September 26, 2023
Business News

Kilkenny agency gives Ireland’s top designers chance to shine on international stage

A Kilkenny-based agency is inviting Ireland’s leading designers and craftspeople to join an innovative programme that will showcase their work on a global stage.

Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI), which is based in the Castle Yard, today announced an open call for applications to the PORTFOLIO programme 2021-2022.

PORTFOLIO has been instrumental in promoting and championing Ireland’s best known and successful designers and craftspeople, such as Úna Burke, whose high-profile clients include Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Madonna, and furniture designer Joseph Walsh, whose work has been acquired for major international collections, most recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The RDS Irish Craft Bursary is also open for application, this has become an important financial support for established craft makers.

A distinguished panel of international judges has been appointed to select new members to this year’s PORTFOLIO programme. The panel consists of Belgian‐Italian gallerist, antiquarian and glass sculptor Jean Blanchaert (pictured below), Juliana Cavaliero and Debra Finn (bottom picture), Directors of London’s Cavaliero Finn gallery and renowned writer, critic and curator Alice Stori Liechtenstein.

Juliana Cavaliero and Debra Finn commented: “We are very excited about being part of the judging process for PORTFOLIO and the RDS Irish Craft Bursary. The imagination and creativity of Irish craft and the dialogue that it creates with the rest of the world is hugely benefitted by programmes such as these. We are really looking forward to seeing the wealth of entries on offer.”

Now in its 15th year, the focus of the 2021-2022 PORTFOLIO programme is to raise the online profile of Ireland’s top designers to enable them to reach a global gallery and collector market. There will also be a more focused and targeted individual mentoring programme to improve members’ selling opportunities.

DCCI Chief Executive Rosemary Steen commented: “Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s PORTFOLIO programme actively promotes awareness and understanding of leading Irish makers and their work in Ireland and abroad.

“Our designers and makers are renowned the world over for having the highest standards of design quality and technical skills. Building on this, a new focus and energy is being brought to the programme this year to raise the digital profile of Irish makers as it’s more important than ever for them to have a strong online presence.”

The PORTFOLIO programme provides a unique platform for Irish designers and makers. Inclusion is recognition that members’ work is of a standard considered worthy by museums, renowned galleries and discerning collectors.

PORTFOLIO works to grow the reputations and potential of makers across all major disciplines of contemporary craft. In recent years, the PORTFOLIO programme has been used by a variety of curators and bodies. These include:

*The curators from the Michelangelo Foundation for selecting makers for the ‘Best in Europe’ exhibition at Homo Faber, Venice. Eight makers were selected from the programme for the 2018 edition. More makers are being considered for the next edition in 2021;
*The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade for commissioning and acquiring works for Irish embassies across the world;
*The National Museum of Ireland for acquiring work for the permanent collection in the Decorative Arts Division in Collins Barracks, Dublin.

Designers and makers who are accepted onto the PORTFOLIO programme are automatically eligible for consideration for the prestigious Critical Selection, a biennial publication of the leading edge of Irish contemporary craft in a world-class context. Successful applicants will feature in a printed and online volume which has a proven track record in raising awareness among Irish and international collectors, galleries, commissioning bodies and museums.

Ciarán McGill, a marquetry and furniture designer-maker who was selected for the 2019-2020 edition of Critical Selection, says of the programme: “I really enjoyed being part of the PORTFOLIO programme as I am in the early stages of my career. It was great to be part of a programme with other more experienced makers from different disciplines – it really helped me to develop the more artistic side of my work.”

The annual RDS Irish Craft Bursary, valued at €10,000, is open to all makers in the PORTFOLIO programme. The RDS Irish Craft Bursary may be used for a wide range of career and professional development activities such as: further education and training; research; development of new work; mentoring; purchase of equipment; studio improvements; technology; websites and residencies. Every year the judges look for well thought out proposals demonstrating how the award could help develop a makers’ practice and career as well as being of benefit to Irish craft.

RDS Chief Executive Geraldine Ruane said: “Total RDS financial support for the craft sector, a vital sector for rural Ireland, is worth €60,000 annually. Part of this support is through the RDS Irish Craft Bursary, worth €10,000. This is our third year of sponsoring this award, which is has quickly become an important financial support for established craft makers. The Bursary is designed to work in tandem the RDS Craft Awards; the Awards distribute a total of €50,000 to five emerging craft makers. The RDS has a rich legacy in supporting and encouraging the Irish craft sector and remains committed to supporting future generations of makers.”

For more information and to apply for PORTFOLIO Membership 2021-2022, visit:

PHOTO: One of Irish designer Úna Burke’s acclaimed leather creations

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