Design Awards 2017 – Meet The Winners


Ireland has a rich heritage of creativity, and since the first issue of Image Interiors & Living 27 years ago, we have prided ourselves on championing and supporting both the artisan and the industry.

Now in our inaugural Design Awards, we celebrate the makers and designers who have showcased true excellence in their fields. After a rigorous shortlisting process by our five judges and over 4,500 reader votes, we present our ten category winners…


Preferring to work in bronze, artist and light sculptor Niamh Barry takes inspiration from everything. “It can be a cloud floating by, a detail in a couture dress, birds flying in formation, or ancient Bronze Age artefacts,” she says. “The human form is a constant inspiration in my work.” She sees Irish design as being in a very positive phase. “It excites me to see young Irish artists exhibiting on an international platform.”


After a landmark year, which included opening a studio shop and launching an online store, Arran Street East aren’t the sort to rest easy. The brand also expanded their range in late 2016 and plans are ambitious. “Stoneware will always be the heart of what we do, but we want to make it possible to have Arran Street East in every part of your home,” says Laura Magahy, pictured. “We’ll be developing our textiles range and continuing to make things that people love.”


Despite the original form of Mourne Textiles being phased out in the mid-1980s, a phone call “totally out of the blue” in 2012 changed everything. Mario Sierra, the son of master weaver Karen Hay-Edie, pictured, and grandson of Gerd Hay-Edie, founder of the studio in 1954, explains, “The head of home at Margaret Howell in the UK is a mid-century modern collector, she saw some of our samples in a friend’s house, called us for a meeting, and placed a big order.” The pair halted dismantling the last of the looms, started up production again and the rest is (recent) history.


“I think, as designers, you always want to take the opportunity to do something new,” says Marcel Twohig of Notion. “We hit it off straightaway with Mario [Sierra of Mourne Textiles, above] and we started discussing the possibilities.” There were some “dodgy nights of wood working” to build the prototype. “We’re designers, not craftspeople, so we were designing on the fly.” With the FRAME Chair, multiple interchangeable cushions were created. “The end design showcased Mourne Textiles in a contemporary context, celebrating their traditional, yet modernist heritage.”


Bringing his Constructed Vessel -06 to the shoot, Belfast-based Derek Wilson explains, “It is a very new piece and the ideas are still evolving.” He tends to work in series groups. “I would usually produce maybe three or four pieces at any one time, so they naturally relate to one another.” Derek explains that the repetitive production process of tableware is often accompanied by a “refreshing sense of mindfulness”.  However, with sculptural pieces, “there is a sense of challenging and pushing the possibilities of a process.”


Having guided Kilkenny Group through some tough times, Marian O’Gorman (pictured), lists her key learnings: “Stay resilient, invest when others are downsizing, and support staff through thick and thin.” The company is still very much a family business – Marian’s daughter Melissa is head of buying, while daughter Michelle is head of retail. Marian is keen to continue supporting Irish talent. “We are always looking for new unique and creative products, and we encourage makers to contact our buying office directly.”


With a hallmark style of clean, contemporary and understated design that doesn’t rely on tried and tested formulas or materials, Andrew Brady (left) and Gearóid Carvill (right) of abgc admit they don’t think in terms of decoration. “Finish follows function, so to speak,” says Gearóid. And yet, each interior space they design is artful in its own right. The pair cite GKMP, Designgoat, Paul Mahon, Notion, Danielle Romeril and Superfolk as Irish talent that excites them. “Initiatives like Pivot and ID2015 have really helped galvanise the design industry in Ireland, which is complemented by an increasingly design literate and savvy public.”


Navigating the post-graduate world isn’t always easy, but textile designer Aoife Mullane has found it exciting. “Textiles embody all the things I enjoy about design. I get to draw, paint, work with colour, scale and print. Metallics were a part of my graduate collection. I live by the sea, and so the mineralised rocks with flecks of copper, aluminium and pewter are what inspired me to use foils.” She’s optimistic about the future. “I think design in Ireland is on the cusp of something very inspiring at the moment.”


Despite being very much grounded in a rural Wicklow base, Snug’s furniture is thoroughly modern. Conor Kelly and Nell Roddy started furniture-making when they were building their own home and discovered a gap in the market for contemporary Irish made furniture. Conor explains, “As all the work we produce is made from our small workshop in the mountains, there is a great respect for the landscape and the environment that surrounds us.”


“Pass me the V&A there, please.” It’s a somewhat surreal request on the day of our shoot, as Sheila O’Donnell points to an architectural model. But there’s nothing unusual in it for Sheila and John Tuomey, who are currently working on two adjacent public buildings looking out across London’s Olympic Park – the other being the performing arts venue Sadler’s Wells. “Such an opportunity, and at such a scale, allows us to practise what we preach.” The couple list “civic values, social purpose and the possibility for useful beauty” as values that underpin their work of over 25 years.


Using sustainable beech, the physical awards were made by Fiona Snow and Mike Mohler of Snow Design and Laser Studio in Grand Canal Dock, who specialise in laser cutting in a variety of materials. The couple used Wicklow wood from a supplier who diverts quality native hardwoods from ending up as firewood. This involves travelling to trees that have come down in storms, as well as those that need to be managed by a forester. First the wood was sealed with a layer of black resin and allowed to dry, before being put under a 1,200 dot per inch laser to reveal the blond underneath. So from an even matte surface, the natural “imperfections” of the wood are exposed.

 WORDS Amanda Kavanagh