Local crafters ready to take on the world
Three North Wexford craft businesses are hoping to break into Irish and export markets, having made a big impression on buyers at Showcase in the RDS.
The four-day event was organised by the Design and Crafts Council.
Alice J Kelly of Alice J Kelly Millinery; Aine Breen of Liwu Jewellery; and Amanda Byrne of Highbury Designs, were supported in the Enterprise Zone at the event by their Local Enterprise Office in Wexford.
'It was brilliant,' said Alice J Kelly from Blackwater. 'I got some great new contacts and some extra boutiques.'
Alice went into the business of creating bespoke hats and fascinators four years ago. After school, she worked as a tailor with James Wallace in Wexford, before getting married and raising a family of four.
'In 2000, I took a Diploma in Interior Design, and worked at that for ten years,' she said. 'I then got interested in hats, and started making pieces for race meetings, weddings, and so on.'
She's been making hats full time for two years, with great support from her family. Her two older daughters model her creations for her.
She sells exclusively to just one boutique in each town, and her hats are sold in Ruby Rouge in Gorey. For more, see www.alicejkelly.com .
Amanda Byrne started Highbury Designs in Tara Hill two years ago. 'I worked with Bank of Ireland for seven years before my son was born,' she said.
She later began making crafts and hats, and then did a business course with Wexford Enterprise Board.
Amanda attended the Showcase last year, and says she learnt a lot in the following 12 months. 'This year is going to be busier,' she said. 'I got a great reaction to this year's Showcase.'
She said she had interest in her classic hats and accessories from as far away as Japan, and she's also talking to a big department store in Dublin. 'I'm working for next autumn/winter already,' she stated, adding that she also had interest from several boutiques around the country.
For more information, see www.highburydesigns.com .
Aine Breen from Ballymoney was inspired by a stay in Beijing, China, to start Liwu Jewellery.
'I studied Chinese calligraphy in Beijing,' she said. 'I moved home a year ago, and started the business in the past year.'
She also works part-time as an accountant, but hopes to go into jewellery making a lot more, especially since the exposure she got at Showcase.
She makes delicate jewellery with Chinese calligraphy, inspired by the ancient meaning of the beautiful characters. Liwu means gift.
'I sell mainly online, and through Whitmores and Place in Gorey,' said Aine.
She added that she got orders from across the country during Showcase. 'It was excellent,' she said. 'It was a great opportunity to be able to go to the RDS as part of the Enterprise Board.'
'It's hard to start off and get known, so the Showcase gave great exposure,' she said.
For more information, see www.liwujewellery.com
In 2010, the Local Enterprise Offices supported 35 small businesses at Showcase through subsidised stands. But this figure tripled to a record-breaking 105 businesses this year which celebrates 'Irish Design 2015'.