted Contemporary Craft and Design Fair runs over six days, from 5th -10th December, at the RDS.

Exhibitors offer food, drink, clothing and jewellery, but there’s also emphasis on home interiors, including wood-turning, ceramics, glass, art and photography, with 500 exhibitors to spoil you for choice.

Watch out for stained glass by Agnes Preece. Her lamps suggest the glamour of Art Deco Tiffany style, brought right up to date with muted colourways and fine detail to make the lamps standout pieces.

Japanese paper craft by Naomi Fleury brings the art of origami to us with intricate ornaments and hanging pieces, while Maple Tree Pottery applies its naïve style botanical decorations to plates and vessels for a fresh and pretty finish.

Gifted is the biggest event of its kind in the lead up to Christmas, but there’s something for every budget with prices ranging from €5 to €5,000.


Mandles are candles made with the ‘manly’ man in mind, which is why this one is fragranced with whiskey (€19 from Dalkey Aromatics at Gifted at the RDS).

The serious craft lover — especially the collector looking out for the next hot designer maker — might want to start checking out Showcase, Ireland’s International Creative Expo® which takes place at the RDS in the New Year and runs from 21st – 24th January.

Now in its 42nd year, it attracts among its visitors craft buyers from over 20 countries worldwide who come in search of high quality, unique products which are designed and made in Ireland.

But Showcase is more than just an opportunity to buy, commission or order. It offers the visitor a learning experience about what’s involved in the making of crafted design, so for January 2018, the concept of MADE/Slow — like slow food, perhaps — is being introduced to present quality products, including a selection for the home.

These are designed and made by small producers who provide sustainable employment through innovative design and traditional making methods. Some live in the most spectacular parts of Ireland, an environment which informs much of the designs which are then produced using local materials.

So expect to see the likes of Avoca, Diem Pottery, Emblem Weavers, Cushendale and Mourne Textiles among those presented in a singular display by award-winning exhibition designer Steven McNamara.

For designers and makers, and, indeed, aspiring ones, an extensive retail seminar programme is on offer for the duration of the show. Industry experts will give presentations and workshops on how to get their crafted product to market and increase their retail activity.

Central to Showcase is Design Ireland, an initiative developed by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland to promote Irish design at home and abroad. Here, the organisers bring out the big guns, featuring 80 of our leading contemporary craft brands chosen by a jury for their creativity, innovation and craftsmanship.

While Showcase is the daddy of all commercial craft exhibitions in Ireland, you’ll find its creativity, innovation and craftsmanship in abundance at a local level too.


Michael ‘Tea’ Higgins tea cosy by Helen O’Leary, available at the Cork City Hall Craft and Design Fair this weekend (€34.99).


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