Head to Galway to catch the very best of Irish crafts

Irish Design Works 2018 show features furniture, lighting, sculpture and more

Northern comfort chair from Gabriel Furniture, a father and son team who are showcasing their designs at Irish Design Works 2018

Northern comfort chair from Gabriel Furniture, a father and son team who are showcasing their designs at Irish Design Works 2018

 

This month’s Galway International Arts Festival is a veritable visual arts magnet. A specially-commissioned installation from Turner prize-winner David Mach, Luke Jerram’s giant spherical sculpture of the moon at NUI Galway and a floating cardboard bridge at Waterside – built by community volunteers under the supervision of the French artist Olivier Grossetete – are sure to draw art lovers westward in droves.

Add in solo shows by Jennifer Cunningham and Sarah Hickson and Art of Protest at the Kenny Gallery – as well as the occasional spot of theatre and music – and you have a great excuse to head to the city of tribes over the next fortnight. 

If you happen to be interested in contemporary furniture, lighting, sculpture, ceramics and glass, the annual exhibition from the Design Island group makes that journey irresistible. Irish Design Works 2018, to be held this year at the Tribeton restaurant on Merchant’s Road, provides an opportunity to see the latest in sculptural as well as practical pieces for interiors by highly-regarded craftspeople from all over Ireland – all in one place. 

What these makers have in common is an awareness of how their practice draws on the earth, air and water of the Irish landscape for creative inspiration as well as raw material.  

Ebonised oak vessel from Emmet Kane, a woodturner from Castledermot, Co Kildare
Ebonised oak vessel from Emmet Kane, a woodturner from Castledermot, Co Kildare

For the innovative woodturner Emmet Kane from Castledermot, Co Kildare, trees – especially native hardwoods – are, quite literally, the business. “I have always been fascinated by what a wonderful example of natural design and engineering trees are on landscape and in our environment,” he says. From a distance Kane’s thin-walled vessels look like glass or metal, but are actually made from Irish oak, which he textures and ebonises, gilds and colours. 

Hunt cabinet from Daniel Gill, a furniture-maker based in Kiltullagh, Co Galway
Hunt cabinet from Daniel Gill, a furniture-maker based in Kiltullagh, Co Galway

The furniture-maker Daniel Gill also gets up close and personal with trees, having them sawn and dried in his own kiln in Kiltullagh, Co Galway, before using hand tools to achieve an exquisitely detailed level of finish on his contemporary interpretations of Shaker, Federal and other classic American furniture.

Lighting from Shane Holland
Lighting from Shane Holland

A very different style of furniture at the show comes from father and son team Ben and Joshua Gabriel. Ben started Gabriel Furniture when he moved to Ireland from Holland 15 years ago; Joshua joined the business after graduating from Letterfrack Furniture College in 2011. Their architectural furniture designs are characterised by playfulness and simplicity, using native and European hardwoods, glass, steel and acrylic in spectacular geometric shapes. 

Another graduate of Letterfrack, Tommy Carew, is a fourth-generation woodworker whose contemporary pieces of furniture and wooden sculptural artworks are deeply rooted in sustainable practice, age-old hand-making techniques and a deep connection to the natural world.  

Swallow table from Gabriel Furniture  
Swallow table from Gabriel Furniture  

The point where land meets water is the creative starting point for the Donegal-born glass artist and founder of Glasshammer studios, Michelle O’Donnell. “Layers and textures and the simple, stark, wide spaces of this gracious land offer an ever-changing source of inspiration,” she says. From her studio in Rhode, Co Offaly, she creates commissions of all shapes, colours and sizes; her work is also to be found in the White House and in the Queen’s personal collection.

Detail from fireplace by Colin Grehan
Detail from fireplace by Colin Grehan

Lighting designer Shane Holland has also taken inspiration from the ocean for his new work, Soles of the Sea. Holland likes to mix materials, counterbalancing high tech with low; this particular piece uses the soles of shoes which have been washed up on the shore. The skeletal fragments of ancient sea creatures have been forged by time into the limestone used by sculptor Colin Grehan.

Lazy Lounger by Tricia Harris
Lazy Lounger by Tricia Harris
Jack-in-the-box lamp by Tricia Harris
Jack-in-the-box lamp by Tricia Harris

From her base at The Chocolate Factory Arts Centre in Dublin, Tricia Harris brings a number of pieces including a black lacquer version of her Jack-in-the-box lamp, a clean, classic oak sideboard and the quirky, low-to-the-ground, wood-and-leather Lazy Lounger. 

Ceramics from Tatiana Dobos
Ceramics from Tatiana Dobos

Originally from Moldova and now based in Galway, ceramicist Tatiana Dobos likes to dramatise human emotions in her terracotta and stoneware pieces, which emphasise the interaction of sentiments, shapes and colours. 

Dramatic, and sometimes slightly sinister, shapes are also to be found in the sculptures of Mickey Dawson. Having lived and worked as a herdsman on the Burren in north Clare for a quarter of a century, he took his lead from the legendary Tuatha Dé Danann blacksmith Lon Mac Liomtha and began to weld pieces of metal into dynamic sculptural shapes. A lighter side of steel emerges from Donnacha Cahill’s large-scale installations, which include the inquisitive Hare and the audio-visual Gramophone.  

It’s a show which promises as many changing moods, shapes and colours as the Irish landscape itself. 

– Irish Design Works 2018, Tribeton restaurant, July 18th to 29th, noon to 8pm daily, admission free.

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