For retail therapy with a difference, events are taking place in the coming weeks selling locally-designed and hand-made products, writes
It's the time of year when craft fairs offer an alternative to the typical city centre and retail park shopping experience. With them come warm and fuzzy ethical and sustainability credentials to satisfy the buyer, and for the gift recipient who has everything, the one-off or limited edition Christmas gift is unique and useful.
First up is the Glucksman Craft & Design Fair running from November 9 to 11. Now in its eighth year, the award-winning gallery, which normally shows fine art, will be transformed into a retail outlet with 57 makers selling everything from ceramics and wood-turning, to lighting and illustrations. Prices have equal range with products available for as little as €5 for stocking filler candles, candle holders and Christmas decorations, right up to hundreds of euro for furniture and lighting.
To help make it a stress-free shopping experience, children’s art workshops will take place from 11am-12 noon and 2-3pm so parents can indulge in a leisurely browse for an hour with a coffee in hand. The cost is €8 per child which includes all materials with proceeds going to the Glucksman educational programme.
Entry to the fair is €5 which also supports the educational programme, or pick up a free admission leaflet from the tourist office in Cork City, at the Central Library or the English Market. (www.glucksman.org.)
If you miss the Glucksman event or want another dose of retail wholesomeness, take a trip to the east Cork countryside for the Ballymaloe Craft Fair from November 16 to 18. Growing year on year, they’ve now recruited over 100 craft makers to fill four spaces, including concert venue The Grainstore.
Some makers will offer shoppers interactive experiences with their craft and being Ballymaloe, there will, of course, be plenty of opportunities for refreshments. Local food and drink heroes are setting up shop in The Big Shed with some food tastings on offer, and musical accompaniment to entertain as you browse. Entry is €5 per person. Free to under 16s and free parking. (www.ballymaloefestivals.ie)
It’s back to Cork City centre the following weekend for City Hall Crafts & Design Fair. This is the original of the species having been in existence for a whopping 26 years, and where 100 exhibitors will take over the glorious Millennium Hall from November 23 to 25. Selective about who they allow to participate to ensure quality, the organisers have a vetting procedure to make sure the products for sale are handmade, and not just designed by the participants. They also ensure a wide price range, so expect to pay as little as €2 for something from a food stall, and up to high hundreds or even thousands for jewellery.
Just two years ago a food emporium was added to the event which services visitors in need of refuelling during their shopping expedition. It also offers them a chance to pick up some goodies to take home for themselves after buying craft items for friends and family is sorted.
If the exertion of stirring up a plum pudding at home is something to be endured get yourself a lovely artisan produced one. The same goes for Christmas cakes, preserves and chocolates.
Entry €5 per adult which includes return visits throughout the weekend. Free entry for children. (www.cityhallcraftsfair.ie)
There’s a break in the schedule the following weekend which gives you a chance to put up the Christmas decorations and apply a lick of paint to freshen everything up, until the RDS brings out the big guns from December 5 to 9.
The Gifted Contemporary Craft and Design Fair hosts over 600 Irish designers and makers. Typically, visitors number around 45,000, making it the biggest of its kind in the country.
If you’re in the market for a significant purchase Alan Meredith, winner of the Design and Craft Council of Ireland’s Future Maker of the Year award last year sells finely crafted tables, chairs and occasional furniture influenced by contemporary crafting methods and aesthetics. Also, the opportunity to treat yourself or a house guest is on offer from White and Green, an Irish company which specialises in organic and fair trade cotton duvets and bed linens.
Entry is €12 for adults, including a re-admission on another day. Children are free. OAPs €10. www.giftedfair.ie.