Narrative Tools Blog

May 2020 - 2021

Welcome to the Narrative Tools blog.

Our online Narrative Tools blog will continue to grow over the coming 12 months. Here you will find updates and additional recorded information on our monthly public engagement activities and content gathered. If you would like to contribute to our blog please email  

To view our Narrative Tools online exhibition page please click here 

Call Out                                                         Narrative Tools Online Exhibition                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             We invite you to send a photograph of a treasured handed-down tool or inherited hand-made items and tell NDCG why it is important to you. We advise to photograph or scan your items on a plain white or non patterend background at a high quality. Email your submission to or post to: Narrative Tools project, National Design & Craft Gallery, Castle Yard, Kilkenny. Include your name, photograph(s) and brief image description. Penned narratives are also welcome (120 words max).

GDPR: Your details will be held securely for the purposes of the project in line with Design & Crafts Council Ireland policy, and will not be shared with any other person/agency.


Heritage Week Webinar: Tools Of The trade
Thursday 20 August, 3pm 

Join the National Design & Craft Gallery (NDCG) with visual artist Caroline Schofield and special guests, for an informal panel discussion focusing on heritage crafts. This webinar will highlight a selection of wonderful stories gathered as part of the NDCG’s Narrative Tools Project. Special guests will also share expert knowledge of heritage craft skills & collections. Panel participants and audience members will be encouraged to consider how we can preserve and in-still the value of Irish craft knowledge & skills for future generations. Suitable for adults. Free zoom webinar, advanced booking required. Register here

Narrative Tools Project Gathering For DCCI GANS Members                                               Friday 7 August, 3pm                                  NDCG along with visual artist Caroline Schofield, would like to directly engage with DCCI GANS members as part of the ‘Narrative Tools’ public engagement project. This online gathering includes an introductory overview about ‘Narrative Tools’, as well as interactive group activities with members of various GANS. Guest speakers include Mary Palmer, of the Cork Textiles Network and The Quilters Guild of Ireland, along with Colm Bagnall of the Irish Artist Blacksmiths Association. We invite all attending, to bring along a craft tool or item to discuss. Free zoom webinar, advanced booking required. Duration 45 min. Register here

If you would like to contact us about this event please email .

Paul Bokslag
My grandfather worked in a small fruit import office in Rotterdam, the Netherlands for many years. His real passions however were writing poetry and short articles and making things with his hands. He was a master of papier-mâché and loved lettering. I remember admiring his work as a child and I still have some of his ink, pen-nibs and a book that he learned from in my studio.                                                                                                                                                                             

Martha Cashman
My attachment to the items of my past was heightened in childhood when my uncle returned from America to clear out and sell my grandparent’s home. Seeing my three brothers being allowed to chuck and smash the items from The Parlour ‘the out of bounds room’ across the yard to the horse trough was devastating. After much protest I was able to rescue several items of old fine china and coloured glass ware, old records and tools from the kitchen. Forty years later these items are all dispersed throughout my sister’s and niece’s homes, all held in a special place of the home.

Ryan Connolly
The upholstery tools in the image are, from left, Hyde pliers, tailor’s shears and pincers. These and others were the tools my father used, they were a means to create keep going, little else was probably thought of them at the time. It is only now as we see less and less people working by hand that we appreciate the value of the work, the people who did it and in this case their tools.

Mark Campden
My father’s bamboo brush pot was a junk shop find in his home town of Banbury when he was an art student. The brushes are Japanese, like sumi brushes but firmer. They are about 40 years old and I haven't found anything of the same quality. One is marked by my father as a wax only brush but now is too precious to use with wax!

Cara Murphy
Hammers are very special to a silversmith as they are the main tool we use. Some are my dad’s, some are mine, some we share and others we don’t! Some I have been gifted by different silversmiths I have worked with including several from Mogens Bjorn-Andersen (Denmark). Some are forged from the Design & Crafts Council Ireland blacksmith course, some came from Prague, others America….

Jane Murtagh
I was very fortunate to meet generous silversmiths and metalsmiths as a young student from Dun Laoghaire Art School in the late 1970's. The planishing hammer was given to me by Cynthia Rice from the Kilkenny Design Silversmithing studio. We visited the studios around 1978 and my memory of Cynthia was that she was a quiet English woman who lived on a barge and as we left she handed me this planishing hammer, I use it constantly.

Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck
I inherited this dusting brush from my Father – Bent Ambeck – who was a Danish civil engineer and used it when he was making work drawings, back in the days before computers...My Father died suddenly in 1990 when I was 16, so I never got a chance to ask him questions regards the brush, but it was on his worktable and now it is on mine. I have used it for many years now, both as a graphic designer when I draw, and when I need a tidy workspace to make my artist's books.

Peter Sheehan
Clearing my father's garage - a clutter of things that might come in handy - I came across a number of his tools that I have added to my own clutter of things. It is as much to remind me of him as anything else… He was a maker and repairer of things that you needed - a trailer, a bench, a gandalow (of sorts), a drawing board for me, a desk for my brother. The things he made were improvised with what materials he had - usually off-cuts of deal & marine ply - and could never be described as highly crafted. They were made to fulfil a need, with love and no fuss.

Síne Vasquez
An engineer by profession, my Dad also made the most beautiful furniture, purely for the love of the craft. My grief after losing him propelled me further into jewellery making, the act of making providing relief from a loss that was swallowing me whole. And the realisation that life is too precious not to do the things we love prompted me to return to study as a jeweller.

Bernadette Keogh
My father bought this map and before we took any journey he would map out the route and I would always tell him what town was coming up ,he would put the map on the dashboard of the car and on the way home we would turn it the opposite way around. We used to travel between West Cork and Cavan and when we got to Granard you could see the spark in his eyes he was so delighted to be at his home county.

Nicola Watson
This image shows my grandmother's embroidery scissors and her precious sewing box. My grandmother, Sadie, was a mill worker in Bessbrook and spent many a long day working with her hands. She had a make do and mend attitude, nothing was discarded. I could imagine her mending shirts and replacing buttons. I am now an Art teacher, specialising in textiles and sewing. This interest in sewing was nurtured by my grandmother, passing both skills and tools, down the generations. I hope to pass these to my daughter one day.

Eimear Earley
My grandmother died when I was 12. I remember her as a frugal housewife, baking bread, making packed lunches and mending clothes. Some 20 years later, her sewing box came to me when the house was being cleared out. It contains the expected items like needles & thread (with various vintage spool labels) and evidence of her thrifty ways; cards of darning yarn,scraps of fabric to be used for patches, and a collection of odd buttons - spares snipped from the labels of shirts, cardigans and jackets. I do wonder what she would make of me now, darning my own socks and patching holes in her great-grandchildren’s leggings.

Emma McGrath
This was a bracelet that my grandmother May gave me for my 21st. It’s a 9ct gold bracelet made especially for her for her 21st and was commissioned by Grandfather James in 1929 (so bracelet 91 years old). It’s priceless to me. My grandmother instilled my love of fashion and sewing plus shopping. It was fashioned on the torque brooch, Ireland at the time was in its infancy as a free state and cultural references of the Celts were fashionable.