The landscape and the artisans

Carving, blowing, weaving, sculpting: from the age BC, Ireland’s people have been crafting magic. Here, three experts discuss their creations and how this little island has guided their designs

Welcome to Antrim, welcome to Westeros and welcome to Steensons

You could travel the world searching for landscapes as visually rich as the Glens of Antrim. These nine undulating valleys are the creative source from which family-run jewelers, Steensons, create entire ranges.

As Goldsmith and Director Dan Spencer attests, the impact of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on their designs is substantial: "Our Northern Reflections range was inspired by the landscape and the lines of each piece started as sketches of the shapes created by the surrounding headlands."

This particular range, he adds, was "themed on my own love of running in the Antrim Hills." And it shows. Check out those contrasting colours, gentle curves and rich textures. It’s like having the Antrim glens on a pendant.

We have a long and rich culture of art and creativity in Ireland

You’ll be glad to know, too, that Steensons is an Économusée, meaning visitors are welcome to watch the goldsmiths at work. Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones, for example, can see some of the show's most memorable accouterments, such as crowns, brooches and necklaces being cast and shaped on the spot.

A potter who shaped his own path in Kerry

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is defined by its untamed beauty. Staggering mountains, foaming Atlantic seascapes and rugged cliffs make it one of the most dramatic coastlines in the world. For distinguished potter, Louis Mulcahy, this is the backdrop for his lifelong passion.

Gazing across the Blasket Islands on the Clogher headland in Dingle, the most westerly point in Europe, you’ll find Louis Mulcahy Pottery. It’s here that Louis has created decorative pots, hand-brushed plates and exquisite lamps that have set trends seen to this day in Ireland.

Louis explains how the dramatic surrounds of his workshop have seeped into his work: "The colours of the sea and mountains around me are mirrored in my pots. Likewise, the massive winter waves exploding against our cliffs have driven my desire to create big sculptural works."

He adds, "I did not predetermine this. Rather, it is a subconscious reflection of what I see as beautiful in my day to day."

Even after 50 years, the excitement I get from pottery is matched only by the childhood thrill of unpacking gifts on Christmas morning

Curious visitors can check out professional throwers shaping pots and learn about techniques like casting and glazing in Louis’ County Kerry workshop. There’s also an open room for those looking to get their hands dirty and create their own misshapen masterpieces on the potter’s wheel.

Fallen leaves form fallen trees in Louth

Few connections between craft and landscape are as personal as that of woodcarver Terry O’Brien: his wooden bowls and boards are carved from the same trees he played around and even climbed as a young boy.

"The landscape greatly influences my products, coming from fallen trees" Terry tells us, "hence my business name, Fallen Leaves From Fallen Trees."

Living on the Boyne Estuary near the east coast in County Louth, Terry walks regularly in Beaulieu Woods, home to the medieval Beaulieu House, "to get inspiration for work."

I think there is nothing nicer than the feel, smell and touch of the wood, and to know the trees come from around the area

Eager to share his passion, Terry hosts woodcarving weekends where he teaches those who want to develop their skills. "I'm happiest in my workshop when I'm able to inspire people from all walks of life to produce beautiful and unique pieces from these trees."

Want to hear more about Irish design? You can. Or check out what’s going on around Ireland during the Year of Irish Design 2015.

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