Rising stars: new Irish designers to know
There was plenty of young Irish design talent at Showcase 2019, the annual Design and Crafts Council-supported trade show
Designer-maker Scott Benefield from Co Antrim who has the North’s only artisanal glassblowing studio, BTU Studio
An engineering graduate from Trinity College Dublin, he went on to study for two years at Parnham, the Dorset college founded by the influential British furniture designer, before working in furniture design in Barcelona. Then it was back to London for several years, this time working as an engineer for Arup, specialising in sustainable engineering. All before he was able to come home to set up his studio, finally going full time as a furniture designer last year.
This week he exhibited at Showcase 2019, the annual Design and Crafts Council-supported trade show for home and international buyers. It was his first exhibition outing and he showed an accomplished collection of pieces including a beside reading cabinet, a glass topped coffee table, a shelving unit, and a striking looking chair with metal legs and maple slats.
“People have been buying the furniture,” says Harris of the trade visitors at Showcase in the RDS, sounding pleased but a little amazed; he had been expecting his smaller items, homeware pieces, including candleholders to be the first to go.
He was chosen to take part in the council’s Design Ireland programme which gave him a mentor, John Jenkins who has worked with Heal’s in the UK, and which helped him bring a commercial focus to his work. “That was incredibly helpful,” says Harris.
A small sample of the other designers making interiors elements with strong contemporary appeal that caught the eye – and some names to look out for when they trickle down to local crafts and design shops – include Alanna Plekkenpol from Co Wicklow whose vivid whimsical tiles feature her illustrations applied to traditional Delft blue patterns. They can be used as wall tiles – maybe one or two sprinkled among plainer ones for an impactful splashback or bought framed as a quirky piece of wall art.
Designer-maker Scott Benefield from Co Antrim has the North’s only artisanal glassblowing studio, BTU Studio. He makes affordable glassware, including beautiful and delicate looking but sturdy jugs that combine traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques with contemporary forms that reflect his training in Italy, the US and Sweden.
Eoin Shanley at his Copper Fish Studio has for the past few years been making sculptural lamps with an industrial feel mostly with salvaged materials. His new range at Showcase, called Dock, featured lamps made from 300-year-old wood salvaged from a Belfast shipyard.