Thousands of jobs sustained by Ireland’s Year of Craft

Ireland’s Year of Craft 2011 initiative has given a welcome boost to Ireland’s craft industry, and will help to sustain thousands of jobs in the sector into the future, according to the Crafts Council of Ireland.

In an end of Year of Craft 2011 statement, the Crafts Council of Ireland Chief Executive, Karen Hennessy, said the special year, which promoted and celebrated the outstanding talents of craftspeople living and working throughout the island of Ireland, has left a legacy that will help to develop the economically vibrant craft sector.

“Research conducted by Indecon estimates that the craft industry contributes almost €500 million to the Irish economy and employs over 5,700 people. The overall aim of our Year of Craft initiative has been to promote Irish craft in order to sustain and grow this economically significant sector,” said Ms Hennessy.

“The feedback we have received to date indicates that the awareness of Irish craft which resulted from Year of Craft 2011 activities has given a boost to many craft enterprises. While the economic downturn has meant that craft businesses throughout the country have continued to be under pressure during the last twelve months, we hope that everyone involved in the Irish craft sector will experience the long term benefits of Year of Craft 2011 in the years to come,” she added.

The Crafts Council of Ireland and Craft Northern Ireland (Craft NI ) designated 2011 as Ireland’s Year of Craft as a celebration of Irish craft and design. 2011 also marked the 40th anniversary of CCoI which was founded following a visit by the World Crafts Council to Ireland in 1970. The partnership initiative involved a comprehensive and wide-ranging programme of activities both at home and abroad, and saw thousands of people in every corner of the country exposed to the work of designers and makers of Irish craft.

Year of Craft 2011 saw:

— Over 10,000 children have a direct engagement with craft through specially devised workshops at a range of public events around the country

— Almost 5,000 attend the Crafted Creatures exhibition which ran over 7 weeks in The Ark – A Cultural Centre for Children in Temple Bar

— 39 Crafts Council of Ireland member organisations present innovative work throughout Ireland – from the Irish Artist Blacksmiths Association’s International Forge-in in Monaghan in June which attracted over 200 blacksmiths from overseas to the Seascapes exhibition featuring textile work by members of the Crafts Council of Ireland at the Knitting & Stitching Show RDS in Dublin in November

— 22 counties deliver dedicated craft programmes to coincide with Year of Craft 2011 including Designer Dublin, Cork Craft Month, Original Kerry, Galway Craft Month and CraftFest Northwest

— A National Craft Trail underway in partnership with Fáilte Ireland

The Year of Craft 2011 initiative had many other highlights including:

— A Craft Summit at Farmleigh, attended by over 120 policy makers from various support agencies to discuss the future of the Irish craft sector

— The Annual General Assembly of the World Crafts Council – Europe in Dublin, attended by 16 representatives of craft organisations across Europe

— An international public conference: “Craft Conscious: Re-Shaping Global Futures in the Innovation Age” in Dublin Castle, attended by 281 delegates celebrated international speakers such as Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg, Chief - Creative Economies and Industries Programme at the United Nations.

— The inclusion of Irish craft activities in large scale public events, presented in partnership with event organisers, including the Saint Patricks Festival, The Tall Ships Races in Waterford, Bloom in the Park and Electric Picnic

— The intersection of Irish craft with literature, fashion, architecture and sport events, both nationally and internationally.

— A special issue by An Post of a series of 5 stamps featuring Irish craft to mark Year of Craft 2011

— The airing on RTÉ One of the widely acclaimed six-part TV series Craft Master, produced by Big Mountain in collaboration with CCoI to celebrate Year of Craft 2011

On the international stage, the work of Irish designer makers featured at Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in London, TENT London which was part of the London Design Festival and Material Poetry and dubh – dialogues in black – which featured at the American Irish Historical Society in New York.

Three national consumer campaigns promoting craft “Imagined, Designed and Made in Ireland” were launched during the year focusing on ceramics in June, fashion and interiors in September and jewellery in December, which included a jewellery exhibition and retail presence at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport in partnership with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA ). Each campaign was promoted through a dedicated website www.giveirishcraft.com, allowing visitors to browse a range of gift ideas and locate stockists of Irish craft throughout the country.

Commenting on the consumer campaigns, Ms Hennessy said “Through Year of Craft 2011 initiatives, Irish craft has seen an increased presence in retail outlets all over Ireland. While it is too early for precise figures, many retailers have been reporting increased sales of Irish craft, especially in the run up to Christmas with customers specifically seeking out Irish designed and made craft. This support from consumers is invaluable in helping craft businesses survive and expand during these economically challenging times.”

Ms Hennessy stressed that while the Year of Craft 2011 initiative has now come to an end, an exciting programme of activities in already underway for 2012, promoting and expanding the Irish craft industry both nationally and internationally. In the coming weeks this includes the annual Showcase – Ireland’s Creative Expo at the RDS Dublin, the participation of a group of Irish jewellery designer makers at the international trade show Inhorgenta in Germany and the opening of Shaping the Void, an exhibition of work by ceramic artist Deirdre McLoughlin at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny.

“The Year of Craft 2011 programme would not have been possible without the support of all those who were involved throughout the year. We are very grateful for the invaluable support of our numerous partners, especially the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation; Enterprise Ireland; Fáilte Ireland; the Office of Public Works; the World Crafts Council – Europe; Dublin City Council and the British Council, as well as our media partners The Irish Times and RTÉ. We would like to thank our Year of Craft 2011 Patron, Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland for her participation in the initiative,” said Ms Hennessy.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of our registered clients, member organisations, event organisers, galleries and retailers of craft for their enthusiasm and commitment in joining in the Year of Craft 2011 celebrations. Finally, I would like to thank the team at the Crafts Council of Ireland, especially Maureen Kennelly, our Year of Craft 2011 Project Manager, for maintaining momentum in what was a very busy year long programme of activities.” concluded Ms Hennessy.

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