22 Irish designers and makers showcased their work from 22 – 26 January at Maison & Objet 2016 in Paris. There were trade professionals and buyers from over 40 countries globally, who attended this show. The Irish designers were part of the Design Ireland pavilion, which was curated by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI). So, what role do Irish designers play on an international level? What makes Irish design unique and memorable? DJI takes a look at the recent exhibition in Paris to find out.
The Chief Executive of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, Karen Hennessy, said that the representation and positioning of the Irish designers and makers at the show was very strong. Hennessy stated that there was a very good reaction to the work of the Irish designers and makers. She said that the Irish designers “stood out in terms of uniqueness and authenticity, linking back to where we come from.” With influences from our rugged coastline and local materials, the designs showcased these through colour and natural / organic design. As an attendee and Chief Executive of DCCoI, Hennessy said that Maison is a very important show to be at – last year was their first year at Maison, and this second year is vital for building relationships. She also said that there was great support from both Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Embassy in Paris, which hosted an event for the designers and also invited buyers.
Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason is the Ambassador of Ireland to France, and she was also very involved with the Irish designers and makers who appeared at Maison & Objet. The Ambassador pointed out that because 2015 was the Year of Design in Ireland, the first results of this push could be seen at Maison & Objet. The effort made in 2015 to introduce Irish designers to the world, including large showcases at the Embassy in Paris, has meant that the names of Irish designers are better-known and international buyers are more familiar with their work, as well as being more familiar with the quality of design Ireland is producing. Ambassador Byrne Nason also referred to the uniqueness of Irish design which was displayed through the considered use of materials and the skill of Irish craftsmanship, particularly in stone, glass, ceramics, and wood: “I think you can see the European influence on Irish design, particularly in the contemporary furniture on display, but we are an island, and in my view the Irish contribution stood out in the Hibernian influence on the textiles and colours chosen.” The Ambassador indicated that this show was to become a major landmark on the Irish design calendar as it allows them to show their work in the world’s design and fashion capital.
One of the designers who had the opportunity to show their work at Maison & Objet was Jennifer Slattery of Jennifer Slattery Textiles. Slattery designs and makes limited edition home accessories, and her specialty is table linens. Her collections comprise of printed table linens and embroidered Irish linens. Her embroidered Irish linen was on display at Maison & Objet as part of the Design & Craft Council’s expo of Irish Design. Slattery believes that the show is a great platform for Irish design: “the Irish stand was very busy and looked fantastic; the standard of design and level of quality presented by the Irish designers involved stood out on a world stage.” Slattery also related Irish design to our heritage of craft and unique understanding of indigenous materials, and how it is in our blood and evident in the work that was on display: “I think the work displayed was classic and timeless and the standard in Irish design and craft today is very high.” One display that stood out to Slattery was the beautiful woven products by Mourne Textiles from Northern Ireland: “their quality of work really stood out and the stand was packed full of quirky but practical products and a joy to visit.”
Irish design is obviously making a great impact on the industry, and I do believe that our culture and geography play significant roles in the uniqueness of our designs. The Year of Design 2015 has played a huge part in popularising Irish products, and it looks like Irish design is about to soar due to the efforts of the designers, makers, DCCoI, Embassy’s and all the additional support. They have all pulled together to set up a new path of achievements for Ireland.