The Handmade Tale

The Handmade Tale


If there’s one change a lot of us are making this year it’s shopping better. Whether that’s driven by climate extinction panic, the fires in Australia or us waking up to the fact that we buy too much unnecessary stuff that then fuels the landfill cycle, it’s the defining trend of 2020.

Lobbying our supermarkets for less single-use plastic is vital, but another key part of switching up your purchasing pattern is to buy local – or as local as you can – from producers who also create those products locally. That cuts down massively on air miles and local jobs and materials are used, too.

Forging positive change ties in nicely with the craft tradition we have in Ireland. From basket-making to weaving, glass-blowing and ceramics, we have a storied, handmade history. Some have risen and fallen: the story of Waterford Crystal is a sad tale in the book of Irish craft and the Kilkenny shops have long supported a tourism-friendly middle market of solid and reliable makers.

Now, other skills and ways of working are gaining traction with a younger demographic, thanks to the work of brands such as We Make Good (

Ireland’s first social enterprise design brand, We Make Good supports the work of craftspeople, “facing social challenges who have been supported to develop valuable skills and gain employment in their craft”. Discover tin vessels made by James Collins and Tom McDonnnell, Traveller tinsmiths, from WFinglas, or baskets woven at Camphill, Co Wexford, a co-living community, “where people with disabilities and able bodied community members support each other”.

New names in craft are emerging, too. January’s annual Showcase at the RDS saw some perennials and a few fresh faces – some of you may already know: Ballyshane, makers of beautiful kitchen boards using responsibly-sourced hardwoods; Foxford, the Mayo-based handweavers; as well as Arran Street East, the hip ceramics company which brought Scandi-style ceramics to a millennial audience.

On our radar for 2020 is Belfast-based artist Eimear Maguire’s Dollybirds (, a lovely art print brand that celebrates nature, particularly our native birds.

In ceramics, Rebecca Killen ( and Diem Pottery ( are newer names to know for porcelain pieces made in the image of traditional milk bottles (the former), and design-led, yet functional pieces with colourful additions, for the latter.

Couple Sam agus Nessa ( create beautifully whimsical pieces in a very Irish way. Using locally-sourced timber, they make fun and functional furniture and accessories. Keeping the irreverent theme, but using concrete, Hey, Bulldog! Design ( is a brand for lovers of colour: think succulent planters and clocks with a nod to the paint splatters of Jackson Pollock.

While McNutt might be the Ulster weaver du jour, Mourne Textiles ( is a revived name to know. Its story begins at the start of the last century; the company made fabrics for Robin Day and Conran as well as Sibyl Connolly. Now back at the loom, they make beautiful homewares that include throws, rugs, wall hangings.

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director at House and Home magazine

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