The Year of Craft 2011 is being celebrated across the island of Ireland this year, and locally there is much to cheer, as five Co Kilkenny craftmakers have received awards at this year’s RDS Craft Competition, one of Europe’s leading competitions.
Four of the winners are members of the Made In Kilkenny craft network: Mark Campden (of Bridge Pottery), Ken Foley (leatherwork), and Carl Parker and Jane Huston (jewellers).
Mark Campden won the RDS Award of Excellence Reserve for his large fish platter, and he also took first prize in the Traditional Ceramics category. Carl Parker received first prize for the Precious Metals category and first in the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin Award; Jane Huston came second for this award as well. Ken Foley came second in the leatherwork category.
The competition also saw Kilkenny artist Caroline Schofield, whose large-scale sculpture adorns the new Kilkenny courthouse – take first prize in the Felting category.
Their achievements, which also come as the 10-day Kilkenny Arts Festival prepares to kick off this Friday, were applauded by Karen Hennessy, chief executive of the Crafts Council of Ireland, whose headquarters is located in Kilkenny.
“We are delighted to be involved in the RDS competition for the last number of years,” she said of the competition, which awards excellence in craftsmanship.
“What you see here is a tradition and heritage that Kilkenny is steeped in. That really shows how important craft is to Kilkenny from a cultural perspective and an economic perspective,” Ms Hennessy said, noting that each of them makes a living from their craft.
The Crafts Council of Ireland represents and supports makers throughout Ireland, but Ms Hennessy said it was notable that seven of the awards went to craftspeople in Kilkenny. “I think it is a real hallmark of what is great about Kilkenny,” she said.
Theirs and others’ works will be on show in venues across the county during the Arts Festival from August 5-14, and – not surprisingly – Ms Hennessy particularly recommended the craft strand of the festival.
“It’s a great opportunity to see many of the makers who have been awarded prizes, and beyond that as well,” she noted.
This public presence of craft and those who make it is part of the aim of the Year of Craft, which is being celebrated by the Crafts Council of Ireland and Craft Northern Ireland.
‘On our doorstep’
“It is important that we realise that it is on our doorstep,” Ms Hennessy said. “It is excellent quality, it’s affordable and we have such talented people here. They do a lot as ambassadors for Kilkenny.”
The RDS competition was founded in 1968 and has a prize fund of e28,000 spread over 20 categories. It highlights the standards in design and craftsmanship. The winners of the competition are exhibited at the RDS horse show and then go on tour at various venues across Ireland, finishing back in the RDS at the Christmas Craft Fair in December.
Locally, the Made In Kilkenny group will be hosting their own exhibition in Butler House, Kilkenny during the Arts Festival. Titled ‘The Maker’s Journey’, it explores each of the craftspeople’s journey of design, from an object of inspiration to the final product.