Ireland claims tantalising cuisine, mind-blowing scenery and some of the wittiest locals you will ever meet – but alas none of these treasures will fit in your suitcase. Lucky for you we also channel our creativity into design, with some quite brilliant results.
From hand-blown crystal to hand-thrown pottery to hand-shot (they use a gun) rugs, this is where design gets charming. So while we can’t package the ‘craic’, we can gift-wrap a piece of Ireland for you to bring home. You’ll have some craic showing it off to friends, too…
Ceadogán Rugs, County Wexford
Ever noticed your floor is suddenly under-dressed? You’ve been bitten by the rug bug. Rugs are the new fancy vase, and husband and wife team Denis Kenny and Fiona Gilboy are just the specialists to talk to when your bug demands only the best.
Their company Ceadogán makes some of the loveliest contemporary rugs and wall hangings around – do try restraining yourself from rolling on them in their studio. The rugs are made with love as well as a hand-held tufting gun – we know you want to see that in action so watch this video from the Ceadogán studio itself…
Nicholas Mosse Pottery, County Kilkenny
My mother is a fanatic, so I have accompanied her to his lovely studio/shop many times (yep she buys enough for two people to carry). The studio, shop and café are all housed in a former flour mill that oozes authentic farmhouse charm and smells rather delish (we’ll talk cakes later!).
Watching the pottery masters at work through the studio window can be mesmerizing – Mosse’s distinctive floral patterns are all painted by hand. And no matter how hard my younger cousins tried, the painters never break their concentration when you wave at them. Next floor up is the shop, which if you’re anything like my mother could take hours to peruse. Finally my weary arms are taken to the café, where the food – naturally served in Mosse pottery – awaits me. I have just enough energy to lift the carrot cake to my lips. All worth it!
Powerscourt Centre, Dublin City
The grand dame of retail therapy is , one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the city. The grand staircases, glittering chandeliers, and original monochrome tiles promise the most stately shopping experience you can have in the 21st Century. These days the cabinets of antique jewellery, balcony cafés, and a top floor of exclusive Irish designs, keep up the atmosphere of effortless opulence – our favourite type of opulence.
At the top floor you’ll find the Design Centre – the finest collection of Irish designers under one roof. Counting off my fingers that includes John Rocha, Catherine Deane, Roisin Linanne, Synan O’Mahony, Philip Treacy, Erickson Beamon and Susannagh Grogan.
No less charming is the Loft Market also on the top floor. Here are the big names of tomorrow, selling their jewellery, dresses and knitwear and chatting about their inspiration and raw materials. I’ve lost count of the amount of compliments I get from my sparkly ring by designer Alice Moyon.
If you’re looking for a ring of the more down-on-one-knee variety, ESL Jewellery is your man. For 30 years ESL has been making custom pieces to order and the goldsmiths can be seen crafting the most delicate pieces in the shop itself.
City of Derry Crystal, County Derry – Londonderry
Crystal, you may have heard, is a bit of a thing of ours. We love a bit of luxury even if it only leaves the shelf for special occasions… If you’re ever a guest in a home in Ireland and the kids are ordered to ‘take out the good crystal’ from the cupboard, rest assured you’re a very welcome guest.
is located in the heart of and is one of the household crystal names. Using traditional designs and highly skilled methods of hand-cutting they create their signature ‘Intaglio’ hand cut glass.
And of course we couldn’t mention crystal without a nod to the crystal palace of ! Their new visitor centre is simply amazing.
Inis Meain Knitwear, Inis Meain, County Galway
is home of the Aran sweater. I cherish my own chunky knitted jumper that has never let in a whisper of wind. The real deal requires a scenic trip to the and the factory store. It’s still a local business with 16 of the island’s 200 inhabitants working there.
Originally each Aran family had their own combination of knitting patterns or ‘handwriting’, which were usually inspired by the sea and landscape. Now the current designs are a mixture of old and new, incorporating modern trends and retaining the famous Aran charm.
Tulip Wood Crafts, County Down
Now for some treats of a wooden nature – taking woodcarving to another level is Geoff Tulip who has been woodturning furniture, sculpture and tableware for many years. He adapted his craft from the traditional techniques and is now creating truly innovative and beautiful designs. The bowls and plates are so gorgeous, you’d hardly want to eat off them!
The County Down native is based in his Downpatrick studio where he produces, exhibits and sells his work. For those inspired by his artistry, you can take lessons from the woodmaster himself, who says “with one to one tuition, you’ll be able to make a bowl, clock or wooden pen”. Familiarise yourself with a lathe (an essential tool in woodcarving) and get carving!
Other crafty locations include the Kilkenny Shop, bursting with goods from all over the country. More winter warmers can be found at the Blarney Woollen Mills. Tipperary Crystal is one of the most delicate brands in the country – please be gentle. When in County Fermanagh, check out the pottery made on the shores of Lough Erne at Belleek Pottery.