Tuesday 23 July 2019

Niamh Horan: 'How millennials are seeking imperfect luxury - and shunning mass production'

Another arts and crafts movement takes hold as young shun mass production, says Niamh Horan

Ceramic artist Ruth Power in her studio. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ceramic artist Ruth Power in her studio. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

They're often dismissed for their picture-perfect selfies and herd-like consumer mentality, but a new trend is emerging among millennials. They are turning their backs on mass-produced items in favour of imperfect luxuries.

Ruth Power (30), owner of Danu ceramics, explains: "At the turn of the century, a movement of artists, makers and philosophers emerged to criticise industrialisation and offer an alternative to the standardised products churned out by factories."

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What became known as the 'Arts and Crafts movement' stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration, which remained true to the materials used.

"This is happening again almost exactly a century later with the makers-movement, especially among millennials," says Ruth. "They are rejecting mass-produced factory items in favour of handmade, local products, which have evidence of being made by human hands."

She adds: "There is a craving for mindfulness, authenticity and sustainability, which is also evident in the slow food movement. They are willing to spend more on quality and buy less. They want to know the story and person behind the object."

Ruth's ceramics focuses on wabi-sabi, an ancient philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, that values beauty in the imperfect.

"The rise in social media has the majority of us feeling as if we need to present the perfect life online," says Ruth.

"The near constant comparison of our lives to others is now cited as being hugely detrimental to our mental health. Because of this, people are trying to embrace the relaxed principals of wabi-sabi."

Characteristics of the Japanese philosophy include modesty, an appreciation for the natural world and the ageing process. Ruth says handmade crafts are also a response to the scourge of mobile phones.

"Objects made and experienced by hand provide an antidote to the illuminated, simulated screen experiences we consume for hours each day. Handmade objects can assist in our sensual vigilance within an increasingly de-materialised world, helping to rouse us out of a sensory numbness."

Ruth's work will be part of Showcase 2019 at the RDS today, where more than 2,500 buyers from 26 countries are attending the annual trade fair that promotes Irish-designed goods, fashion, jewellery and crafts.

Karen Hennessy, CEO of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, says: "The signs are good for Showcase this year. We are expecting an increase in the number of international buyers attending, which reflects the growing global interest in Irish design and craft. Our pre-registrations from UK buyers are up by 12pc on last year despite the uncertainty of Brexit. Showcase is incredibly important as it is our biggest annual opportunity to spotlight the depth and range of our most talented Irish designers, manufacturers and craftspeople."

Sunday Independent

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