10 souvenirs better than a keychain
Millions of fingers worldwide sport a Claddagh ring, but if you’re looking for a contemporary twist, Steensons' Northern Reflections collection – inspired by iconic landmarks of Northern Ireland, including the Giant’s Causeway and the glens of Antrim – might do the trick. Alternatively, in County Kerry, master goldsmith Paul Smith of PFK Kenmare has designed a stunning ring that equates in style to the beauty of the Ring of Kerry.
Aran sweaters will always scream rugged, but the islands’ knitwear designers can do stylish, too. Edel MacBride started out at just 22, determined to put her creative stamp on a traditional craft. Inspired by the textural contrasts of her home county, Donegal (an elemental step along the Wild Atlantic Way), her designs grace wardrobes across the world.
Louis Mulchay sold his home and invested everything into his pottery venture on the Dingle Peninsula. It paid off. He became the first Irish craftsman to receive an honorary degree in recognition of his work. Louis’ personality is poured into his eclectic pottery collections and you can even throw your own pot at his Clothar workshop and have it fired, glazed and delivered to your door.
4. Titanic Memorabilia
Did you know: Belfast was once known as Linenopolis, and the industry there supplied the Titanic’s luxurious linen? Clatteringford Linen in the city is owned by the Thomas family, descendants of Thomas Andrews (Titanic’s designer) himself. The damask napkins and tablecloths are woven to the original Titanic design and the crisp, fresh duvet covers are the key to a first-class sleep.
Move over, Kindle – real books are back. Book like this rare Dublin edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses published by Lilliput Press. AND if you want a beautifully illustrated special edition look no further than The O’Brien press and this little beauty.
Buying a blanket can be tricky: you want something cosy, yet stylish. Mourne Textiles’ hand-woven and quirky creations were originally designed for the catwalk with custom-spun yarn from Donegal, and created using a wild spinning technique. This is stylish snoozing.
Mended tweed blanket by Mourne Textiles
Ever wondered how liquid is turned into glass?
Waterford, Tipperary and Tyrone all produce incredible crystal, but an alternative to the big three is Kilkenny’s Jerpoint (as in the nearby abbey) hand-blown glass. Think striking colours and understated shapes. Watch a free demo from a master blower: flowing red-hot molten glass becomes the finished piece right before your eyes.
A mention of indigenous wicker weaving conjures up images of creels (wicker baskets) and lobster pots. Kathleen McCormick has mastered meshing the craft and design interface. Trunks, lampshades and wall designs are all on the menu, and her fisherman’s creel will be your new favourite handbag. Kathleen grows and harvests her own willow in County Kildare.
Fisherman's creel weave bag by Kathleen McCormick
9. Musical instruments
Enjoyed the seisiúns (traditional music sessions) on your holiday? Take that sweet music home with a trip to the quality music shops scattered all around Ireland. Powell’s in Galway city, for example, will be only too happy help you choose your own bodhrán or tin whistle.
Handcrafted in the Fermanagh village of Belleek for the past 156 years, this fine Parian China is made using techniques handed down through generations. Every brush stroke is skillfully applied by hand, meaning each piece is totally unique.
Got the shopping bug? Here are some more ideas. Feeling crafty? Find out more about Ireland’s craft and design scene