Let's get crafty
Tanya Sweeney discovers country-wide creative classes where you can make your own gifts
As Pablo Picasso famously intoned, "every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up". Time, energy and work often conspire to get in the way of our creative intentions, yet scratch the surface and you'll find no shortage of courses that could help you on your way.
In the run-up to the festive season, getting crafty is a handy and cost-effective way to tackle that Christmas gift list.
Whether you're a long-dormant painter, a would-be fashionista or if you even wondered what glass-blowing might be like, you're sure to find a getaway that appeals.
An hour out of Dublin, and a stone's throw from the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan (solsticeartscentre.com), Thomas Diem showcases his range of eye-catching ceramics in his Ashbourne studio (diempottery.com).
Although born in New York, Diem moved to Malahide as a child and learned from various leading Irish potters. He also offers a range of craft experiences to visitors, from Paint A Pot sessions (from €12) to blocks of art classes, encouraging attendees to find their own individual style. Learn everything from glazing to how to master the tricky potter's wheel.
Call 01-835 9083.
Down against the idyllic backdrop of West Cork, the Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre (kinsaleceramics.com) offers a wide range of courses for children and adults. Try a one-day taster pottery class, a mosaic-making weekender or even a sewing/clothes-making weekend. Hen parties, package deals and corporate groups are also on offer. Prices and dates vary.
Call 021 477 7758.
Tea-lovers, meanwhile, can create their own ceramic mug at the Blue Pool Gallery in Muckross, Killarney, Co Kerry, (maryneesonceramics.com). Located next to the Killarney National Park, the Blue Pool Gallery is run by ceramic artist Mary Neeson. There, she showcases her own bronze and porcelain creations which include porcelain pillows, gorgeous lighting and inspirational wall pieces.
Call 064 662 049.
Elsewhere in Kerry, Dingle has long been known as a creative enclave, and this winter you can join in the fun at renowned potter Louis Mulcahy's studio in Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula (louismulcahy.com). Louis has been potting for almost 40 years, and moved his operation to Dingle in the 1970s. In 2004 he became the first Irish craftsman to receive an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland in recognition of his artistry, so you'll certainly be learning from one of the best.
Ursula Tramski (smashingpots.com) works in the area too, and creates her work in a traditional Japanese Anagama Kiln.
To give visitors a taste of how to create their own ceramics, Ursula regularly holds classes and informal pottery events in her light-filled studio.
Call 066 915 477.
For something a little more old-school, head to the sunny south east for a spot of weaving. At Wexford's Ceadogan Rugs (ceadogan.ie), local artists have been making floor and wall rugs since 1989. Rug weaving workshops are regularly held in the 18th century courtyard overlooking the spectacular Bannow Bay.
Call 051 561 349.
In Mayo, the age-old art of rug-making meets the 21st century at Foxford Woollen Mills (foxfordwoollenmills.com) with a self-guided multi-media tour of the historic mill. There's also an on-site gourmet eatery and gift shop overflowing with blankets, throws and scarves so that would-be weavers can make a day of it.
Basket weaving – time-honoured a craft though it is – can often be overlooked as a potential hobby. Still, those who are curious can repair to Carbury, Co Kildare, where at Basket Barn (kathleenmccormick baskets.com), Kathleen McCormick teaches the whys and wherefores of basket-making to small groups, from growing the willow to finishing off a piece.
Call 086 880 7208.
In Co Roscommon, Frances Crowe (francescrowe.com) runs a variety of workshops to suit everyone, from spinning to tapestry-weaving and painting. Inspired by the surroundings of her own rural idyll, she's a dab hand at creating eye-catching works of art and is only too happy to impart her knowledge to adults and children.
Call 090 662 9641.
Those with a taste for the truly esoteric might want to try their hand at decorative ironwork. If this is more your speed, make haste to the oceanside artistry at Cronin's Forge (croninsforge.ie), just outside Durrus, Co Cork.
There you'll learn everything you need to know about wrought iron artistry, and how to create your own wrought iron tables and table lamps.
Call 027 61114.
Meanwhile, husband and wife team Michael Calnan and Gunvor Anhoj can be found at their forge at Russborough House in Wicklow (calnan-anhoj.ie). This affable pair of blacksmiths, whose work can be found in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, have plenty of unusual courses coming up, including fireside tool, candle holder, axe and knife-making courses. Prices and dates vary.
Call 085 139 0222.
Newgrange is already steeped in history, so where better to learn the age-old craft of woodturning and creating your own furniture? Craftsman Seamus Cassidy (seamuscassidy.ie), the winner of the 2013 RDS Craft Competition, produces beautiful wooden bowls, platters and sculptural forms and shares his skills with masterclasses and workshops for all levels.
Elsewhere in Meath, visit Dunshaughlin's Joe Laird Woodturning Studios and School (joelairdwoodturning.com). They run demonstrations and classes for all abilities, allowing students to create their own handiwork.
Call 041 982 5032.
In Inchaloughra in Kerry, the Goose Island Workshop (gooseislandworkshop.ie) regularly holds two-day and week-long workshops, meaning you can leave the Kingdom with furniture made by your own fair hands. Prices start at €140 for a two half-days introductory masterclass.
Call 066 713 9896.
In the creative hub of Stoneyford in Kilkenny, you'll find the renowned Jerpoint Glass Studio (jerpointglass.com) where you can see local craftsmen drawing on a 2,000-year tradition.
Call 056 772 4350.
For something a little more hands-on, Terence MacSweeney at the Kerry Crafted Glass hub (irishkerryglass.com) near Killarney offers attendees private lessons by arrangement for adults and children. Miriam O'Callaghan and Gabriel Byrne reportedly own Kerry Crafted Glass pieces.
Call 064 664 3295.
Dublin has a new dressmaking school. A recent addition to Capel Street's increasingly trendy vibe is When Poppy Met Daisy (whenpoppymetdaisy.com), a modern twist on the age-old dressmaking tradition. From alterations classes to creating your own vintage-inspired garments in a day, this is the place for fashionistas who want something different. Fifties silhouettes, burlesque fashion and a modern twist on conventional needlework are big news in this place. There's also a cocktail thrown in for good measure.
While Santa has no shortage of cuddly toys, you'd do well to know how to create your own teddies. At Bear Essentials (bearessentials.ie) in Bawnboy, Co Cavan, owner Anke Morgenroth designs and makes beautiful teddy bears. Better still, she offers workshops for groups of all ages who want to make their own customised mohair bear (€30 per person for a group of five). Also on offer in the run-up to Christmas is a gingerbread house workshop for €50 per person.
Call 049 952 3461.
For something truly unique, sign up to learn bone-carving. Once you pick up the basics, it's easy to create truly original art forms, jewellery and ornaments. At Dubliner Aoife McGough's Bone Carving Studio in Galway (bonecarving.ie), pendants, brooches and sculpture are designed using pieces of cow bone sourced from local butchers.
Sign up for a one-day carving class (available Monday to Saturday at 10am, €65pp) and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of handiwork. Call 086 665 8100.