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It’s a Crafty Kind of Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The Coca Cola truck has trundled onto our TV screens, parents are queuing with their kids to meet Santa and the first Christmas trees are being put up in homes around the country. It’s less than a month to Christmas Day: and that means only one thing, full steam ahead with the Christmas gift shopping.

Since becoming a little bit more crafty I’ve found I’m more inclined to value a handmade gift. For me, you just can’t beat a beautiful unique item, handmade by someone. And that means I tend to give handmade gifts too – whether that’s things I’ve made myself or gifts I’ve picked up at the increasing number of craft fairs that have sprung up over the past few years.

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Give Irish craft

Ireland’s craft and design sector is enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the past couple of years. There is definitely an increased focus on promoting Irish craft and design both in Ireland and abroad, which is great to see.

In October, the Irish Design and Craft Council launched its “Give Irish Craft” campaign, and it’s been gathering steam since then. The campaign highlights products that have been “Designed and Made in Ireland”. Over 140 stores around Ireland, including Kilkenny Group, House of Ireland and Brown Thomas, as well as Designyard, Irish Design Shop and Stonechat in Dublin; Designworks and Enibas in Cork; the Kilkenny Design Centre in Kilkenny; Leitrim Design House in Carrick-on-Shannon; The Cat & The Moon in Sligo town and Ardmore Pottery in Co. Waterford, will be selling products that have been Designed and Made in Ireland. The campaign also includes a website: www.giveirishcraft.ie.

Of course, there are also plenty of craft fairs to visit in the run up to Christmas, and they really are a great place to meet local designers and crafts people. The beauty of these local craft fairs is that you can really get to know the people you’re buying stuff from, chat to them about their processes and find out more about their inspiration. I visited two craft and design fairs in Cork over the past two weeks: Ballymaloe Craft and Design Fair and the Cork City Hall Craft and Design Fair.

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Ballymaloe Craft and Design Fair

On the 22nd of November I made the short trip to Ballymaloe for their Craft and Design Fair. This is the sixth year of the fair and it looks like it’s getting bigger each year. The fair was spread between Ballymaloe’s Grainstore and the Big Shed. There were more than 100 stalls selling everything from felted and knitted creations to jewellery and creative art pieces.

I picked up a few little pieces including a white porcelain clay tea light holder with a gorgeous aqua inner, which has settled in nicely on my mantelpiece. The piece was created by Eithne Hehir of Ballyhoura Ceramics, who uses the traditional method of throwing to create high-quality handcrafted vessels.

What struck me most about the Ballymaloe Fair was the sheer creativity of the exhibitors. Every stall seemed to be doing something I hadn’t seen before: like Petal to Petal artist Lily Corcoran who uses traditional lace patterns to create wonderful illustrations that she then adapts to different formats from notebook covers and coasters to tea towels. Ceramics artist Sara Roberts creates textured pieces, which she then glazes in porcelain; her pieces featuring a simple fern caught my eyes. And then there was Magical Space, which makes amazing hand crafted children’s teepees, which I would have absolutely loved as a child (and truth be told, I probably would love one now as a forty-something!)

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Cork City Hall Craft and Design Fair

A week later, the City Hall in Cork played host to the Craft and Design Fair, which has cemented itself as a date for the diary for anyone keen on gifts of the handmade variety. With just under a month to Christmas, there was a definite festive vibe to the fair. Heading in on the Sunday morning meant it was less busy than last year when I popped in on the Friday evening with a couple of friends. On a practical level it meant you could take your time at the stalls and didn’t feel like you had to keep moving so that you weren’t blocking anyone’s way.

There were some lovely stalls, as usual at the City Hall. I nabbed a cute tea cosy and some buttons at Wooly Apply Knits, a lovely handmade glass Christmas decoration created by the award-winning Bianca Divito, and the most amazing star decoration from artist Tunde Toth, who combines paper, silk and other materials to create wonderful art pieces.

There are a couple of smaller, local craft fairs coming up over the next couple of weeks, which I’m looking forward to. Hopefully, at the next craft fair, I will actually buy gifts for other people and not just stock up on lovely pieces for myself!

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