Four women put their new ideas to work
Enterprising quartet find success with their innovative and stylish creations, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
TAKE four girls, take four ideas – and hey presto, you have four businesses. I recently met four such young women whose ideas really took my fancy. Their products are all innovative, stylish, and would make anyone happy on Christmas Day.
Dalkey girl Tara Hammond started up her Slated artisan tableware business just three years ago and it is proving very successful. She is already exporting to various parts of the world, has just got her first English stockist, and her slate platters and table mats are in many restaurants around the country.
Twelve years ago, Tara Haughton married Edward Hammond who had been in his family's roofing business since he was 16.
Though she was looking at slates every day, the idea of a slate tableware business had never crossed her mind.
"Nobody believes this, but I got into this business by accident," says Tara. "I got Ed to make me two table runners from slate instead of having to put down all sorts of little mats for hot dishes. My cousin, Thomas Haughton, head chef in the Westbury Hotel, was in the house shortly afterwards and he asked where I got them. I told him Ed made them and he said I had to get him some!"
Tara says she then had to start the whole process of how to make them food safe, seal them, get bumpers for the backs and so on. Refining all the details took about eight months, but that one visit from her cousin set her on a new course in business.
"I started up in November 2010 and did 'Showcase' in the RDS the following January where I got an order from QVC, the shopping channel.
"That was a brilliant learning curve as I was completely new to the trade. I learned about packaging and 'drop testing' – they have to be dropped from a two-storey building and survive!
"I went over to the US to QVC at that time where I also met Neven Maguire who asked me to make oval shaped platters. He used them on his TV show and in his book, so that was another foot into the restaurant world for me."
Ed cuts the slate and Tara cleans, seals and oils them. She is thrilled to have got her first London stockist a month ago , the ultra chic 'Folklore', a design store in Islington. Louis Mulcahy Pottery in Dingle is, she says, her biggest stockist. She also supplies eateries such as the Chop House in Ballsbridge, 64 Wine in Glasthule, 37 Dawson Street, and Slated retails also in Moss Cottage in Dundrum, Clara's Closet in Skibbereen, Quaint in Co Louth and also sell online.
There is a great range of sizes and shapes and Tara recently launched the Slated Circa range, made from historic slates, which come with a certificate of authenticity from the Hammond family.
"The Circa collection of runners and trays is limited because we have to get slate that is suitable. They take a lot longer to clean and prepare because they have been on roofs for a very long time.
"We know the dates because Ed's father and grandfather used to engrave their initials and dates in the rafters. So, Ed is salvaging quite a lot of slates that had been installed by his father and grandfather.
"The ones we have at the moment are a Blue Bangor slate from Dalkey which is 1845, a Westmoreland Green 1897 and a Westmoreland Grey 1901 from Booterstown."
Look out for her large wood and slate platter which retails at €65. It's a wonderful rustic piece using wood from Kilruddery Estate and perfect for anything from antipasti to cheese or, indeed for serving up a roast in style. Gardeners are not forgotten either in Tara's collection, with a great set of four plant markers complete with a Chinagraph pencil which doesn't come off with the rain, a great present. Prices run from €18 to €94.
Eva Dorney set up her goldsmithing business in 2011, in Windy Arbour, Dublin, making high quality one-off pieces, using traditional hand skills. She makes custom engagement rings, wedding bands and gifts for all occasions. She also creates her own collection of modern jewellery, displaying a strong architectural element and clean contemporary lines.
Originally from Cork, Eva did not go into the jewellery world straight away. "I went to college to do European Studies," says Eva. "It was one of those things where mum and dad said, 'get yourself a degree' and then you can do whatever it is you fancy'. So, when I finished college, my mum enrolled me in a week's course at NCAD for jewellery making and I loved it. I totally decided this was what I wanted to do. I trained then in goldsmithing in Kilkenny and worked in the industry for four years before setting up my own business in 2011.
"I mainly do bespoke work. People come to me with an idea and I design around what they are thinking. I do a lot of engagement and weddings rings. Another thing I do that is really popular is remodelling. So, when people have old gold, odd earrings, broken chains, bits and bobs that are a bit dated and, for the most part, just sitting in a drawer waiting for the burglars, I can transform them and make them into something contemporary they can wear."
Eva has a second string to her bow, which really took my fancy. This is called 'Clasped' and involves interchanging really beautiful precious stone clasps with pearls, or other strings of beads, so you can change your look constantly.
"Most people have pearls and, if you wear them traditionally, they can be a little bit 'mumsy' but if you put add colour by way of a clasp, you can wear that to the front."
If you have your own string of pearls, Eva will restring them, fitting a little bayonet type fitting which facilitates the changing and addition of various clasps. You can chop and change from pearls to coral, blue agate to amethyst et al, there is a superb variety. The clasps come in amazing shapes and colours, ranging from tiger's eye to lemon quartz or aquamarine.
If you have your own pearls, restringing and fitting the bayonet ends costs about €90. Alternatively, a string of pearls from 'Clasped' is €495 whilst clasps themselves are from approximately €100 upwards. Absolutely fabulous.
We hear a lot about foraging in the food world – but Avril Crampton of Blue House Studio in Leopardstown, Co Dublin, spends much of her summer on the beaches of Wexford, foraging for driftwood to make her very beautiful hanging Christmas trees.
Avril has always had an eye for craft and design and enjoyed making things for friends and family. She originally trained in retail display and worked as a display artist in the former Switzer's store on Grafton Street for three years, before becoming an interior designer.
"When the economy went belly up and business dried up, I became a special needs assistant at Newpark Comprehensive where now, due to cutbacks, I do one day a week."
Avril says she had a shed full of fabrics and bits and pieces, so she started making things: "My husband calls me the driftwood junkie."
Her range of gifts are lovely and include a fairyland white Advent House with a cinnamon stick roof, driftwood hanging Christmas trees, card hangers, fairies, driftwood pictures and gnomes of all sizes. Avril is excited to be taking part this year for the first time in the National Craft Fair from December 4-8 at the RDS. Blue House Studio prices range from €5 to €220.
Design Sturm is a new business launched just this month by Linda Spillane, producing contemporary cake stands.
Linda says she is "from Germany and Finland", explaining that whilst her mum is Finnish, she grew up in Berlin. When she was 16 she met her future husband, here in Ireland, and has been living here for the past 12 years.
"I studied Furniture and Interior Design in DIT on Mountjoy Square and I decided to set up my own company with two styles of cake stands and boards," Linda says.
The cake stands are not only really clever and stylish but very practical too. 'Frost' is a raised cake stand which can be dismantled and folded away and costs €35. I also particularly liked her wooden cake boards at €25. Both designs are a take on the old-style doily with attractive cut out edging and would be adored by all those bake and cake enthusiasts out there.
Look out too for her vibrant Christmas hanging ornaments in bright reds, snowflake cream, black and midnight blue. They cost €4 each, two for €7. Really different.
There you are. All it takes is one good idea: slate, jewellery, driftwood or a cake stand. These four enterprising young women are now up and running. So what will you do?