Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

All posts in Craft

Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Someone in your life love Ireland? Here are some handy Irish gift ideas, for Christmas or anytime.

From an absolutely amazing romantic getaway in a transparent Irish forest dome, to Irish art, books, Aran sweaters and more, you’ll find an online Irish gift you’d love to give – or receive!

Sea Sparkle!

One of the most unusual photographs I came across this year is by artist & photographer Vincent Hyland. He has 2 different prints available of the special natural phenomenon known as sea sparkle, here by the shores of county Kerry. Magical! Have a look at Vincent’s online shop to start you off on your online Irish gift shopping adventure 🙂

Sleep under the stars in an Irish forest dome!

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

For the ultimate romantic gift, a getaway to Finn Lough in one of there exclusive Forest Domes can’t be beaten. I’ve stayed here, and I was totally wowed! The food at their Finn Lough Kitchen is so very delicious– do avail of a package that includes dinner! Highly recommended! See more about the Finn Lough resort and their forest domes here.

Learn to Speak Irish!

What if your gift recipient can’t get to Ireland yet but wants to immerse themselves in it in some way? Or do they have a trip planned and would like a bit, or alot- of the native language? Bitesize Irish Gaelic teaches you as much or as little as you want to learn, with a free trial, and monthly or yearly plans. A very thoughtful and unique gift! See more at

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Once more in Dublin!

Romantic Once, the musical, is returning to Dublin this summer! Tickets will make a super gift if you’ll be there between 2 July – 27 August 2016. In case you don’t know of Once:

Based on the movie sensation of the same name, filmed and set in Dublin, Once features music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, including the Oscar winning Falling Slowly, and a Tony award-winning book by Enda Walsh.

Once is about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us. This funny, moving and life-affirming love story with glorious music has captured hearts around the world. Seeing it where it all began, at home in Dublin, is incredibly special.
8 Tony® Awards including Best Musical, Oscar Best Original Song, Falling Slowly, Grammy® Award Best Musical Theatre Album

You can book Once here to see it at  it’s ‘home’ in Dublin next summer.

The Cat Shepherd and Woolly Irish Pressies!

We have our very own feline farmer right here in Ireland, — Bodacious the Cat Shepherd! He helps his human Suzanna with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, and now he has his very own calendar & postcards! You can see what he gets up to and order postcards or a paw-tographed calendar here. You can shop online for the blankets and knitting wool made from his Irish Zwartbles sheep, here.

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Find Your Irish Roots!

Someone on your list interested in Irish genealogy? A subscription to Irish Roots would be a perfect gift!

“Irish Roots magazine is dedicated to helping you to trace your elusive Irish ancestors. Each quarter Irish Roots magazine is packed with lots of interesting, informative and practical articles written by Ireland’s leading genealogists. Irish Roots is a powerful resource tool for all those wishing to trace their family history.”

Irish Roots magazine is published quarterly in December, March, June and September. Subscriptions are: Ireland €25, UK £25, USA $37, Australia $42, Rest of world €27. All prices include postage.

Love Ireland Gifts!

Aw Go On - Classic Father Ted is a perfect Ireland themed online gift from I love Mayo

Classic Father Ted-ism; perfect Ireland themed gift by I love Mayo

On atmospheric Achill Island, papercut artist and painter Jane Steger-Lewis creates items that are perfect for gifts; cards, too. She says:

“I want to make things that bring joy into our homes and that make us smile. My Love Ireland range is all about referencing Irish culture in a contemporary, bright and fresh way, products that fit well with modern homes, I hope you like them.

The products you can purchase here are hand crafted with love, not mass produced in the cheapest labour markets. The emphasis is on quality, originality and care; I’m proud of every package I send out and I want you to be delighted with your purchase.” 

Find Jane’s I Love Mayo online shop here

Koo Koo Sneactha Emma Campbell Art; online Irish gift

Koo Koo Sneactha by Emma Campbell Art

Bright & Beautiful Irish Art!

For a special present that will bring cheer and zing into someone’s home all year round, have a look at the fabulous paintings and prints from artist Emma Campbell. She’s having a 12 Days of Christmas sale on her fine art prints, and many of her paintings come with free shipping. I’m a huge fan of her work, and she’s all types, from whimsical to more abstract. Here’s a fun winter one pictured; she has several different themes. Check out her online shop here – Emma is having a Christmas sale!

Traditional Claddagh, Belleek, More!

If someone on your list would love Irish Claddagh rings, Belleek pottery, or if you are frankly not sure what Irish- themed gift to give, a trip to Gilmartin’s online shop is in order!  A (physically) small traditional family run shop in the little village of Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border, Gilmartin’s has made the leap online with an extensive treasure trove of gifts. Known far and wide for their knowledge and customer service, it is wonderful to see a wee shop like this survive the recession by extending online. Go to their site and click their listings for Himself or Herself & away you go 😀

If you’d like to give an Aran Irish jumper/sweater, click here for my article with buying tips & links to buy online

Pure Shores by Magnum Lady, Val Robus. Belmullet, Sligo, IrelandThe Gift of Irish Summer!

Yes, it’s Ireland, not the Caribbean! See, we do have beautiful weather in Ireland 😀 But it may be wise to capture it like Val Robus, aka Sligo photographer Magnum Lady, has done. Give the gift of a year round Irish summer with this photo print, or peruse Val’s other items over on her MagnumLady Etsy shop.  I think all of us in Ireland could use this gift about now! Wind, rain, flood… that’s been our past few  Nov/Dec weeks!

Give an Irish Outdoor Adventure!

From gentle medieval history based river rafting to exciting white water rafting & more, Boyne Valley Activities in Ireland’s Ancient East probably has something your special someone will enjoy. We took the Medieval river float tour this October, and it was excellent! There’s a plethora of terrific sites in the area from prehistoric right on up; if you’d like to explore more as a gift to yourself do check out the Boyne Valley Area and the outdoor adventures at Boyne Valley Activities. PS, if you are in Ireland in October and your giftee loves Halloween, this is definitely the place to be! The Spirits of Meath festival is fantastic! I went to several of the events and had a brilliant (and scary!) time. I’ll have a full post on it in a few weeks, but til then, keep your eye on The Spirits of Meath running 15 October to 1 November in 2016. And if you’d like to recover from your fun & frights in a beautiful Georgian period suit, check out this video  (will embed video in this article when my internet is better) of when I stayed at the Darnley Lodge Hotel 😀

Nature Lovers!

Did this photo make you say ‘Ahhh, cute!’? If there is a lover of Irish Wildlife on your gift list, then check out photographer Christine Cassidy’s wonderful photos on her In Touch With The Wild Photography page.  Red Squirrels, brilliant turquoise Kingfishers, Irish Hares & more are available as prints. Have a look and then just message her on the page if you’d like to place an order. Enjoy her lovely page!

Book Lovers Bumper Selection of Presents!

Books are a perennial favorite, whether ebooks or physical books. Watch this video to help you choose some special Irish books. Before you do, let me add on one more author I missed telling you about in the video & podcast. Full of wonderful slices of life in the charming Dingle area of Kerry, Felicity Hayes McCoy has  physical books, audio books, and ebooks/Kindle. In regards to Dingle, The House on the Irish Hillside book came first, and is now joined by Christmas at the House on the Irish Hillside, and Enough is Plenty. See more of her books, and purchase, on Felicity’s author page on Amazon, here.

Some of the Irish book ideas include a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in modern Dublin, fun reminiscences of a boy’s getting up to mischief in 1940’s Belfast, a seriously based history of Irish farm wives with some dashings of tongue in cheek humor, a book filled with photos on Irish thatched cottages that will have you dreaming of one of your own, and several more fab books too.

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If your internet is a bit slow for video (mine often is *sobs*) have a listen to this podcast instead 🙂


I could go on; in fact I might! I know I’ve forgotten some Irish gifts that I’d love to mention, so check back periodically 😀 Susan


Limerick is a very creative city, and one of my favourite Irish city – break destinations. I’ve just been sent the info on the Open Night of Limerick Craft Hub as they celebrate National Design Week. Have a read, and apologies if my layout is off- as I’m in London I’m posting this from my phone! So much for *my* design 😉

Love beautiful things? Love local? Want to support talented designers and get something unique? Then come and meet the makers at our celebration of National Design Week on our open night of the Limerick Craft Hub on Thursday November 6th at 6pm.

Showcasing the best of craft and design handmade in Limerick, the Limerick Craft Hub is a vibrant addition to the Limerick city’s creative culture. Inside is the city’s newest and largest craft shop, a craft gallery, a craft classroom and open studios where you can meet the craftworkers and watch their skills at work. Come along and browse the handmade crafts, see how they are made, take a class – get crafty!

Take the opportunity to get your hands on some beautiful, hand-made designs from the best of Limerick talent, and visit Limerick’s most exciting cultural legacy project, experience Forgotten Silver jewellery being made before your eyes, enjoy bespoke felt-making by Fabulous Felt.

This is more than a shop, the Craft Hub is a centre of design excellence with designers working in their onsite studios that make up part of this design co-op. If you choose to invest in a unique hat by Olainn Milinery, or a piece of ceramic design by Clare Jordan, your money is going directly to the artists who are choosing Limerick as their base and workplace. Why spend your hard won cash on pieces that everybody else has when you can be happy in the knowledge that every euro invested in beautiful things at the Craft  Hub is an investment in Limerick’s legacy as a centre of design excellence, and in your fabulous wardrobe and home! Give beautiful gifts, be proud of what you buy, let your gift have it’s own story.

The evening culminates in a fashion show featuring knitwear from Caroline Mitchell, Hanora K, Daivas’ Textiles and unique pieces by Susan McCarthy Designs. For a chance to pick up a piece that nobody else has, made by hand and made in Limerick, don’t miss this opportunity on this special showcase evening.

The Craft Hub plays host to ongoing workshops for children and adults in crafting, knitting, ceramics, felt-making and silversmithing. Vouchers for workshops make unique and priceless gifts that just might help make that budding artist in your life.

Photo note:
Model is wearing a knitwear ensemble by Hanora K Designs and the scarf is Daiva’s Textiles, pictured at the Craft Hub

Riuchi  -The Tale of the Ancient Lights.

Riuchi -The Tale of the Ancient Lights will be at Dublin’s Tiger Fringe Festival 2014

Ireland’s Hot in September

Hot with Irish events! Music, shows, beardy coffee, crafty family fun & more!

The next few weeks in September sees several interesting  & quirky events happening in Ireland. I’ve been sent info on a some of them, and am passing it on to you. I’m excited to be going to this first one – Riuchi- myself, and as well as reading the excerpt below, do check out Kathryn of Littlest Allsorts’ post from when she saw the show in Belfast.

Award winning The Tale of the Ancient Lights by Riuchi at Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival 2014

For five days at the Tiger Dublin Fringe Riuchi will perform his The Tale of the Ancient Lights at the Project Arts Centre. His solo performance, which won Best Production and Best Lighting Design at the Galway Fringe Festival, uses modern LED technology fused with a deft combination of Circus, Magic and Dance. The show will open with a preview on Tuesday16th for the special price of €10 and will continue daily at 1pm until the 20th, the show costs only €12, €11 concession.  This atmospheric multidisciplinary piece is suitable for all ages and can be accessed and understood by all nationalities.

A search for destiny in Asian Legend. This poignant story is told through the skilled movements of the artist. The piece is a non-narrative 40mins show which embodies beauty and poetry, enacted through circus, magic and dance. Through the use of modern LED technology the solo light performance awes and stuns, inviting the audience away to another land, in another time. Find us on FaceBook and Twitter for daily digests of what is happening in the world of Riuchi.

To book tickets please visit,  call 1850374643, or call into the Tiger Fringe Festival Box Office in Film Base, Curve St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

“…a performance vocabulary out of the ordinary. It’s a treat for the eye and an inspiration for the mind.” — Stockholm Fringe Festival.

Tiger Dublin Fringe festival runs from September 7 to 22, so do check out their full programme!

Friday 5 Sept, Stano’s DECODER– a spectacle for the senses

Dublin experimental musician and artist, Stano, brings DECODER, a 1 hour Music, Film and 3D Projection experience back
to the award winning, giant umbrellas in Meeting House Square. This should be an epic indoor / outdoor
experience in the City Centre! Have a look at the video below from last years event. This year the Decoder event features 60 minutes of nine different musical movements, starting with classical and building into a crescendo of layered electronic, textured music & sounds. This will be combined with visually stunning images of Dublin and 3D projections onto two 10 metre screens. Sounds interesting, and ticket proceeds are for a good cause!

Tickets are available for €10 from and all ticket sales proceeds will be donated to ARC Cancer Support Centres.

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On the other side of Ireland, in Galway, there’s free coffee to be had for World Beard Day on Saturday. My hubby Terry has had some class of beard from the very first time I met him in his free-coffee-refills cafe in 1997/8 (oooh my memory is going!) so this would be right down his alley if we were out the Whest! Maybe you are, and if you haven’t a beard, maybe don a fake one & go get a free coffee at the Gaslight Bar 😀

Celebrate World Beard Day with Free Coffee!

Look to your left, Look to your right, chances are you’ll catch a glimpse of a man donning some facial fabulousness- the beard! It seems there are beards everywhere. In fact, you can’t avoid them… You see them in the workplace, on the streets, but particularly in coffee shops.terry's beard-- not just on World Beard Day!

From hipsters, sports stars, and to Hollywood actors, the men of 2014 are proudly sporting their finest follicle fruit… and if it’s good enough for George Clooney..! Saturday 6th September is World Beard Day and The Gaslight Bar & Brasserie at Hotel Meyrick want to celebrate bearded men everywhere by offering them free coffee between 12pm and 4pm on World Beard Day! From almost there stubble, grown and groomed, to the wild and bushy, all beards are welcome! Choose from a steaming cappuccino or frothy latté and Tweet your ‘Milk-Moustache’ pictures @meyrickhotel #milkmoustache

Fun, craft, and ceramics are favorites of mine, and as well as the September Family Day &  all ages fun Culture Night activities at The National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, in Dublin the NACD Gallery is presenting a ceramics show. More info on these, below:

Family Day: Jingling Tambourines Sat 13 Sept, 10.30am / 12pm

Join us for a musical Family Day where we will be getting inspired by our Resonance exhibition and crafting some funky homemade instruments.

To book email or call 056 7796151

Culture Night: Blown Beats Friday 19 Sept, 5pm-9pm

Join us for a cultural extravaganza of music and making. Inspired by funky rhythms and beats, design your own percussion. Find your inner musician and raise the roof for a spectacular rhythmic finale.

Interactive Bubble Station
Create huge colourful bubbles out of everyday found objects and fill the Castle Yard with giant rainbow bubbles! Suitable for all ages | 5pm – 8pm | Free, drop in workshop
Funky Finger Pianos & Bizarre Bazookas
Join instrument maker Ed Devane to craft your very own musical instrument! Ages 5yrs – 12yrs | 5pm, 6pm, 7pm | Free, Booking essential: / 056 7796151
Carnival of the Animals
Join the Magic of Music and dress up as lions and make rainstorms with percussion! A perfect workshop for younger kids.Ages 4yrs – 7yrs | 5pm, 6pm, 7pm | Free, Booking essential: / 056 7796151
Samba Drum & Rhythm Workshop
Learn how to Samba with the Magic of Music. Create funky rhythms in an authentic Brazilian style and finish with a small performance! Ages 7yrs – 12yrs | 5pm, 6pm, 7pm | Free, Booking essential: / 056 7796151
Alex Scott ceramic at NCAD gallery 'Generation'

Alex Scott ceramic at NCAD gallery ‘Generation’

Over in Dublin, a fine craft ceramics show is on at the gallery in the National College or Art & Design from today 5 September, to September 12th:

Making Space; ‘Generation’

Making Space in association with NCAD Gallery is delighted to present ‘Generation, a celebration of ceramics as a creative material and discipline that has been taught at The National College of Art and Design, Dublin and which has produced some of Ireland’s finest designers and craftspeople. Featuring the work of department lecturers, graduates, alumni and artists-in-residence this exhibition will be on view from September 5th through to September 12th, 2014.

The diversity and range of contemporary concerns of these makers will be represented through functional tableware, abstract vessels, figurative sculpture, architectural ceramics and site-specific installation. ‘Generation’ is presented in conjunction with the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and The International Academy of Ceramics (IAC) 46th General Assembly which is taking place in Dublin Castle from September 8th through to September 12th, 2014.

Internationally renowned tableware designer TonFisk, who are based in Finland and recent NCAD graduates, Adele Stanley, Cathy Burke and Kate O’Kelly  are among the selected artists for this innovative exhibition. Present also in the exhibition will be the work of retired NCAD lecturers Alex Scott, Neil Read and Henry Pim as well as the current Head of the Ceramics Department, Lisa Young. The selection of makers featured in this exhibition produce work that represents a variety of styles and approaches to ceramics.

‘Generation, represents a glimpse of ceramics over the past 20 years bringing together several generations, and features objects from workshops and galleries as well as newly commissioned work. The objective of the exhibition is to display works of outstanding beauty that are creative and innovative in form and process. It highlights a material that is experiencing a revival thanks to new approaches to making, adapting of processes and the sharing of new technologies.

The exhibition features contemporary craft through a variety of ceramic materials and processes. From delicate ceramic porcelain pieces by Jennifer Hickey, who uses light to infuse her work of porcelain and tulle to the robust stoneware sculptural pieces of Michael Moore who takes inspiration from the coastlines and geological markings in the landscape.

Abstract constructions with minimalist lines, flat shapes and linear colour will be on display with, a range of new work from the consistently captivating Adele Stanley, while the innovative and experimental work of Kate O’ Kelly is sensational both in detail and composition, pushing the boundaries of her practice to create new forms inspired by her grandmother’s eclectic Georgian house.

Making Space is an independent innovative approach to the curation of events, where creative solutions are found, creating links between creators, innovators, businesses and the city itself. Our aim is to inspire and encourage creative exploration through the curation of interdisciplinary events including exhibitions.

To see participating artist images and to learn more about this exhibition, visit here, and to learn more about the IAC conference visit

Culture Night in Ireland is packed FULL of events, and here’s another of them in Dublin. I’ve heard Francesco Turrisi at a gig during last year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival, and I enjoyed it very much. This should be a bril evening event for music lovers in Ireland, and it is free! Check it out:

Music Network Culture Night 2014

An evening of exceptional live music featuring I Have A Tribe, Francesco Turrisi & The Taquín Experiments and Baroque duo Claire Duff & Aoife Nic Athlaoich. Music network culture night 2014

A free evening of exceptional live music, across an eclectic range of genres for Culture Night on Friday 19th September. The diverse line-up features three of Ireland’s most exciting ensembles: folk-pop group I Have A Tribe, contemporary ensemble Francesco Turrisi & The Taquín Experiments and leading Baroque duo Claire Duff (violin) and Aoife Nic Athlaoich (cello).

With a blend of plaintive pop and folk-tinged melancholia, Patrick O’Laoghaire (a.k.a. I Have A Tribe), will bring beautiful textures and sweeping harmonic cascades to The Sugar Club stage. Since the release of his debut EP Yellow Raincoats, funded by the Music Recording Scheme, I Have A Tribe has been impressing audiences and critics with his hypnotic melodies.

Francesco Turrisi & The Taquín Experiments perform Turrisi’s own original music: an intoxicating blend that draws on influences from baroque music to traditional repertoires from the Mediterranean, Irish traditional music and contemporary jazz. The group features exceptional improvisatory musicians including Kate Ellis (cello), Nick Roth (saxophone), Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet, flugelhorn), Dan Bodwell (bass) and Matt Jacobson (drums).

From contemporary music influenced by older traditions to two of Ireland’s leading Baroque musicians as Claire Duff and Aoife Nic Athlaoich present a programme of Baroque delights on violin and cello. Soloists with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, the pair are regular collaborators with Irish and international ensembles and orchestras. Their programme includes Bach (Cello Suite No.2 in D minor BWV 1008 (Prelude) , Two part inventions – No. 8, 9, 10 & 12), Handel Sonata in D minor HWV 359a,  Corelli Sonata Opus 5 no.9 in A major.

Music Network’s mission is to make high quality live music available and accessible to people throughout Ireland. Culture Night falls halfway through Music Network’s September tour featuring traditional Irish and Scottish musicians Séamus Begley (accordion, voice), Catriona McKay (Scottish harp) and Chris Stout (fiddle), which travels to nine towns and villages from 16th to 25th September. Music Network also presents four other concerts in the same month with Dublin Guitar Quartet (Waterford) and Chatham Saxophone Quartet (Cork, Dublin and Limerick). Full details on

The  Music Network Culture Night event takes place in Dublin’s Sugar Club from 8-10 pm and is free but ticketed, call 01 475 0224.

In Ireland’s Sunny Southeast, you will surely want to visit Waterford’s Harvest Festival, which runs from the 12th to the 14th of September 2014. It will be an extravaganza of food and fun for all ages, that’s for sure. I find that Waterford always puts on excellent events, and if you are visiting Ireland or just having a local holiday, Waterford is a fantastic place to check out what’s on. There are loads of Irish events September 2014, these are just some! Do come visit Ireland in September– I think it’s one of the best months to do so!

looking forward to Waterford Harvest Festival 2014 are little Bee Keepers

looking forward to Waterford Harvest Festival 2014 are little Bee Keepers

PS I’ll be going back to Belfast for Culture Night & that weekend of 19-21 September. I’ll be live-tweeting my & Terry’s trip — AND I’ll be doing it by also taking over the @DiscoverNI twitter account 😀 Watch out, Northern Ireland! Do follow along, and we’ll be using the #DiscoverNI hashtag from both our personal accounts & well as my tweeting as DiscoverNI. I’m excited! Hope you can follow along 🙂 Susan

Enjoy these fab events in Ireland, and whatever else you get up to!

childrens aran sweater

Child’s aran sweater at Kilkenny Design Centre

Where can you get affordable, authentic Irish Aran sweaters?

This is a question I’ve been asked a few times, most recently by two travel bloggers visiting Ireland for the TBEX conference. Mariellen, and Kristin from, were looking for some tips on price, styles, and degrees of scratchiness 🙂

It will not come as a surprise to you that these traditionally made Irish jumpers (sweaters) are not cheap. The most expensive are the ones which are completely handmade, next in cost are the ones handmade on a loom, followed by sweaters machine made but hand finished. But, I’ve a tip you may use to save yourself some money!

In our part of Kilkenny we’re very lucky that we’ve 3 local shops that can stock Aran sweaters- the first two are small & wonderful, but they don’t really specialize in the sweaters, although they can have some.

These two shops do have lovely craft items though, and if you are in the area they are worth a visit. Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh specializes in blankets & knitting wool yarn; they also are online. The Craft Shop & Cottage Museum at Ballilogue Clochan is a total gem, but is only open to non-Inn guests from June through September. Do click & have a look online- you’ll want to make that trip!

Those places are special but only small, so I’m going to give you information from the larger Kilkenny Design Centre, which is located across from the Castle in Kilkenny City. It has a wide selection, a long tradition in Irish craft, and the staff are very helpful. They’ve also an online shop, but for best selection, do go in.

 Irish Aran sweater knit patterns meanings

Irish Aran sweaters: knit pattern meanings

For Aran sweaters, as well as the traditional ‘scratchier’ wool, you can now also get them in softer Merino wool. Prices depend on the degree of hand-work involved. The approximate prices in Euros are:

Handknit (i.e. knitting needles):  190-220

Hand-loomed:  125

 Machine made but hand finished:  50-70

These are the Kilkenny Design Centre prices, I’ve been told by shoppers it can sometimes cost more in different Dublin shops.

If you really want an Aran sweater bargain, also check the second-hand/pre-loved shops! Seriously- that is where I bought my Aran sweater; it only cost a tenner 🙂

The patterns on the traditional Irish Aran sweaters have different meanings; this photo (opposite) tells you some of them.

There are many colours available, and variations of style, as well as new designs & children’s wear at the Kilkenny Design Centre. They’ve plenty of other Irish designed and crafted items, too, and what is also nice is that the shop is just in front of the National Craft Gallery of Ireland. The gallery shows changing exhibits of top-notch modern craft, and often has interesting events for adults, as well as children’s activities. I love this place! Do check their website.

Ireland’s craft scene is thriving, and you may want to see what craftspeople are producing along the lines of more modern Irish knitwear. The Crafts Council site has a listings service where you can narrow down by craft type, county, and price range. Lots to browse!

I must also mention for the Irish Aran sweaters. They are family run shop located in one of our favorite Irish cities, Limerick, but they also have a big online selection. I’ve not been to their shop yet or bought from them online, but they seem a very good place to check if you want a large selection & are buying online or are in Limerick.

More Aran Sweaters to buy Online

I’ve also been told about Quills Woolen Market, which also has a nice online selection, as well as a shop in Killarney. They’ve also some handmade Aran sweaters in lovely colours- the purply/wine is gorgeous.

Recently I’ve been alerted to Aran Sweater Market which are located on the Aran Islands, Shannon Airport and Killarney as well as online. 

Another online shop is Arans of Ireland, who also have a sale on for St Patrick’s Day, 2017. Check it out!

Arans of Ireland has this lovely wrap on sale for St Patrick's Day 2017

Arans of Ireland has this lovely hooded wrap on sale for St Patrick’s Day 2017

You’re spoiled for choice!

Below are a few photos of items available at the Kilkenny Design Centre, and a modern design from Linda Wilson Knitwear. Happy jumper hunting!Crafts for sale Kilkenny Design Centre Irish aran sweaters for sale Kilkenny Design Centre

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters selection

modren Irish sweater, from


Marilyn Lerner will have her colourful artworks at Butler Gallery.

Marilyn Lerner will have her colourful artworks at Butler Gallery. Pic via

It’s one of the most exciting times to be in Kilkenny City!



Kilkenny Arts Festival 2014! 

8 -17 August will bring 10 days packed with things to go to. The festival is full of music, art, theatre & more! I’ve picked 7 vibrant events you may like; have a gander!

In no particular order, here we go:


1. Marilyn Lerner’s Circle In The Square

Butler Gallery, 10-5.30 everyday

The Butler Gallery is delighted to host Ireland’s first exhibition of the New York-based painter Marilyn Lerner.

Lerner is an extraordinary artist who has been committed to making abstract geometric paintings for over forty years. Her oil paintings are painted on wooden panels with bevelled edges so that they almost float off the wall. They are highly skillful compositions that articulate her experiences through form, pattern and colour. Geometric abstraction is present among many cultures throughout history, both as decorative motifs and as art pieces themselves. Lerner has travelled extensively through North Africa and South East Asia and these trips have informed her work and made the language of geometry the focus of her work.

2. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

12 Aug, 9.30 pm; Set Theatre. Tickets €20

This should be a fun night! The Set is a lovely venue, and there’s room downstairs for dancing. Each year at the Arts Festival groovy bands play here and the floor fills with dancing. Such a great vibe, don’t miss it!

In the Guardian’s Best Albums of 2013: Robin Denselow’s world music albums of the year, he said of them:

One of the most exciting bands at WOMAD this summer, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino are from southeast Italy and play pizzica, a style said to cure spider bites, thanks to the pounding, hypnotic effect of the insistent frame drum, matched against fiddle, bagpipes, accordion and five-part harmonies.

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3. Kate Tempest

9 Aug, 10.30 pm; Set Theatre. Tickets €20

One of the most exciting talents in the UK, a combustible rapper and a prolific performance poet, playwright and (soon) novelist whose work mines the drama in ordinary lives,” the Kilkenny Arts blurb tells us. This looks to be another good night at the Set. Have a watch of one of her videos below:

Read more about Kate Tempest, along with the link to book, here. 

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4. Resonance

National Craft Gallery, open every day; times vary so check their website.

Combining glasswork and sound, Resonance is intriguing! Without having seen/heard it, it’s probably best I just share the info from the Kilkenny Arts site.

Resonance brings together two artists, Karen Donnellan and Róisín de Buitléar, whose innovative work explores the sonic qualities of glass.

Róisín de Buitléar’s Irish Incantation/Ortha is a series of glass sound objects made to create an Irish incantation, a harmony of voice, object and Irish soul. When played by different hands and breaths of phrasing and rhythm, they become an evolving conversation. Liam O’Maonlai will perform with the sound objects in the Set Theatre on Friday 8 August.

Karen Donnellan’s work is concerned with the intangible essence of things. Informed by her interest in the metaphysical, her work draws on a wide range of media including blown and cast glass, woodturning, sound, light and film. Working with composer Alma Kelliher, her work explores the boundaries of sound technology and experimental glass art.

In Gallery 1 Karen and Róisín have developed an interactive glass sound experience using objects found in everyday life that enables visitors to try out their own music.


An informal percussion evening on Tuesday 12 August at 5.30pm. See for details.


Luminarium Miracoco at Kilkenny Arts festival

In the Luminarium Miracoco at Kilkenny Arts festival last year

5. Pentalum, by Architects of Air

Kilkenny Castle Yard, Sats & Suns 10-6, weekdays 12-6. €5 (Pay on-site)

Loved this! Fun for ALL ages! This crowd was at last year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival with a different luminarium (Miracoco,) and Terry and I spent ages in it! It was gorgeous and relaxing in there– the colours and light were spellbinding. This year’s offering is a “A hymn to the beauty of geometry,Pentalum features a breathtaking central dome and a maze of magical spaces filled with enchanting light effects.”

I’ve a few tips for you regarding a visit to this year’s offering– as the light was all-natural (I’m assuming this year will be the same,) if you can go when it’s sunny the colours will be more intense.  Also, it is very popular, there will be a wait. Try going first thing in the morning, perhaps. Children (under 16) will need to be with an adult, and the luminarium IS wheelchair accessible.

6. Lear Project

At Watergate Theatre, tickets €18

Fri, 15 Aug 6pm      Sat, 16 Aug 6pm        Sun, 17 Aug 6pm

You know, it’s ok not to understand what it all means. I’m a big fan of dance, especially after I learned that truth straight from those involved in the dance world! (You can see more on that in this post.) I’ve also seen a few of John Scott’s productions, so I’m looking forward to this World Premiere. Also, as it is based around Shakespeare, there will be plenty we can understand 🙂

In a world premiere commissioned by Kilkenny Arts Festival, Irish Modern Dance Theatre reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear. Choreographer John Scott and an international cast explore themes of parental love, old age, loss of power, fear of death, personal transformation and enlightenment.

The title role is taken by a legend of the New York modern dance scene: Valda Setterfield, one of the original members of the seminal Judson Church movement and a long-time collaborator of Merce Cunningham and her husband, choreographer David Gordon. The performers portraying Lear’s children include Kévin Coquelard (star of the Paris Conservatoire) and Ryan O’Neill (Ponydance and Junk Ensemble).

Lear Project promises to be a deeply personal, playful and profoundly moving new work.

7. Stargaze

Thurs, 14 Aug 8 pm, St Canices Cathedral. tickets €26- €22

One more event that piqued my curiosity was Stargaze. Again, I’ll give you a bit of info from the festival as I’ve no prior knowledge of them, and below is also a video. You can read all of the Kilkenny Arts Fest blurb on Stargaze here. St Canices’ is a beautiful medieval cathedral, and it is a privilege to be able to go enjoy concerts there.

Founded by conductor André de Ridder, stargaze is one of Europe’s most dynamic chamber orchestras. As well as performing as an ensemble, stargaze also devises and commissions a wide range of collaborative projects in the fields of contemporary pop, electronic and classical music, working with artists as varied as Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Mouse on Mars. For this spectacular gala event, stargaze comes together with Kilkenny Arts Festival to present three radically different projects that explore the possibilities for collaboration between pop and classical music.

There are, of course, LOADS more ace things to see & hear at the festival. This year Kilkenny Arts Festival has a handy at-a-glance calender of listings online. Check that out here.

Also, don’t forget the fringe art & craft shows. I especially enjoy the craft ones in Thomastown– Grennan Mill is always super. If you’d like to see any of the past years’ posts on Kilkenny Arts festival you’ll find them here.


Texel sheep nuzzle each other at Golden Shears ireland competition

it’s all smiles & nuzzles during the Texel sheep competition during Golden Shears Ireland

Chances are when you think of Ireland, you picture a sheep.

And when you think of fun, you picture, ummm, not a sheep, right? But during the Golden Shears Ireland Festival you should picture ’em together!

Here are 3 really cool things about sheep shearing you mightn’t have known: 

sheep - shearing men Golden Shears Ireland

Sheep shearing- who knew there’d be so many sweaty muscular men!

1) It is actually quite exciting! The element of ‘danger’ with a sharp blade & a possibly recalcitrant sheep. Ok, it’s not as exciting as, say, bull riding, but, well, see #2:

2.) Let’s be frank– some of the men are hot! And sweaty & hot! Plus, if you develop a farmer fetish, there’s a book just for you: Would You Marry A Farmer. (More on this below)

3.) At a sheep-shearing festival there’s actually much more than just sheep! 

 eating a  Jane Russell handmade Irish sausages & black pudding Blaa

The Jane Russell handmade Irish sausages & black pudding Blaa was a big hit with Terry!

The Golden Shears festival is running 22-25 May, 2014, so head over to Gorey in co Wexford to check it out. Go on an empty tummy, particularly if you like lamb, as there’s tasty hot food from a nice selection of Good Food Ireland restaurants & food producers.

As well as the competitions in sheep shearing & wool handling, breed showing, shepherding, and sheaf-throwing, you’ll find wool-based art & craft along with stands selling items for farming, family, & fun.

It’s an interesting visit for all the family, and children under 12 go free. Adults €10. Parking is also free, & there’s a free shuttle bus from the car park to the festival. Do wear your wellies, as it is a typically Irish muddy outdoor setting 🙂

Below are photos from our visit, and if you aren’t in Ireland or close to Wexford to visit for yourself, you can also watch a live feed of the competitions here (Sunday 7.30am-6.30pm.) Donegal man Ivan Scott won his 8th All-Ireland Shearing Championship in a row here earlier, and *added bonus* many of these shearers are quite easy on the eye!

When you’re at the festival don’t forget to keep an eye out for Suzanna of Zwartbles Ireland/the owner of The Cat Shepherd (don’t tell him I said he was owned!) doing some raw wool spinning.

PSST– hover over the individual photos for the captions.

Lorna, pictured below with her book, may be the woman to chat to if you find yourself fantasizing of farming fellas. You can get the low-down on what it’s really like in her book, Would you Marry A Farmer? 

Big Draw spirograph colourful art & craftSuper Spirograph!

The BIG DRAW @ National Craft Gallery– Free fun for all ages!

Hands up who had a Spirograph as a kid? Wasn’t it just so cool!? Now you and your kids can relive some of that creative fun during National Drawing Day in Kilkenny’s National Craft Gallery. The events are free, and you can just drop-in; no need to book. So whether you live in the area, or are just visiting Kilkenny, go enjoy something a little different 🙂


National Drawing Day  | Saturday 17th May, 12noon – 4pm

Join the National Craft Gallery for a day of dynamic drop-in drawing activities to celebrate National Drawing Day, taking as inspiration the geometry and pattern in Beauty is the First Test exhibition. Create a large scale Spirograph drawing, weave large drawings in the grass outside, explore line and space in the court yard and re-design works in the exhibition using our Young Makers Worksheets. spirograph designs
Giant Spirograph: Explore the magic of these drawing tools and make your own designs. You are invited to make a group drawing that will stay on display in the gallery for the weekend.
Fibre Mapping: Using the grass as a giant canvas, join us to create huge collaborative fibre line drawings mapping out patterns through colour and line.
Making Space: Follow the architectural and geometric lines of the courtyard using colourful tape to make the courtyard into a gigantic drawing.

Workshops are open to all ages, elements may especially be suited for children, but all the family are welcome to take part.The BIG DRAW is an exciting opportunity to create large temporary artworks! FREE, drop-in events, no booking required!

And for more grown-up fun, don’t miss the Late Date at the National Craft Gallery this Friday 16 May, followed by the launch of the Exhiiot. Again it is free, and you’ll get a glass of wine into the bargain!

Beauty is the First Test: Curator Tour with Liz Cooper

 Fri 16th May, 6pm

Curator of Beauty is the First Test Liz Cooper will give a short tour of the exhibition and discuss the works involved. This will be followed by a launch of the exhibition at 7pm by Tomás Ó Ruairc, Director of the Teaching Council.  Beauty is the First Test will run from 16 May to 9 July, 2014, and the blurb for the show tells us:

Mathematical concepts underpin many craft techniques, especially around textile construction, and can be key tools for artistic development. This exhibition’s intention is to unlock and demystify maths by showing unique and stimulating works of art, and also inviting in-depth consideration of contemporary artistic and craft practices in this wider context. Beauty is the First Test sets out to show that art and mathematics are more closely bound together than many perceive and that the enjoyment of one can enhance the understanding of the other.

I wouldn’t be a big fan of maths, but the idea of  demystifying maths with art is appealing. I can’t wait to see what will be on show. And I think I may go try to hunt down my old spirograph from the attic 🙂

See what else will be happening in conjunction with Beauty is The First Test here

To see what wonderful crafts have been on show before, click here.

valentines day heart

Love conquers all!

What do Queen Victoria, Walt Disney, and Buffy the vampire slayer all have in common?

Claddagh rings!

But do you know the full story behind this Irish ring?

It began in a fishing village in Galway around 1675, and yes, it is a very romantic love story although it doesn’t involve vampires or escaping hell for your beloved.

Still, it does involve capture by pirates and years and years of separation!

Buffy wears a claddagh ring from Angel

Buffy wears a Claddagh ring from Angel

Now, there is a bit of a catch to this story– well, actually two!

I’ve been given a special Claddagh ring offer for readers of the Vibrant Ireland newsletter (you can sign up in the box above on the top right hand corner; if you’re on mobile the box is at the bottom of this post, after the comment section) — 20% off any Claddagh jewellery and/or any other of the Irish-made craft products on the Ireland’s Showcase website. So, catch 1 is that you’ll need to sign up to the newsletter for the discount code. Of course, if you don’t enjoy the newsletter you can easily unsubscribe any time.

Catch 2 is that part of my deal with the very nice people at Ireland’s Showcase is that I write a post for their new blog; so click here to read the the love story behind the Claddagh rings! But sure, you want to go have a nosey at their site anyway, to see what  Irish products you might like to get with your discount 🙂 They’ve perfect gifts for Valentine’s day, from all sorts of jewellery to clothing items, beauty products, & more- plus things for kids!

Do you have a Claddagh ring or other Claddagh jewelery piece? If you’ve a romantic Claddagh ring story of your own, let us know in the comment section below 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Silver and gold Irish Claddagh rings, from

Irish Claddagh rings, from


Eily OConnell, Caera- detail Irish Craft

Eily OConnell- Caera, detail. This was from a show in 2011; she’s also showing in Culture Craft.

 Not to be missed!

CultureCraft is the new exhibit at The National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, on until 19 March, 2014. As always, there are wonderful pieces to see & think about, as well as events for all ages. And all free! Fantastic.

This exhibit focuses on 37 different makers illustrating “how material objects can carry a community’s shared history.” There are all types of craft represented, and I think you will enjoy seeing it all. I’ve seen several of these makers’ work at the NCG over the past couple of years, and there is much to love. (If you’d like to see more on those shows, some of the craft posts are here.)


So get your diary out and mark down a visit to the Craft Gallery & some of these events!


CultureCraft: Curator Tour with Seliena Coyle

Fri 24th Jan, 6pm

Curator of CultureCraft Seliena Coyle will introduce origins of the exhibition, discussing a range of the works on display. The Curators Tour will be followed by the launch of the exhibition in Kilkenny, to be opened by Martin Bradley, Chair of the Crafts Council of Northern Ireland at 7pm.


Late Date: Artist Talk with Caroline Schofield

Thurs 30th Jan, 6pm

Artist Caroline Schofield will join us in the galleries to discuss her sculptural piece in CultureCraft and work in development for the coming exhibition Interlace. Join us for a relaxed discussion about ideas, culture, materials and textile techniques over a glass of wine!


Family Day: Playful Puppets with Mairead Holohan

Sat 8th Feb, 10.30 am + 12 noon, ages 5-12; parents welcome to join in

This Family Day takes inspiration from the curious forms of Helen McAllister’s colourful textile sculptures in the CultureCraft exhibition. These puppet-like legs of tights attached to beautifully hand embellished shoes, suggest movement and attitude. Responding to the exhibition children will work with textile artist Mairead Holohan to make their own Playful Puppet sculptures, learning about pattern, stitching and embellishments.


Late Date: Artist Talk with Nigel Cheney & Helen McAllister

Thurs 27th Feb, 6pm

Artists Nigel Cheney & Helen McAllister both lecture in NCAD and will join us in the galleries in February to discuss the ideas which influence their works in the CultureCraft exhibition and give an overview on their broader artistic practices. Nigel & Helen will also introduce their new book ‘Textile Surface Manipulation’, published by Bloomsbury, London. Join us for an informal evening and a glass of wine!


Family Day: Paper Blossoms with Carrie Lynam

Sabrina Meyns peices craft Ireland

Sabrina Meyns peices from a past craft gallery show

Sat 8th Mar, 10.30am + 12 noon, ages 5-12; parents welcome to join in

This Family Day takes inspiration from Sabrina Meyns paper and silver blossom sculpture in the CultureCraft exhibition, representing her Mothers love of gardening and her Fathers metal-working. Children will work with textile Artist Carrie Lynam to learn simple techniques of wire-work and paper-crafting to design and create their own Spring Blossoms.


Booking is advised for the Family Day activities.

You can find out more about visiting the National Craft Gallery here.

TIP: Right by the Craft Gallery you can get tasty coffee, cake, or lunch everyday at The Design Centre– and its Food Hall cafe is one of the few Kilkenny places open early on Sunday mornings; from 8.30 am each day.

By Jennifer Slattery,  at Utensil
There’s a lot to enjoy at Utensil, the current exhibition at The National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny. There are items you’d love to have on your own table, as well as ones that look like they might bite you back as you ate! The pieces mirror the experiences we have at the dinner table- pleasure, sharing, squabbles, angry or awkward silences full of emotion or worry.
The exhibit gets you thinking about the utensils in your own life, your own family heritage. As Gemma Tipton writes in her Irish Times article about the show:
“There is nothing humble or boring about the spoon in this exhibition, as the German silversmith Wiebke Meurer describes it as ‘an everyday object, always found in the same spot, picked up and handled over and over again. A ritual that lasts for many generations. The life and thoughts of the spoon’s owners merge with the object itself. The spoon becomes a storyteller.'” 
(Ouch!)  items by Stuart Cairns at Utensil
This show was opened during the Kilkenny Arts Festival, & I went along to the informal tour/talk given by Craft curator Angela Kelly, which was quite interesting. These talks are enjoyable & it is interesting to learn more about the pieces, processes, or just even what others think/feel about the works.
If you missed that talk, head over for the free ‘Late Date’ at the gallery (there will be wine!) presented by Ken McGuire, Thurs 30 Aug, 6.30
items from Utensil, during tour
There are a few surprises, like the Whispering Table and Crossfire, so be sure to spend some time with these pieces on your visit.
To see more about the National Craft Gallery, and Utensil, visit their website here.
Utensil will be on show at the gallery until 29 October, 2012.
If you would like to see some of the other wonderful craft items that have been on show at the gallery
 Irish maker Enya Moore also has pieces in the show. 
The photo below is one of her works. (photo from, the rest of the photos are mine.)
Enya Moore