Blossoming from Deep Roots
Ireland's reputation for craft extends back for over a thousand years to the days of the Tara Brooch & the Ardagh Chalice, a heritage that we can be immensely proud of, and our incredible light & landscape has provided inspiration to generations of artists, designers & makers, myself included. The explosion of interest in Irish linen & lace in the 19th Century took us once again onto a world stage, a presence renewed in the 1930s with the Arran Sweater, and from the 1950s our unique ceramics were finding homes in Japan & the far east along with our traditional music.
But somehow, at home, our impression of our own craft stops there, and it's easy to overlook the incredible designers & makers that have worked through the hard times of the 80s and been the forerunners of a renaissance in Irish Craft & Design, which of course, has been helped greatly by the designations of 2011 as the Year of Irish Craft, and 2015 being the year of Irish Design, state-backed initiatives led by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland & Enterprise Ireland.
A Vision for Now
The recession for the past eight years, which we are now emerging from, has forced us to reconsider conspicuous consumption and a throwaway approach to luxury, and I think for many, this has led to a passion for home grown talent. When it comes to where they spend their money, there's a new generation that is proud to spend it at home and to wear, own & consume beautifully crafted pieces of cutting edge design, things that we use every day, and things for special occasions. It's a pleasure for me to be creating unique crafted gifts that respect our heritage, but that embrace our present, and what's an even greater pleasure than that, is to be amongst hundreds of others doing the same thing.
Showcase - Ireland’s Creative Expo - opens today in the RDS Dublin, running through to Wednesday January 21st. Over the next four days, more than 5,000 trade buyers from home and abroad (26 countries in all) will visit almost 500 exhibitors, sourcing Irish design & craft products for their stores, making it the country's largest trade only fair, as well as one of the longest running, this is its 39th year!
What's particularly exciting this year is that not only is the standard of work exhibited noticeably higher (perhaps a result of a renewed post-recession confidence), but the whole show is tied together with a new visual identity, strong, confident, drawn from nature but in a new & unexpected way. It also builds on the really fantastic awareness building by ID2015 (The Year of Irish Design), which both promotes design awareness in Ireland, and awareness of Irish Design abroad.
Streamlined into the areas of Fashion, Jewellery, and Home & Gift, the show spreads out over the Main Hall and most of the RDS campus. Also broken out into separate areas are Creative Island and The Enterprise Zone (main hall balcony). Each area is curated by an expert in that area with Sonia Reynolds (fashion), Natasha Sherling (jewellery) and Eleanor Harpur (home and gift) selecting pieces for the Best Product Awards, with the winner of one category then being selected for overall best product at the show. The curation takes products from across the entire show, and not just the headline Creative Island area.
Creative Island remains at the heart of the show, presenting authentic Irish craft products designed and made in Ireland and featuring 90 commercial designer-makers who were chosen by an independent jury for their creativity, innovation and craftsmanship. An exciting new feature for 2015 is a live retail shop selling Irish designed and made work which is designed to inspire visitors to Showcase with ideas on presenting Irish products in innovative ways.
The Enterprise Zone
Bigger than ever, the Enterprise Zone at Showcase 2015 will fully occupy the balcony of the Main Hall at the RDS, featuring over 90 exhibitors supported by their Local Enterprise Offices. This designated area is a great platform to promote exciting, unique products from emerging Irish businesses, providing these micro enterprises with a unique opportunity to establish links with Irish and international retailers.
Fashion Shows & Retail Seminars
For retailers and visitors, there are some fantastic attractions. Firstly the fashion show directed by Sonia Reynolds features the most stunning headpieces, a collaboration between Michael Leong & Appassionista Flowers, both based in the Creative Quarter of Drury Street & South William Street. The show runs daily at 12:00pm & again at 3:00pm.
Then there's the retail seminar programme, running over the four days of the show, and featuring international industry speakers. There's a particular focus on developing a comprehensive online presence and getting to grips with the workings of e-commerce, social media, merchandising & more.
I'll write another post after the show with some of my favourite highlights, but for now, if you're in the trade or media, I'd really encourage you to visit, and if you're a craft worker, you should come and see if it's something that could help grow your business. Even just seeing the latest & greatest products, all made in Ireland, can show you the breadth of what's possible.
Lastly, as this is the year of Irish Design, it's worth mentioning that as well as the strong branding, Showcase has several tie-ins and opportunities for visitors to experience Irish Design beyond the confines of the RDS. They've organised curated tours of Dublin on Tuesday & Wednesday, and you can find out more about that here:
I'll be displaying at stand C86 which is right in front of the entrance door in the main hall next to the Creative Island pop up shop, and I'd be delighted to show you my work when you visit.
RDS Main Hall, Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Sun — Tue 9.30am — 6.00pm
Wed 9.30am — 4.00pm