Embrace Irish design at Cork Craft Month festival

Summer time should mean expeditions and adventures out of doors but it feels like we haven’t moved beyond March.

Embrace Irish design at Cork Craft Month festival

However, there is some light relief for design lovers in the soggy South who’ve spent the summertime staying out of the rain — Cork Craft Month.

Now in its sixth year, it’s grown from a small group of crafted design-makers organising the event on a shoe-string budget to a bit of a block-buster that garners financial support from a slew of backers including sponsors, the Design and Arts Council of Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, local enterprise offices and Cork County Arts Office.

One of the founding members of the event is designer-maker Fergal O’Leary, who this year has taken on the role of curator of the flagship event, an exhibition entitled TIME, taking place at the James O’Neill Building in Kinsale, Co Cork and running until August 16.

Here makers are exhibiting over 80 pieces from a wide variety of craft in what was formerly an old mill.

Vast ceilings and a solid stone construction off-set the finely wrought iron, turned wood, furniture, ceramics and the delicacy of gold and silver smithing, alongside sculpture and textiles.

Linking it all together is the notion of time which is a topic that resonates with Fergal in the design and making of his own furniture.

“Everything takes time to make,” he says.

“But it also takes time for the maker to reach a level in the development of their craft. Time is the only thing we have and what you do with it is important.

"It’s a recurring theme for me personally where I wonder how I’ve changed, how different skills develop and what might have been.”

When it came to choosing exhibitors, Fergal used an open submission process where craft makers could apply with details of how they would respond creatively to the concept of time.

“Some already had pieces that worked with the theme, others are specially commissioned,” he explains.

“I had never considered including lace before but then I saw the work of Fiona Harrington at another exhibition and wanted to include her.”

Most of us probably wouldn’t consider lace, either because of its association with delicate collars pinned to the necklines of Victorian dresses, or handkerchiefs used by Jane Austen’s heroines to dab fevered brows.

But Fiona has given lace a renaissance, using it to create pictures, tapping into its delicacy and texture to replace the brushstrokes of paint. The overall effect is three dimensional and textured.

It’s also visually arresting, subtly drawing on the subject of time, that a craft once so valued but which faded from fashion has, through new application and purpose, been revived.

Another exhibitor to watch out for is ceramic sculptor Sarah Farrelly and her octopus piece.

This, and all her work, is hand built with beautiful and precise decorative painting inspired by tribal patterning applied to modern crafted pieces.

But equally, the quality of work presented is, from both an aesthetic and practical perspective, prioritised throughout the show.

“I aimed to choose work that is both arty and good as a product,” says Fergal.

This approach has achieved a mix of art and design that is particularly evident in the work of ceramicist Luke Sisk.

A 2014 graduate of the Crawford College of Art & Design, he currently works with the Backwater Artists Group, making ceramic vessels which include his Chatterbox Series consisting of 50 cups.

It’s a reference to a making technique called ‘chattering’ which adds texture and is also a nod to the Irish obsession of chattering over a cup of tea.

As a working philosophy, Luke takes particular interest in the spaces where his work is shown, looking to communicate the past with the present.

He achieves this at TIME with his modern, specially commissioned pieces set in the space of the old mill building. It prompts the observation that even the building itself represents time and its passing.

Once a grain mill which later fell into disrepair, it now lends itself perfectly as an exhibition space with its neutral stone walls and high beamed ceilings.

With such high quality work on show, it’s surprising to learn that price-wise much of it is within the reach of those of us who love a unique piece or want to buy a special gift the recipient is not likely to find elsewhere.

Prices start at €20. www.corkcraftanddesign.com

*Next week: Mainie Jellet’s rug designs.

More in this section

Property & Home

Sign up for our weekly update on residential property and planning news as well the latest trends in homes and gardens.

Sign up
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Execution Time: 0.227 s