Irish Craft Heroes
50 Years of Irish Craft Kilkenny: 16 July - 6 October
Irish Craft Heroes, a major exhibition celebrating 50 years of Irish craft, coincides with Design & Crafts Council Ireland's (DCCI) 50th Anniversary since its establishment in 1971. To mark this landmark occasion, the National Design & Craft Gallery is producing an outdoor, touring exhibition and publication charting the evolution of the craft and design sector in Ireland over the last 50 years, paying homage to the many makers whose work has contributed to the rich tapestry of craft and design practice in Ireland.
Following the World Crafts Council General Assembly in Dublin in 1970, and arising from the needs of a lively, developing craft sector, Crafts Council was established in 1971 as a voluntary body under the chairmanship of Frank Sutton and a committee of honorary officials. Throughout the past fifty years Crafts Council (Design & Crafts Council Ireland since 2014) has championed Ireland’s designer makers, fostering its growth and commercial strength, raising awareness of the unique identity of Irish craft and design, and stimulating quality design and innovation. In 2021, Ireland is recognised for its exceptional craft and design, which is celebrated throughout the world.
Through a public open call, Design & Crafts Council Ireland invited its members, GANS, partners, and the wider craft and design sector to nominate their #IrishCraftHero: ‘to celebrate makers whose work has significant legacy, has heralded new approaches or changed the way we look at the world.’
This open call invited nominations of standout makers whose work inspires and has significantly impacted the sector over the past 50 years. Through the public form and invited submissions from sector experts over 600 nominations were received.
Following the public nominations, an Expert Committee was convened charged with the difficult task of narrowing the selection to 50 makers: Dr Audrey Whitty, Head of Collections & Learning, National Museum Ireland; Kim Mawhinney, National Museums Northern Ireland; Brian Kennedy, Applied Art Curator; Vincent O’Shea, Curator and Consultant; and Dr Anna Moran, Lecturer Design and Material Culture, NCAD. The Expert Panel reviewed all nominations against assessment criteria of: skill, design, impact, innovation and originality.
The nominations process highlighted the wealth of inspirational makers working in Ireland throughout the last fifty years, making it an exceptionally difficult selection process. It also raised the fact that there are so many other heroes who have, and continue, to significantly contribute in various ways to the sector, through commitment to education; leading development of disciplines through Guilds, Associations Networks and Societies (GANS); establishing innovative projects to support makers; or indeed advocating on behalf of the sector. Through the publication we intend to acknowledge a number of these heroes who were nominated for significantly contributing in other ways to the sector.
In response to current climate, National Design & Craft Gallery are developing the exhibition as a highly visual outdoor experience, with a focus on strong images and sharing makers stories through designed panels. This innovative outdoor presentation will ensure the exhibition can take place no matter restrictions, allowing us to present the exhibition in key locations throughout the country, and ensuring the widest possible audience have an opportunity to engage with the project.
Irish Craft Heroes exhibition will launch in Kilkenny from 15 July to 30 September 2021; touring to Dublin Castle from October to December 2021; and continuing to GMIT Centre for Creative Arts & Media, Galway city in spring 2022 – with further venues to be announced.
Education & Outreach
The publication will be launched at a special event on Thursday 14th October in Dublin Castle to coincide with the World Crafts Council Europe General Assembly, with the announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award. An €2,000 award will be presented to the Lifetime Achievement maker, courtesy of a legacy gift from Breege O’Donoghue, DCCI former Chair. This is special award will acknowledge contribution and impact to the sector of a living maker, who is a leader in the sector with a minimum of 25 years active contribution, selected by the Expert Panel from the Irish Craft Heroes shortlist of 50 makers.