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will be on display at the beautiful, light-filled National Craft Gallery as part of the Craft Strand of the 2011 Kilkenny Arts Festival. The crafts curator, Angela O’Kelly, tells us it will be:
”An exciting mix of emerging and established artists whose work is inspired by the written word, or by the binding and recycling of books and paper, respond to the work of the authors participating in the Literature strand of the festival.”
With 14 different makers displaying their work, it’ll be an eclectic mix, with something for everyone.
Stefan Saffer
I am particularly excited about seeing the work of two people- one is Stefan Saffer, who says his cut outs
”cast a shadow onto the wall to remind you what they are- a space between your thought and another.”
Much of his cut out work is flowing and sensuous, and all his works- sculptures, installations, and folded pieces, have something to say, and not just always in the spaces-
sometimes the text is clear!
Sweepstake by Stefan Saffer
I’m looking forward to seeing what he may be saying ‘in the spaces’ at ‘Modified Expression.’
Rachel Hazell
I’m also looking forward to travelling bookbinder Rachel Hazell‘s work.
She has some beautiful photos on her blog
where she ”sees books in everything”
This image photographed by Rachel is even more interesting when you ‘see a book’ in it.
Rachel has traveled to many places, including the Antarctic, so she’s full of wild & wonderful books. Do click to see more about the trip & pictures of the amazing ‘ice bound: antarctic bookworks’ inspired by her time there.
The bookbinding workshops she’s leading at the festival are also listed under the children’s events, but after reading about her & seeing her work, I know I’d love to go- what about you?
These are only 2 of the interesting makers showing at the festival- there are many more! You may like to have a look at an earlier post containing some of the other craftspeople & events here.
And if you missed it on the Kilkenny Arts festival’s blog page, have a watch of what else Craft curator Angela O’Kelly has to say about the strand.
Hope to see you all at the festival! 

The fabulous Kilkenny Arts Festival 2011 program is here! 
Once again, it is choc-a-blok with intriguing offerings in the areas of music, theatre, dance, literature, visual arts, craft, and kids’ events. Where else would you be able to hear a ”flamboyant harpsichordist,” (Christophe Rousset,) see dance theatre for free from ”incorrigable flirts” ponydance (so says the Irish Times!) and groove to Mongolian traditional music with ”western sensibility” from Hanggai!?!

I am so going to this!! Hanggai
I’ll be blogging on the Craft Strand, and an exciting theme in the strand this year is literature & books.

Modified Expression will be on at The National Craft Gallery, with a range of makers responding to the theme.
Here’s one of them with a rather otherworldly video done in the Dublin suburbs last winter- calligraphy in the snow by Denis Brown, The Real Quill Skill

There will be bookbinding workshopspapercraft workshops and birdsong related workshops for the kids all at the National Craft Gallery.

Laoise O’Brien & Lorna Donlon

For the adults, ‘How Happy For The Little Birds’ is a musical programme connected to the crafts works from Lorna Donlon on display in the Castle Yard- a response to the musical repertoire.

There will also be an artists’ talk in the National Craft Gallery, and an early evening Celebration of the Year Of Craft .

Hot Glass Divas will be on at Jerpoint Glass Studio
I’m also really looking forward to seeing the Hot Glass Divas works on show at Jerpoint Glass (located outside of Thomastown,) – definitely worth a drive, because you can then also see the exhibits on show at Grennan Mill Craft School.

Clive Nunn is one of the makers who’ll be showing in Grennan Mill. Check out the others by clicking here & scrolling down to where the listings are for ‘Other Selections.’ There are plenty to see!

 So there’s a small taste of the Festival. It is well worth going to; nothing is expensive, much is free, and Kilkenny is a lovely, small city- easy to get around on foot. Take some time out, check all the listings, & plan to enjoy some fun, unusual, thought provoking & beautiful exhibits and events. See you there!

The National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny City has 2 beautiful shows on at the minute. (Note- they’re over now- BUT DO look at the photos of the fabulous items! You won’t be sorry you took a minute to do so.)
close up of ‘Shades of Green’ by Marika Miklosi Manning
21st Century Icons is a show where makers were asked to re-imagine the iconic ancient Celtic neckwear- the torc.

Full photo of ‘Shades of Green’ byMarika Miklosi Manning
‘Wild Fortunes’ by Emma Bourke- stunning, but hard to photo- go see in person!
‘Sarvi Neckpiece’ by Tuula Harrington and Roisin de Buitlier
‘Follow me on Twitter’ by Laura Macnamara is perfect for the 21st c Celt!
‘Twisted Torque’ by Julia Connellan
‘White Ruffle Necklace’ by Rachel McKnight ( & ooh, she has an online shop!)
This detail from ‘Caera’ by Eily O’Connell really caught my eye. The whole piece has an interesting story behind it- made from the wool of a found deceased sheep! she says ”Torcs were traditionally buried with the dead but this neckpiece reverses that practice and now the dead lives on, adorning the living.” I think one of the bits looks like a skull, do you?More beauty!
Also on until July 6 is Bruce Metcalf’s show, with more fab wearable beauty. Here are a few photos from it, too.
by Bruce Metcalf
by Bruce Metcalf
by Bruce Metcalf
by Bruce Metcalf
by Bruce Metcalf
Not by Bruce Metcalf! A friendly visitor!

If you love seeing beautiful things, wonderfully made & with interesting stories behind them, I highly recommend visiting The National Craft Gallery.  We’ve been several times this year and have loved each show. ( For other posts on the visits, click here.) Also call over to the Butler Gallery across the road in Kilkenny castle. We just went to the opening of their new youth curated show ‘From Us, Through Them, To You’ and really enjoyed it! A post on that coming soon, with video!
Have YOU seen any great Irish based craft or art lately? Tell us about it in the comments section, go on, go on, go on! 🙂


Update: Here’s a new video of the process, from sheep at Kilkenny Zwarbles farm onwards! Have a watch of the video just below:

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Cushendale%20Woollen%20Mill%20and%20Zwartbles%20Ireland”]
cushendale woolen mill soft throws

Cushendale Woolen Mill soft throws

One of the hidden treasures on the Kilkenny Craft Trail is the Cushendale Woolen Mill, tucked away on a hill by the little gurgling river Duiske in Graignamanagh. Here the Cushen family continue the 800+ yr old tradition of woolen mills in Graig: their website tells us:

”In 1204 Cistercian monks, having discovered the pure water quality of the River Duiske, built a monastery and mills in Graig-na-managh. Their monastery prospered through the export of wool, to become their largest Irish foundation – Duiske Abbey. In time, the small town of Gráig na Manach ~ “the monks’ village”grew up around the abbey and its mills.”
Cushendale uses Irish wool and lambswool, as well as mohair, and produces many wonderful finished 

products, as well as knitting yarns.
The river Duiske’s water makes the colours more vibrant

Much handwork still goes in to the items produced by the woolen mill.

This is one job I’d definitely fail at- I can’t even cut a short length of paper straight. Highly impressed!

Along with the bright jewel tones, many natural tones are used.
As well as the beauty of the yarns, & the skills of
the mill workers, the machines & contraptions in
themselves were quite wonderful to see.

Such beauty in some of the old bits of machinery!

The rough & the soft.
Cushendale makes genuine Irish products, and I must say Thank You so much to Bernie Neville, Kathleen Joyce, Sheila Jordan & Beata Kesek, and Philip & Mary Cushen– not just for the friendly tour, but for the evident pride you have in your work; continuing on such a wonderful Irish craft tradition in the heart of a very special medieval village.

 Get down to the National Craft Gallery quickly, by May 11, and you can see these beauties & more from the Irish Craft Portfolio.  If you can’t make it, enjoy these photos I took- there were many items that the camera/I didn’t do justice to, but here are some that came across fine. (The buns are at the bottom of the blog- just wait!)
(Please let me know if I’ve mislabeled any makers!)
love this curvy ‘Eye Candy’ by glass artist Catherine Keenan
fabulous angular furniture by 
ceramics by Frances Lambe– wish I could touch them!
more ‘Eye Candy’ from Catherine Keenan
 The way light shone through the piece was gorgeous and warm- like a fire in the belly.
Cara Murphy‘s shining silver pieces
(help welcome- I’ve lost who made this spectacular table)
Nuala O’Donovan‘s porcelain ceramic of a teasel flower- *want* but wouldn’t want to dust 😉
luminous beauty from glass artist Karl Harron 
wild and wonderful baskets were made by Joe Hogan, who also gives courses!
think this is Karl Harron’s again- the light played right through it
this photo does not do justice to Sabrina Meyns’ delicate paper & silver botanical jewellery.

After the Craft Gallery, we headed across the street to Kilkenny Castle, where a brand new exhibit, Vera Klute‘s ‘Blindganger’ was having its opening in the Butler Gallery. We loved it, and I’m going to re-visit when it is not so busy. I have to miss the discussion on the show this Friday 13 May, but do go if you can- is free and at 1pm at the gallery. I think the exhibit is quite interesting- with some lovely drawing as well as video & sculpture, its playfulness and slight ‘icky’ factor to some pieces should appeal to school children as well; a great way to introduce them to gallerys/art.
Hungry, we made our way over to Stonehouse bookshop for Edward Hayden’s Food To Love
cookery book demo. Foolishly, we 1st stopped off at Homemade & ate tasty spelt baugettes, drank fab coffee and ate fantastic buns. I say foolishly, because the very entertaining Edward made lemon cheesecake, multiseed scones, and chocolate biscuit cake & then shared them with the audience! We were too full of sweet overload to try them all- though we did manage a yummy nibble of scone!
Once again Kilkenny satiated our appetites, cultural and stomach-al 😉
Disclamer: buns photos not at the bottom of blog- Blogger will only put the photos of them on the top! So I’ve added them to the Foodspotting bar at the top right side of the blog.  

‘Untitled 10’   Rowan Mersh
(I took this photo, & the ones following at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny)

Art, Craft
Kilkenny is known as the craft capital of Ireland, a title I think it deserves. (Disclosure- I live here!) But I also think of it as the arts capital of rural Ireland; especially with exhibitions like this one- Jerwood Contemporary Makers, at the (free!) National Craft Gallery until 8 March. It blurs the line between art & craft. Now, I’ll confess right here that I am not an art scholar, nor an artist or craftsperson- I’m just someone who enjoys– so I’m not going into intellectual (or even informed!) discussion about ”is there a/what is the difference between art & craft.” (If you are interested in that discussion, like me, you can head to this free event over at the Butler Gallery on 3 March, which should be quite good.)

Don’t Touch!
Many of the pieces on display were incredibly tempting to touch- so many textures & materials inviting a stroke,

‘Willow Pattern with Uncertainty’   Robert Dawson

a follow with a finger along a bumpy surface,

‘Surface Form’   Laura Ellen Bacon

or even the slipping in of a foot into a modern Cinderella shoe.

‘Rotationalmouldedshoe’    Marloes ten Bhomer

I’ve a lovely camera phone, but there were things it couldn’t quite capture, like the fabulous birds in Karon Nicol’s‘Scribble’ lace piece. (Click her link & click then on ‘lace’ to see it.)
This necklace piece by Nora Fok, ‘ Disc-florets, ‘ fared a bit better on my phone. It was mesmerizing in person.

I took a few photos of a piece where there was a rather amusing surprise. I’ve decided not to post them, because I don’t want to ruin it for you! Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it…
I’ll just say it was by Tony Hayward, & the way the piece was placed  meant that I had already formed a mental image of what it would be as I approached, & didn’t see the surprise straight away. If you won’t be going to the show and you’d like to see what the piece was, click here and then click here. This second click will also tell you more about the piece/series.

Year of Craft 2011
I recommend the show- there is a nice variety, so I believe most anyone will find things they enjoy. You can then also go just across the street to Kilkenny Castle, where you’ll also find The Butler Gallery- where you can see Elemental, an exhibition by Alan Counihan. (On til 6 March.)  Coming on show next in the National Craft Gallery will be Irish Craft Portfolio craftwork, also part of the nationwide events, craft trails, & shows all part of Ireland’s exciting Year of Craft 2011. So, although I’ve bragged that Kilkenny is the Irish capital of craft, there’s plenty elsewhere in the country- click the Year of Craft link to see! And enjoy!!