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The Venue

20 June 2018

RDS Craft Awards Announced and Craft Exhibition Opens

  • Five €10,000 RDS Craft Awards Bursary Winners Announced
  • Direct RDS support for craft sector doubled to €60,000
  • Celebratory Exhibition for 50th anniversary of Craft Awards Launched
  • RDS Library exhibition: ‘A must-see for anyone interested in Irish craft and design’

Five emerging Irish craft makers were today, (Wednesday June 20), awarded a €10,000 RDS Craft Awards Bursary each for the development of their burgeoning craft skills, while in the RDS Library an exhibition, ‘The Maker’s Hand’, celebrating the 50th anniversary of RDS Craft Awards was opened to the public.

The RDS has doubled its direct support for craftmakers with a new structure for the RDS Craft Awards from 2018, which means that former recipients of the Design and Craft Council of Ireland’s (DCCoI) Future Maker Awards and Supports are now eligible to apply for five annual €10,000 bursaries. This year, following a competitive judging process chaired by Róisín de Buitléar, Laoise Carey (Fashion), Chloë Dowds (Ceramics), Pierce Healy (Jewellery/Objects), Alan Meredith (Furniture/Woodturning) and Pearl Reddington (Knitwear) were made the inaugural recipients of the €10,000 bursaries. The bursaries are specifically given to emerging craft makers to give them financial support at a critical time in their developing professional career. The funds can be spent on further education and training, research, development of new work, mentoring, purchase of equipment, studio improvements, technology, their website and residencies.

The RDS involvement in supporting Irish Craft goes back many generations, but since 1968 it took the form of an annual competition that also displayed an exhibition of a wide range of craft making practices that was displayed at the Dublin Horse Show. ‘The Maker’s Hand’ celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first of these exhibitions with an exceptional gathering of select items from some of Ireland’s best craftmakers of the past five decades. From beautiful wrought iron to delicate Carrickmacross lace, from intricate leatherwork to bold ceramics, this exhibition documents the history of this important fifty years and displays over 40 works from award winning makers from all over Ireland, including work by Alan Ardiff, Liam Flynn, Eimear Conyard and many others.

Commenting on the opening of the exhibition, Michael Duffy RDS Chief Executive said: “The exhibition that opened today is a must-see for anyone who wants to view some of the best craft and design produced in Ireland in the late 20th century. The RDS involvement in craft goes back to the 18th century, so the exhibitions of the past 50 years were just the latest iteration of our support. We are very proud of the significant contribution they made to the craft sector, which is perhaps an undervalued part of Ireland’s creative economy.”

He continued: “From this year, our support for craft makers takes a new form that is more impactful for emerging makers and that is in line with our strategy of support that we are implementing across our arts programme. Our commitment to the craft sector remains steadfast and we believe that we can best positively impact future Irish craft makers of potential through this new structure, which is only possible thanks to the great partnership with DCCoI.”

The DCCoI Future Makers Awards & Supports programme, which provides cash supports for students and emerging craft and design practitioners, is the qualifying competition for the new RDS Craft Awards. To be eligible to apply for the RDS Craft Awards emerging makers must have received a Future Makers Award or Support in the preceding year.

Chloe Dowds is one of the 2018 recipients of the RDS Craft Awards: Winning this RDS Craft Award is a massive boost for me. Working in ceramics is incredibly physical. With this award I can now purchase a pug mill for my studio which will mix and de-air my porcelain for me. Previously I prepared all my porcelain by hand, wedging, weighing and wedging again. Now I will be able to save my energy for the important task of developing my work and producing my porcelain tableware range. It's difficult to express what a massive difference this will make to my practice. Thank you to the RDS and everyone involved in the RDS Craft Awards for this incredible opportunity.’

A judging panel of five craft and design professionals chaired by Irish glass artist, Róisín de Buitléar, reviewed the applications and shortlisted nine candidates to attend interviews in the RDS in May. Physical examples of their work were shown to the panel and five winners were selected. In addition to the €10,000 bursary, the 2018 RDS Craft Awards winners will show their work to the public on a free stand at Gifted – The Contemporary Craft & Design Fair held in the RDS in December.

The RDS has also created a new €10,000 bursary called the RDS Irish Craft Bursary which will be managed by the DCCoI and will be open to its Portfolio programme selected makers.

The restructured RDS Craft Awards is aligned with the RDS Arts Work Programme goal of supporting artists to make the transition from emerging to professional practice. At €60,000, the RDS has doubled its direct annual support to Irish craft makers.


Work by the following makers will be included in ‘The Maker’s Hand’: Alan Ardiff | Roger Bennett |Edward Bisgood and Colm Bagnall (Bushypark Ironworks) | Helena Brennan | Denis Brown | Úna Burke | Des Byrne | Brian Clarke | Gareth Colgan | Eimear Conyard | Mary Cuthbert | Peter Donovan | Martin Doyle | Terry Dunne | Kathie Earle | Ríona Finn | Kathleen Flanagan | Liam Flynn | Ciarán Forbes | Seamus Gill | Nial Harper | Ciara Harrison | Joe Hogan | Kenyon Homfray | Catherine Keenan | Mary Landy | Kathleen and Keith Leadbetter | Carol Mackey | Bernadette Madden | Jane Murtagh | Inez Nordell | Nuala O’Donovan | Kevin O’Dwyer | Kakuko Okamura | Ina Olohan | Mary Palmer | John Piekaar | Thomas Raven | Rita Scannell | Killian Schurmann | Mary Shields | Céline Traynor | Hugo Vegter | Gráinne Watts


The exhibition will be open from 21 June until 17 August in the RDS Library & Archive. Please note a charge applies to non-RDS Members during the Dublin Horse Show (8 – 12 August).


2018 RDS Craft Awards Bursary recipients

Laoise Carey


Laoise graduated from NCAD in 2017 with a degree in Fashion Design. She won the Brown Thomas Designer to Watch Bursary of €3,000 in the same year and is currently completing an internship with Simone Rocha in London. Laoise incorporates traditional hand-crafted elements and vintage fabrics into her unique designs and is very committed to craftsmanship and heritage. She plans to use her RDS Bursary to complete a level 7 Certificate at the Saville Row Tailoring Academy in London. Laoise wants to bridge the gap in her career between designing clothes and having the ability to hand-craft bespoke, luxury garments in a way that is technically correct and long lasting. This reflects the hands-on nature of her personal design practice.


Chloë Dowds

Chloë is a ceramic artist based in Dublin. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are paramount in her porcelain work which is wheel-thrown before being altered. She mixes her glazes by hand to recipes created specifically for her production pieces. She is a 2018 Ambassador of European Ceramics as part of the Future Lights in Ceramics programme which she won in 2017. Chloe is also a member of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Portfolio programme. She does some teaching and is interested in the collaboration of materials as well as collaborations between industry and artists. She will use her RDS Craft Awards Bursary to purchase a pug-mill which will help to significantly increase the profit margin on her range. She also plans to attend ‘Claytopia’ in 2019, a ceramics conference held annually in the USA.


Pierce Healy

Pierce Healy creates metal objects and jewellery that are often layered with intricate engravings. He is fascinated by the capacity of jewellery to embody our stories and to facilitate storytelling. He harnesses subversive humour as a communication device in his work. His work is informed and inspired by his exposure to new and old techniques and a myriad of perspectives gained through collaborations, artist residencies and teaching in Ireland, the USA and Sweden.

Pierce has an MFA from Ädellab Konstfack, Stockholm, Sweden in 2012. He currently works from his studio in Dublin. He will use some of his bursary money to research and study Japanese inlay metal working techniques with Kazuo Kashima. This training in Japan will further inform his practice and add to his repertoire, inspiring a new body of work, and helping him to foster invaluable connections to an exciting new market.

Alan Meredith

Alan Meredith’s work straddles the boundaries of contemporary craft, sculpture and architecture. Graduating with a master’s Degree in Architecture from UCD in September 2015, Alan currently works from his studio in Co. Laois creating unique furniture and wood turned pieces as well as undertaking public space commissions. He plans to increase his international presence at exhibitions and trade fairs over the coming years in order to access new markets for his work. Alan won the DCCoI’s overall Future Maker of the Year Award in 2017 which qualified him to enter the RDS Craft Awards this year. He plans to spend his RDS Craft Award Bursary on equipment and studio improvements which will create a new area separate from the workshop for design, research and display of finished work.



Pearl Reddington


Pearl is a contemporary Irish knitwear designer based in Dublin. Her designs bridge the gap between the traditional and the modern, combining luxury Irish wools with cutting-edge knit techniques. Each bespoke garment is crafted individually by hand to ensure a meticulous attention to detail and high-end finish. She uses heritage yarns mainly sourced from Donegal, urban inspired shots of neon colour are often incorporated into her designs. She plans to design for some of the larger knitwear brands in Ireland as well as growing her own company. Pearl is at the start-up stage of her business and will use her RDS Bursary money to purchase a new knitting machine which will help to increase her output. She also plans to show her knitwear at Showcase in 2019, to outsource the production of some of her tailored garments and to build a new website.



2018 Judging Panel:

Róisín de Buitléar (Artist & Chair), Annie Warburton (Creative Director of Crafts Council UK), Joe Hogan (Basketmaker), Sara Flynn (Ceramic Artist), John Tynan (Head of Education & Training, Design & Crafts Council of Ireland) and Siobhán Riordan (Managing Director, Alan Ardiff Jewellery).

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