Meet the Winners of our Design Awards
Ireland has a rich heritage of creativity, and since the first issue of Image Interiors & Living, we have prided ourselves on championing and supporting both the artisan and the industry.
In our Design Awards, we celebrate the makers and designers who have showcased true excellence in their fields. After a rigorous shortlisting process by our judges and reader votes, we present our ten category winners…
BEST FABRIC – STABLE
Within their category, Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds were already well acquainted with the other nominees. “We are huge admirers of Molloy & Son, Mourne Textiles and McNutt. All are exceptionally talented weavers with generations of experience and skill behind them,” explains Francie. “In fact, we work with both McNutt and Molloy & Son to make blankets for Stable, along with about eight other weavers and knitters from all over Ireland.” It is part of their vision to work closely with the best Irish weavers and textile manufacturers to produce beautiful Irish textiles.
For their portrait, we head to Emblem in Wexford who they work with for all their linen scarves. “Emblem are also a longstanding Irish linen and wool weaver and produce exceptional quality Irish linen,” says Sonia. “Sadly, we don’t grow flax here in Ireland any more so our source linen thread is grown and spun in Belgium, but the skill that Emblem brings to the weaving is outstanding. Irish linen is of the best in the world.”
When asked who or what is exciting them in Irish design at the moment, the pair have an endless list. “It’s like the last recession unleashed a hunger for creativity again, and the resourcefulness and energy to make things happen too.”
BEST TABLEWARE – ARRAN STREET EAST
It’s not an exact match, but when we take to the Dublin streets to photograph the new skyline collection in the wild, these cobbles are as close to a colour match we can get to steel, without any glaring health and safety issues. The new Arran Street East colours are directly inspired by the city, Laura Magahy explains. “Black Steel comes from roof trusses and arches inside the market opposite our studio, Terracotta is from the moulded corbels on each arch of the market that depict fruit, vegetables and fish. Portland Stone is from the imposing and iconic Custom House, Copper Green comes from the roof of the Four Courts, Grey Slate is from roofs seen all over Ireland really, and Brick – of course – from the red brick that surrounds us, and from which our studio is built.”
The studio in question played host to a series of workshops throughout 2017, and in 2018, cookery demonstrations and display will be in focus. “People seem to want to connect with having something tangible at the end of their time spent with us. I think it’s a response to the digital demands and virtual living that most of us are subjected to these days. Slowing down is good, and taking time to make something yourself and learn a new skill is emotionally rewarding.”
BEST COLLECTOR'S PIECES – CARA MURPHY
Now working with two processes, the difference between Cara’s silver studio and her enamel studio couldn’t be more stark. The Lisburn-based artist has something of an unusual set-up. She shares a silver workshop with her dad Michael, who is also a silversmith. “I’d describe it as messy!” admits Cara. “Our workbenches are 30cm apart. Neither of us is very tidy and our workshop is jam packed with tools we have gathered over the years. I enamel in my mum’s studio, which is clean and tidy in comparison.” Her mother, Deirdre McCrory, had kindly enamelled her silver work until recently, in her near pristine workspace.
Having been a silversmith for over 25 years, Cara used a 2016 bursary to learn to use vitreous enamel, and as a three-dimensional maker, learning to round enamel was key. “Although much more difficult to achieve than on the flat surface I am glad I persevered and started as I meant to continue.”
The result is 100 bowls, all different. “It was important for me to delve into the unknown, to take risks and to accept that nothing was wrong.” And although enamelling adds to Cara’s work, she can’t see it becoming her only focus. For now, she’s preparing her 100 bowls for an exhibition in the Ulster Museum, Belfast in February and in 2018, she plans to push her enamelling further.
HOME PRODUCT OF THE YEAR – FIELD APOTHECARY
Capturing the scent of an Irish summer is no mean feat, but at an old mushroom factory outside Lisburn, Alix Mulholland has managed it. The key, as you might expect, is mist and drizzle. “It really does capture the special and enigmatic scent of rain,” she says. “We did the NYNOW trade fair in August and we had one lady who almost cried when she smelt our Rain candle. She lifted the glass cloche off and I think she was just transported back to a rainy Irish day, which she had not experienced in a while. That’s the thing with scent – it can trigger such powerful emotions within us.”
Rain is part of a six candle Field Apothecary collection; Peat, Hay, Lichen, Ivy and Flora, which are blends of up to 11 different essential oils, many of which are native to Ireland like blackcurrant, rosemary and thyme. Earlier this year, the team of seven moved to a larger premises. “It’s a beautiful and tranquil part of Co Down and we absolutely love it. It’s on a working farm, where we really enjoy observing the seasonal changes around us.”
EMERGING DESIGN TALENT – ALAN MEREDITH
Perched on the side of the DLR Red Jetty bench, Alan doesn’t exactly embody the idea of creating a social space that this project promotes. But it’s a frosty winter morning, so the park’s quietness can be forgiven.
It was A2 Architects who had originally been commissioned to create a summer project as part of the Creative Ireland initiative, as Alan explains. “They were looking for someone to work with on the realisation and asked me to get involved. At that stage A2 Architects had a concept of what was required and together we worked on the details and logistics.”
The first location for the Red Jetty was the DLR Lexicon Library, which is just beside Dun Laoghaire pier, so the shape echoes that to some extent. “I guess the spiral also makes for a great social space with endless seating configurations.”
Having studied architecture at UCD, Alan has gone on to work across furniture, public space and vessel design. From an early age he had a interest in making things with his hands, and over the years this developed into an obsession. “It is really a big adventure centred around a fascination of what one can make from wood.” Alan notes a renewed interest in materiality within Irish design. “I find myself discussing material depth, character and permanence a lot with other designers.”
INTERIOR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR – GKMP
Known for thoughtful, future-proofed interiors, Grace Keeley and Michael Pike remain modest and practical. “We always try to incorporate high quality natural materials that will endure over time,” Grace explains. “Solid woods can be refinished after several years to bring them back to their original state. Similarly, concrete and terrazzo have a durable and timeless quality.”
In approaching a project, the couple thoroughly research each site in terms of its history and geography. “We will study vernacular buildings in the area and try to use materials that are of that place. We use the work of great architects such as Aalto, Le Corbusier, Coderch and Siza as a constant source of reference.”
We visit the site of a Georgian townhouse for our portrait shoot, and find a calm home fitted with a series of contemporary solid oak fittings. The kitchen and shelving units are freestanding pieces of furniture, respecting the heritage of the building by sitting clear of the walls, dado rails and skirtings.
Next up for the duo is developing detailed drawings for the refurbishment of Temple Bar Square in collaboration with a Dutch landscape design practice and DCC Parks Department. The vision is to create a gently sloping urban room, that is flexible and accessible for its 22m visitors a year.
FURNITURE DESIGNER OF THE YEAR – BUNNY & CLYDE
Although the name denotes a duo, there are three people behind this design-led children’s furniture company; Nathalie Vos, her sister Lisa, and their friend since childhood Mariëtte Bergh. Although the business started in South Africa when Mariëtte and Nathalie were both expecting babies and discovered how difficult it was to find good quality furniture for kids, these days Nathalie calls Kenmare home.
Today, pieces are designed in Ireland by Nathalie and they are made by David Crowley in Waterford for the EU market. European ash and walnut are primary materials. “We love wood. It’s just such a beautiful, warm and honest material.”
Behind the company is a forward-thinking ethos. “As a business and as parents, we feel it’s our duty to be as socially and environmentally responsible as possible so that we leave something good behind for our children. We firmly believe that when we teach our children that products are meant to last a lifetime, we are teaching them sustainable living principles and also inspiring a future generation to instinctively understand and appreciate good design.”
Nathalie sees Irish design as being in a very exciting phase. “When I first landed in Ireland eight years ago, the design I saw felt very dated and safe. But today there are designers and crafters who are really pushing the envelope. I’m a huge fan of Anike Tyrell’s J Hill’s Standard crystal, and how she is elevating the art form from a former fuddy-duddy aesthetic to another level.”
BEST COLLABORATION – J HILL'S STANDARD x DANIEL RYBAKKEN
“Glass is generally thought of as fragile and has historically been used for intense decorative work, Anike Tyrell explains of her Secant collaboration. “But we enjoyed the idea of a plain round disc of glass, functioning as a strong part of the structure of the piece and unembellished, so that the refractive qualities of the glass are allowed to play uninterrupted.”
This year’s Söderberg Prize winner, Daniel, first came to Ireland two years ago to get accustomed to how the material behaves after Modern Design Review magazine founder Laura Houseley had introduced the pair some years back.
Having stood by the Secant mobile for a week at the Palazzo Litta at Salone del Mobile, Anike believes the collection to be serene. “They have a calm that mirrors the effect of a full moon. I can't say I was especially calm after Milan though. It is absolutely full on as it is mobbed with design fans and you interact for five twelve-hour days. It takes a number of days to recover. All worth it though.”
Currently a collaboration with Tom dePaor on a set of whiskey tumblers is in production, meaning samples are being blown. The approach to cutting is based on geological movements. “He has titled the series Cym. You may remember the term from geography? It can also be called a cirque and is an amphitheatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion. The cuts resemble the effects of surface erosion caused by these monumental movements.”
INDEPENDENT RETAILER OF THE YEAR – THE OLD MILL STORES
Although Tom and Claire have been in business for 25 years, formerly as Ovne Antique Stoves, the Skibereen shop as we know it, was born in 2012. “We had an intuition that there was a gap in the market for quality design, craft and homewares in our area so we took the risk of trying to fill it,” Claire explains. “Thankfully we were proved right.”
The pair work as a team, but each has specific areas of interest. Tom has an eye for the edgier home pieces like taxidermy and is kitsch-mad – “hence the print shirts” notes Claire – while she prefers design classics, and a more minimal approach to buying. “We do keep a check on each other in case we go off on a tangent, stock-wise. Because we are not city-based we have to appeal to a broader spectrum of customer so we have to reign one another in sometimes… but sometimes we don’t. In our experience, everything sells eventually.”
In 2018, the duo are curating a craft and design exhibition called The Parlour in the third room of their home, which will focus on a broad range of local craftspeople. “It was originally the parlour of the house. We’re looking forward to hosting Cork’s best makers and doers in our best room.”
INSTAGRAMMER OF THE YEAR – @livingandbeauty
“I think it’s important to evolve your own style if you want to cut through,” says Barbara Taylor when we meet in Industry, one of her favourite spaces in Dublin. “After all, there is only one you. I am more comfortable being myself now than ever and I think when you stop worrying about what others think, you naturally gain confidence in what you do. Being authentic is everything.”
Barbara started blogging on Living & Beauty in 2015 and gradually, interiors has dominated. She sees the Instagram community in Ireland as flourishing and describes her own followers as a broad church of people whose passion is their home and their surroundings. “I have noticed in the last year more and more fantastic Irish accounts springing up and a lot of very inspiring Irish interiors of different styles. I and a few of my insta-friends have set up a hashtag #mygorgeousgaff to create a centre point for Irish interiors Instagrammers to connect with each other.”
Print is still an important touchstone too. “I drink magazines in. Pinterest and Instagram are amazing for inspiration, but I love how a magazine tells a story that flows from cover to cover. I have a back catalogue that I regularly re-read and I always pick up on something that I hadn’t noticed before.”
Echoing other category winners, Barbara sees a growing confidence amongst Irish-based designers. “People like Alan Meredith, Bunny & Clyde, Stable of Ireland and Field Apothecary are flipping on its head what Irish design is, and what Irish designed products look like.”
WORDS Amanda Kavanagh