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Sharp minds: Five innovators receive €10,000 bursary to give crafty designs a leg-up in retail

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Bladesmith Sam Gleeson from Ennistymon, Co Clare, who makes bespoke knives, was one of the winners. Photo: Coalesce

Bladesmith Sam Gleeson from Ennistymon, Co Clare, who makes bespoke knives, was one of the winners. Photo: Coalesce

Bladesmith Sam Gleeson from Ennistymon, Co Clare, who makes bespoke knives, was one of the winners. Photo: Coalesce

In an ideal world, fashion designer Ciara Allen would love men and women to be sharing the same outfits.

One couple, one wardrobe, lots of shared pieces and all the better for sustainability too.

The 24-year-old from Lucan, Co Dublin, launched her own brand last November and less than two years after graduating from NCAD, she is one of five talented emerging talents to receive a €10,000 bursary in the 2021 RDS Craft Awards.

This year’s RDS Craft Awards recognise makers ranging from fashion to furniture, knife-making to glass-making.

The coveted awards are the largest annual prize fund for craft makers in Ireland and are specifically awarded at a critical time in early professional careers. The winners also receive an important leg-up into the retail sector, with a stand at Gifted, the contemporary craft and design fair held annually at the RDS in December.

The skills of this year’s bursary winners range from fashion design to bladesmithing, an art that dates back thousands of years. Two glass artists have been recognised along with an innovative furniture maker in Cork who works with shadow lines and organic curves. Sam Gleeson knew all about the culinary aspects of good knives before he decided to become a bladesmith. He originally studied environmental chemistry and went on to be a chef, running Little Fox restaurant with his wife Niamh Fox in Ennistymon, Co Clare.

Bladesmithing since 2019, Sam uses metal and woodwork techniques to create functional knives. With the Atlantic on his doorstep, he surfs and collects plastic from the local beaches to incorporate into some of his handles.

“I’ve been offered a super collaboration with a high-profile knife-maker in Spain and we are going to try and make knives out of scrap,” said Sam.

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