When she was 10 years old, Patricia Overton watched in fascination as her mother’s nimble fingers manouvered a crochet hook, weaving together the delicate strands of a baby’s christening shawl.
“I asked if I could have a go and learned from there,” recalls Ms Overton, who spoke to the Mayo Advertiser this week with her hook in hand, still in her dressing gown but already crafting away first thing in the morning.
Fifty years after first learning the craft, Ms Overton was fully “bitten by the crochet bug” when she herself was commissioned to create a christening gown and set-up her own business, creating fashion accessories, in Kilsallagh, Westport, in 2011.
She now sells her popular fashion items both locally and internationally, through her business website.
This week, crafters like Ms Overton all over the county have been busily preparing for one of the highlights in the local crafting calendar - the Craftworks Mayo Summer Expo.
The expo opens tomorrow at 10am and is a rare opportunity to browse through a purpose-built craft village, erected for the weekend in the grounds of the Museum of Country Life, Turlough. Fans of craft can meander through the tents and gazebos, view many of the exceptional products produced in Mayo, meet the makers behind the designs, and enjoy crafting demonstrations.
Roger Harley is a potter based in Westport and he is the chairperson of Craftworks Mayo.
He explained the not-for-profit network was set-up in 2012 to showcase the county’s wide array of professional crafters, who are reviving and preserving age-old skills to create contemorary craft products that are still hugely relevant and appealing to modern day consumers.
The sector deals very much in the ‘niche’ but it is thriving and growing, according to Mr Harley.
“Interest is strong,” he said. “I think people are very much getting back to the handmade, the local. There’s a keen interest in getting a product that is unique and that is skillfully produced, and more and more people are seeing the value in that.”
Nationally, crafting makes a significant contribution to the economy, employing some 5,700 people.
Craftworks Mayo has 23 members who are making their living from their crafts, and some members, in turn, have generated additional employment also, said Mr Harley.
The expo opens at 10am tomorrow and runs until 5pm. It reopens on Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.
To learn more about Craftworks Mayo and the summer expo, visit www.craftworksmayo.ie