The place of craft in a world of mass production.

The place of craft in a world of mass production.

Exhibition Dates: May 25 – July 4, 2012
National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny.

“I walked through the factory listening to anecdotes and sensing the impending changes in the history of glass manufacturing in Ireland. I felt the poignancy of the loss of traditional skills and intimate technical knowledge of a craft, and anger at the narrow vision that had forced this situation to occur.”
Artist Róisín de Buitléar, on the decline of Waterford Crystal

“Life without industry is guilt, and Industry without art is brutality.”
John Ruskin

Between Art & Industry offers an opportunity to explore the shifting relationships between craft and industry and in doing so, to understand the wider contexts of our past and present and make plans for our future.
With the advent of globalisation, methods of manufacturing have shifted dramatically. Outsourcing of labour to other countries has resulted in the decline of industrial manufacturing in Ireland and the UK. This exhibition reflects on those trends, on their consequences and costs, and on the potential for sustainable, highly skilled small-scale production to offer a new model.

Between Art & Industry has been curated by Ann Mulrooney, Manager and Curator of the National Craft Gallery, and is a co-production with the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown.

“The title of this exhibition expresses the relationship of craft to industry. Craft is an intelligence of the hand that creates the bridge between initial inspiration and finished product. It is a specific, skillful, engaged and physical understanding of materials and process, problem-solving by its nature. Shifting values suggest that the evolution of manufacturing now is towards a closer relationship with craft and the handmade. In that sense, this exhibition could be seen as an arc, responding to the legacies of history but also describing a present in which new manifestations of small-scale production can be seen to emerge and survive,” said Ms Mulrooney.

Three very different artists have created work exploring these themes, using an evocative mix of audio, film and photography as well as beautifully-made objects and installations.

Neil Brownsword and Róisín de Buitléar consciously explore the human costs of industrial decline and the consequent loss of skills and knowledge; Molloy and Sons offer a different model, artisanal rather than social commentary or artistic expression.

Neil Brownsword (UK) is from Stoke-on-Trent, a world centre for ceramic production, and started his career as an apprentice at the Josiah Wedgwood Factory in 1987. Assuming the role of artist/archaeologist, he unearths and salvages by-products from factories, to create an artistic narrative around the steady closure of factories and the disappearance of indigenous skills.

Róisín de Buitléar (Ireland) has a long association with Waterford Crystal, since her student days at NCAD. As a glass artist, she organised many collaborations with the factory, forming personal relationships with some of the 4000 workers, blowers, cutters, engravers and sculptors employed there.  In 2009, with the help of the Crafts Council of Ireland Irish Craft Bursary, de Buitléar began investigating the history of Irish glass, and recorded oral histories of the factory workers. During this period, Waterford Crystal went into receivership and the contents of the KIlbarry plant were sold, a process Buitléar documented photographically during the open viewing.

In a collaborative process that is also an important part of the work, all of the pieces for this exhibition have been made by hand in Waterford at The Irish Handmade Glass Company,a small workshop established after the closure of the Kilbarry plant by four master glassmakers who originally trained in Waterford Crystal. This work is about the celebration of skill that still exists in the country, and not a lament for its loss.

Molloy & Sons (Ireland), is a two man woollen mill, based in Ardara, Co. Donegal. They are one of the few companies who can proudly claim to create authentic Donegal Tweed. Shaun and Kieran come from generations of weavers. Shaun’s father, John, founded a woollen mill in the mid-20th century, but over the years that mill has gone from making tweed to making knits almost exclusively.

A couple of years ago, Kieran brought an industrial design degree back home, and he and his father decided to take the tweed-making equipment out of mothballs and start up a tiny artisanal weaving company that is quietly building an international reputation.

A seminar looking at historical context and future opportunities for craft production and digital technology will be held in Kilkenny in June. For details contact

Touring Exhibition
Between Art & Industry will tour to Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown,
August 4 – September 29, 2012

For more media information about the National Craft Gallery and Between Art & Industry, please contact Christine Monk on 087 675 5329 or