12 Aug 2022

Grennan Mill Craft School celebrates 40 years of creativity in Thomastown - Kilkenny Live

Ireland's only craft school hosts an exhibition of past pupils' and tutors' work at historic mill building

Ceramic sheep by Siobhan Byrne

A ceramic sheep by Grennan Mill past pupil, Siobhan Byrne

There is just one craft school in Ireland and it is located in the scenic town of Thomastown at Island Mill, on the banks of the Nore for the past 40 years. The school is an integral part of the town and the craft and design heritage of Kilkenny. The course is full time over two years and the annual intake of sixteen students ensures that they receive a level of personal attention and mentorship that make the experience a very special one. Many former students say that their time at the college represents the best years of their lives.

In celebration of the school's exceptional creative legacy, a group exhibition, 40 Mill Years will run at the mill from August 5 to 14, as part of this year's Kilkenny Arts Festival. Originally planned for 2021, the show was postponed due to the pandemic and was re-scheduled this year. The exhibition features a roll call of craftspeople who have studied and taught at the Grennan Mill school including Debra Bowden, Samantha Capatti, Lorna Donlon, Peter Donovan, Mary Ann Gelly, Séamus Gill, Nial Harper, Orla Kaminska, Sophie Longwill, Eva Lynch, Susan Byrne, Cóilín O Dubhghaill, Angela O'Kelly, Annemarie Reinhold, Chrissy Shanahan, Michal Tylicki and school founder George Vaughan.

Grennan Mill Craft School has its origins in the 1970s after a government agency brought international craft makers to work in Kilkenny as part of the Kilkenny Design Workshops initiative. The skilled craftspeople who arrived as part of that scheme worked in ceramics, jewellery, and printmaking and were given studios in the converted stables of Kilkenny Castle. It was decided with such a wealth of talent locally, to open a craft school. Under the direction of local art teacher, George Vaughan who became the course's visionary Course Coordinator and Brendan Conway, Grennan Mill Craft School opened in 1981 in the unique setting of the 18th century, five story converted grain mill, by the Nore.

This unique exhibition offers a rare opportunity to appreciate the work of the many talented craftspeople who have graduated from the course as well as the creations of the tutors who have passed on their exceptional skills to new generations. 

40 Mill Years at Grennan Mill Craft School, Island Mill Thomastown, Co Kilkenny from August 5 to 14, 10am to 6pm daily. Admission free.

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