Opening on March 7, Design Ireland is a three-week-long celebration of Irish creativity, organised by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) and British furniture retailer Heal’s. And judging from this exhibition of furniture, lighting, ceramics, textiles, glass and gifts by 20 of the country’s leading designers and makers, there is a great deal of creativity to celebrate.
Some of the work on show at the store’s central London flagship is deeply, gloriously Irish. Joe Hogan, for example, makes willow baskets (Ebb and Flow, price on application, fifth picture) by the side of County Galway’s Loch na Fooey that speak of the landscape in which, and from which, they are made. His baskets are all made to commission, so you won’t be able to buy direct from the show (visit www.joehoganbaskets.com), but you will be able to see him making them live in the store from March 17-19. (Turn up on March 17, St Patrick’s Day, and you’ll be able to join the launch party.)
The majority of pieces here, however, are simply exciting, beautifully made examples of contemporary craft (Lime Sun and Polar Opposites bowls, £360, first picture) that just happen to come from Ireland. Andrew Ludick’s pulse-quickening ceramic vases and bowls, for example, may have been made in County Kilkenny, but the colourful shapes and patterns that enliven his white earthenware forms evoke an altogether hotter place. Ceadogán’s vibrant, graphic wool rug Lime Sun (£716, second picture) shares not only a name but a similar aesthetic.
Northern Ireland is represented by Scott Benefield’s BTU Studio. Benefield is an artist, educator and writer, and his handblown glass vessels (such as Thread, Spiral and Wiggle pouring bowls, £58, third picture) are characterised by the complex patterns he creates in the glass; patterns that turn these functional pieces into precious objects for display.
Shane Holland is another name to watch out for. Like Benefield, he works in the space between form and function, creating highly sculptural lighting handmade from timber, metal, acrylics and found objects. His elegant, sinuous Ruray table lamp (£295, fourth picture), made from LED-powered composite aluminium, is indeed a shining example of modern design-craft.
Design Ireland is the largest retail presentation of Irish-made design to be staged in London for decades. This exhibition is long overdue, but it has been worth the wait.