As a range of up and coming Irish designers display their innovative work in Project 51’s Festival of Irish Design, Chloé Duane gets an insight from the artists and organisers behind the exhibition

After a weekend spent gorging yourself on Easter chocolate, you may want to sink your teeth into something a bit more substantial. So, it is fitting that the Festival of Irish Design at Project 51, which showcases various types of Irish crafts, has now been extended to run through April.

The festival is a celebration of Irish craft, with sixteen Irish designers being given the opportunity to showcase their work until the end of the festival on April 30th. Project 51, which was established in 2011 and has been home to the Festival since it opened on March 3rd, is based on an international model and has had great success in its first year, with over eighty-five applications for the sixteen spaces, as festival director Eoin McDonnell explains. He goes on to say that the artists featured in the exhibition are from “early twenties to late fifties and a contain huge broad variety of design styles.” The variety of goods available for view and purchase include handmade jewellery made of silk, cotton or glass beads, fashion, ceramic goods, and wood furniture. The diverse selection of items is sure to be the highlight of the exhibition, ensuring that the festival is perfect for young and old. “You will see people’s eyes open wide; it’s such a broad range of pieces … you can say there is something for everyone,” says McDonnell. The festival allows designers of all kinds to reach a larger audience and progress in their own careers by doing so. So for any art lovers out there, or anyone wanting to support Irish craft, this is the ideal place for you to drop by.

The pieces available are unique and one of a kind, created using organic materials. Some of the more unusual materials include the rodent bones and horsehair used by designer Daniela Cardillo, a recent NCAD graduate, who became involved in the festival after being approached by the Crafts Council of Ireland. She states that her pieces of jewellery are “not a reminder of death, but an alteration of it, through which I attempt to vitalise past life fragments.

“The hair weaving technique stems from historic Victorian mourning jewellery, and the bones are first electro-formed then gold plated, each pieces encasing relics of a previous life.”

One of the youngest designers in the showcase is Rachel Rothwell, a final year student of Limerick College of Art and Design studying ceramics. Her ceramic cups, based on the shape of polystyrene disposable cups found in canteens across the world and thrown away after one use without a second thought, are her contribution to the showcase and provide a comment on the disposable nature of society. “Disposable cartons and disposable cutlery have become a huge part of our lives, and you just use them without thinking about it, so I have started to make some things that resemble them but weren’t quite so disposable. They are cute little things that also make you think slightly as you are using them about what you do throw away, and perhaps how much.”

Another artist featuring in the festival is UCD alumnus Hugh Cummins. He works with wood to create exciting furniture pieces including tables, decorative pieces and lighting. “The platters that I have on display in Project 51 are pushing the boundaries of what can be done with thin slices of wood and they take their own shapes, as it were, in the way that I hand mould them.” He reflects on his time in UCD as one that was beneficial to him. “Philosophy and Logic were my disciplines, which I found very helpful in getting back to the roots of things, getting back to origins of the way people thought about things and how things emerge over time. So I suppose I am still doing that but now with wood rather than concepts.” He creates one-off handcrafted decorative forms using wood veneers and has continued to explore the possibilities and boundaries of this innovative process, believing there is more to discover. “The range of work I am exploring is very new to the market. People haven’t seen anything like it before – they are finer pieces.”

Don’t be put off by the words ‘handmade’ or ‘Irish craft’ – even students can afford to purchase something from this exhibition. Works start at just eleven euro with Rachel Rothwell’s pieces and builds up to pieces of jewellery, which all fall within the range of thirty-five to sixty euro. Some of the large designs will set you back a pretty penny but with such special pieces on display, they are well worth the splurge.

The festival runs until April 30th, with the exhibition open from Tuesday to Saturday throughout the month in Project 51, 51 South William Street, Dublin 2.