Irish designers and craftspeople creating a buzz

The new Create showcase at Brown Thomas is celebrating a fantastic variety of Irish craft work

L to R: Tara Hammond of Slated, Pearse Caulfield of Caulfield Country Boards, Vivien Walsh Jewellery Designer & Chloe Dowds of Chloe Dowds Ceramics pictured at the launch of the fifth year of Create at Brown Thomas,showcasing 65 Irish designers across craft, fashion and accessories which

Lucinda O'Sullivan

Last Tuesday saw the launch of Create at Brown Thomas, showcasing and celebrating the works and talent of some 50 Irish designers and craftspeople. The event will run until August 16 in Dublin, with pop-ups also taking place in Brown Thomas Cork and Limerick. This is the fifth year of Create, which coincides with 2015 being the Year of Irish Design. Brown Thomas have been very supportive of emerging Irish designers, for whom it is an incredible opportunity to have their creative works sitting beside long established international designers, particularly in the tourism season, when so many people from around the world will see their work. I have been looking at the craft and accessories end of what's on exhibit, some of the creators with whom I am already familiar and a great admirer of their work.

Vivien Walsh is one of our brilliant jewellery designers and her twice-yearly collections are always tantalising. Like everybody else in Ireland, over the past few years Vivien had pared down her business during the recession, but, in 2011, she opened a bijou atelier in Monkstown, which is a magnet for her devoted regular clientele. Vivien has an amazing eye for designing something that is just perfect for you.

"Lots of exciting things have been happening here. I have designed two special collections for Create, using luxury shell pearls and crystals…very strong shapes and statement pieces," Vivien explained. "Retail sales are up this year as confidence returned to the market, and our online sales are growing steadily. There are now four of us working between the studio, ecommerce and retail. We have grown our retail partners to over 30, between outlets here in Ireland and overseas, and we are looking to expand even more in the next 12 months, as we are taking part in our first trade show in Paris in September. I'm really looking forward to the next six months to see where our journey will take us and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

Tara Hammond of Slated Artisan Tableware has also seen a big pick-up in her business. Tara said she started her business almost by accident some five years ago. Her husband's family have been master slate craftsmen since the 18th Century. They were having a family gathering, and Tara asked her husband, Ed, to cut a piece of slate to use as a table runner. Her cousin, a chef, was at the gathering and asked her where she got it. Now Tara's slate tableware is used in top restaurants here and abroad. "Our direct sales to international markets have dramatically increased," she told me. "We have achieved international growth in top-end contemporary lifestyle stores, securing new stockists in Canada, North America and the United Kingdom, and we will be building on this success. We have also supplied new restaurants in Germany, the UK and Ireland."

Chloe Dowds is a young ceramic artist based in Co Wicklow. She drew her early influences in the visual world from her grandparents, Jeremiah Hoad, the distinguished landscape painter, and Judith Hoad, who was also a craftsperson. Chloe did Fine Art Ceramics in Galway and took an MA in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Limerick. She then did the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland's (DCCoI) pottery course in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, and, in 2014, won both the DCCoI Future Makers Judges Spotlight Award and the Mill Cove Gallery Irish Ceramic Awards New and Emerging Maker Award.

Her hand-thrown porcelain work is high-fired, making it strong and durable. She does amazingly clean-cut pieces that manage to have a soft, flowing edge about them. You immediately want to pick them up and feel them. She does tableware, but also very interesting pendulous vases, which are suspended by nylon-coated trace wire, forming, as it were, an 'installation' to your own requirements.

Caulfield Country Boards is based in Kells, Co. Meath. They count, between them, John, a joiner; and his son, Pearse, a joiner/philosopher; and his daughter, Louise, a geologist/baker.

John set up Caulfield Joinery in 1978 but, due to the downturn in the economy in recent years, the joinery business had slowed considerably. Having returned from Australia in 2011, and with her interest in baking, Louise wanted boards for serving baked goods. The family joinery obliged.

At this point, the trio saw that there was a niche in the market for locally crafted wooden serving boards. Look out for their large chopping block fitted with a removable stainless steel bowl - no more waste bits all over your worktop as you chop. They will also customise the boards, or add corporate logos.

Killian Schurmann, from Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, is also featuring at Create with his amazing colourful glass sculptures and paintings. Schurmann - a son of the late Gerda Fromel, the internationally recognised sculptor, - produces three-dimensional pieces and fused glass panels, having developed a method of fusing molten glass, colour pigments and other materials to form abstract, transparent landscapes and natural details.

Also quite beautiful is the work of Tricia Harris, a furniture designer from Co Kerry, who is now based in Dublin; her design studio is in The Chocolate Factory. She creates pieces of furniture that are not just functional, but which are works of art that will give you enormous pleasure for many years to come. Take a look at her old-style draper's cabinet, made from original mahogany from a 1950s drapery shop countertop. It features a stainless steel measuring tape and a secret compartment. However, if you want drama and a piece of furniture that will be talked about for years, invest in her luxurious, art deco-style Swirl, which is an elliptical-shaped drinks cabinet, that has elegant, beautifully curved doors. Anyone for cocktails?

Other craft designers at Create include Jerpoint Glass from Co. Kilkenny; Red Rufus Sock Dogs by Christina Sanne; Waterford Crystal; Cloon Keen Atelier from Galway; Duffy Bookbinders: Little Tree Crafts by Joe Jennings; The Irish Linen House and Chaim Factor.