March 1, 2024
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Kilkenny to host landmark new exhibition celebrating Ireland’s ‘craft heroes’

Ireland’s inspirational craftspeople and makers will be celebrated in a landmark new exhibition in Kilkenny charting the evolution of the crafts and design sector in Ireland over the last 50 years.

The 50 Makers: 50 Years exhibition will take place at the Natonal Design & Craft Gallery in the Castle Yard in July. The initiative is part of a series of events this year to mark the 50th anniversary of Design & Crafts Council Ireland. The celebrate makers whose work has contributed to the rich tapestry of craft and design practice in Ireland.

As part of the initiative to celebrate ‘Ireland’s Craft Heroes’, industry stakeholders across the country are invited to nominate makers whose work has significant legacy, heralded new approaches or changed the way we look at the world.

The deadline for the nominations is January 31. From next month an expert committee will have the difficult task of narrowing the selection to 50 makers, representing 50 years of outstanding craft and design innovation in Ireland.

Commenting on the initiative, DCCI Chief Executive Rosemary Steen (pictured below) said: “This landmark exhibition will celebrate the huge role our makers and designers have played in Ireland’s cultural evolution over the past half a century.

“This period has overseen the greatest societal changes the country has known and we have seen massive changes in the crafts and design sector, which has evolved to become a major player on the global design stage, enhancing Ireland’s reputation as a creative society and economy.

“The Design & Crafts Council has been central to this evolution, supporting makers and designers, stimulating innovation, championing design thinking and informing Government policy to nurture, develop and grow the sector, which now employs just under 50,000 people and contributes over €37 billion to the economy.”

Aside from the exhibition, the Design & Crafts Council is also planning a series of online events over the coming months to mark the contributions by all the individual craft and design disciplines – from jewellery, ceramics, textiles, and candlemakers to silversmiths, stone working, furniture makers any many more – to the sector.

Interim DCCI Chair Andrew Bradley said the focus of the 50th anniversary events planned throughout the year is to give a vital platform for the country’s makers and designers to showcase their products and talent as they respond to the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Mr Bradley added: “During a very difficult time, our craftspeople, designers and creative communities have provided an economic lifeline to local communities throughout the country. Our makers and designers have shown great resilience in responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19 and we want to use our 50th anniversary to provide them with a platform to market their business and products in a very positive way.”

President Michael D Higgins paid a warm tribute to the huge contribution our craftspeople have made to Irish life over the past 50 years, which he said continues “a proud tradition” that is firmly rooted in our rich cultural history.

President Higgins said: “In Ireland we are very proud of our reputation for creativity, a reputation which is greatly enhanced by our many talented craftspeople and designers. Their creative and beautiful works, which receive wide acclaim on both the national and international stage, remind us of how much of our culture and heritage is embedded in crafted artefacts such as the Book of Kells and the Tara Brooch.

“At its very best, our design and craftwork connect us in profound ways to our roots whilst also reflecting the immediate world of our inhabited by the designer. They become an exquisite weaving together of individual artistic vision, collective cultural memory and contemporary influence.”

Minister for Enterprise, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, said: “Congratulations to the Design & Crafts Council Ireland on this impressive milestone. The skill and craftmanship of Irish designers and creators is renowned the world over. This exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of DCCI and the events planned over the coming months give us an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the contribution our craftspeople make to Ireland’s economy and society as a whole. The exhibition will also give a platform to designers to showcase their creations to a wider audience after what has been an incredibly difficult year.”

Kilkenny TD and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral reform, Malcolm Noonan, added: “It is only fitting that Design & Craft Council Ireland celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding still based in the home of Kilkenny Design Workshops; continuing a tradition of craft and innovation that is firmly rooted here but distinctly international’.

“The Design & Crafts Council can look forward with confidence in the knowledge that design and craft in Ireland have not only shaped this nation but have a vital role in how we meet the great challenges of this century and how human endeavour and creativity can be the catalyst for localisation, sustainability and durability. I would like to congratulate all who have contributed to this great Irish success story.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Generation craft: Legendary gold and silversmith Des Byrne passes on a few tricks of the trade to Róisín McCabe, final year student at the Jewellery and Goldsmithing Skills & Design Course run by Design & Crafts Council Ireland at the Castle Yard, Kilkenny. Photo – DYLAN VAUGHAN

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