Every Wednesday, Maria Moynihan profiles an Irish-based craftsperson or maker on Irish Country Living’s Instagram page and online. Here are 12 from 2022 to inspire; and maybe sort a last minute present or two.
1 Síne Vasquez, fine jewellery
Having made jewellery as a hobby for several years, the loss of her father coupled with the arrival of her third child prompted specialist cancer physiotherapist Síne Vasquez to take the plunge to re-train as a goldsmith.
“Ultimately we decided life is short and I went back to study full-time when my youngest was 11 months old,” says Síne.
As well as bespoke pieces, Síne’s fine jewellery collection draws from the details in old architecture; such as her best-selling pillar T-bar necklace (€1,850) featuring rare olive green diamonds inspired by Georgian buildings and symbolising “the inner strength that we possess even when we don’t feel strong”.
What is just as meaningful, however, is that 10% of profits from every piece go to Irish-Tanzanian charity TLM (www.wearetlm.org) to support their work in treating and supporting children with cancer in Tanzania, one of Africa’s biggest gold and diamond mining countries.
2 Paula McGovern, Wizard & Grace
Growing up on a farm in Co Leitrim has stood to Paula McGovern since launching Wizard & Grace essential oil candles in September.
“There is no nine to five with farming and there is no nine to five with your own business either,” says Paula, who now lives in Kinsale.
Her Draíocht candle (€35) is appropriate for the festive season due to its combination of frankincense, lime and ginger. Paula finds that many customers buy her candles as a gift; before returning to treat themselves.
“This is great as I think we need to remind people – especially women – that it’s important to focus on ourselves sometimes and gift to ourselves. I hope my candles help busy women find a moment to connect to themselves in their busy day.”
3 Maura Bourke, The Messy Brunette
Tipperary woman Maura Bourke started her business creating handmade wood and acrylic jewellery after her son was diagnosed with autism.
“I decided to stay at home so I could be there for him. I was always a bit creative, so I started doing little projects at home and in between appointments with my son. It evolved from there,” she says.
Maura wanted to make colourful, affordable jewellery “that you could wear every day”. “Not something to be hidden away in a drawer and definitely not something you could find in Penneys,” she says.
Each piece is laser cut from FSC certified European plywood and then hand-painted and assembled by Maura, using a combination of modern techniques from UV printing to decoupage. Currently, her colour pop drop earrings (€35) are her best-sellers. “They’re bright, happy earrings and have some glitter. What’s not to love?” she says.
4 Tanya Ryan Casey, Fiadh & Finn
Tanya Ryan Casey was inspired to set up Fiadh & Finn fine art keepsakes in December 2020 after she began drawing and making up stories about two wild rabbits in the field behind her house to amuse her daughters.
From new baby gifts to nursery art, each piece is painted in watercolour and reproduced as a fine art giclée print. Her best-seller is her Natural Ireland Alphabet personalised name collection (from €106), which is inspired by Irish animals, birds, flowers, trees, insects and butterflies.
“To have something I have painted on the walls of children’s rooms all over the world is a true privilege and pure joy,” she says.
5 Linda Schaefer, Wild Paper Studio
Encouraging connection during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Linda Schaefer to launch Wild Paper Studio in September 2021.
“I wanted to create a more personal, uniquely Irish collection of seasonal stationery and paper goods that would resonate and encourage handwritten correspondence and connection as a creative reprieve from email,” she says.
Linda’s sketches are hand-painted in detailed watercolours and converted into cards, stationery and prints. All items are designed, printed and packaged entirely in Ireland using recycled paper where possible.
Her best-seller is her monthly subscription box (€16.50/month), which is a five- or six-item set of themed stationery, including greeting cards, letter writing paper, sticker sets, gift tags, mini prints and notecards.
“Subscribers enjoy their subscription box as a surprise in the post every month,” says Linda.
6 Aideen Fallon, Fluff Beag
Having blogged and shared crafting and knitting tutorials on YouTube for many years, Aideen Fallon launched her Fluff Beag website in May 2021 selling knitwear and handmade décor from her home in Co Galway, such as her “Stocaí” merino baby booties €30, “Croia” personalised baby cardigans (€35) and “Babóg” beanies (€16).
As well as her own products, however, Aideen shares the work of other Irish makers on her Instagram page using the hashtag #siopaglas.
“I am all about community over competition and would much rather see others buying from other amazing small Irish shops and supporting these wonderful people’s dreams rather than the usual mass-produced items,” she says.
7 Claire Morgan, McWilliam Bags
When Claire Morgan met her future husband in Hong Kong, little did she realise that not only would the couple eventually re-locate to his native Schull in 2017; but that they would also take over the long-established McWilliam Sailmakers.
In 2019, they undertook a re-launch of their signature striped sail bags, which were originally designed in the 1970s by sailors, for sailors. Totes start from €60 and hold-alls from €65.
“Every bag is handmade in our Cork sail loft by a small team of four,” says Claire. “They suit not just sailors, but everybody, as they’re ideal for travel, as kit bags, and school bags. These bags last for a lifetime – we repeatedly get photos of bags that are 30 years old.”
8 Finola Fegan, Finca Skin Organics
Finola Fegan set up Finca Skin Organics to produce products formulated specifically for sensitive skin after a decades-long battle with rosacea.
“I couldn’t find any products that were both natural and effective. Anything I tried either had no effect or caused further irritation,” says Finola, who owes her entrepreneurial spirit to her upbringing on a cattle and poultry farm in Co Down.
The collection now comprises two serums, a moisturising balm, primer, and two options of tinted high-SPF sunscreens, with all bar the sunscreens produced in Carlingford, Co Louth, and prices from €30.
Her favourite part of the business is the positive feedback she receives from customers. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have made something that helps other people, just like me,” she says.
9 Sorrell Reilly, printmaker
Co Clare-based Sorrell Reilly set up her own business in 2018 to create colourful artworks of the Irish landscape, inspired by nature, music and poetry.
Each design begins as a hand-drawn sketch, which is transferred to a lino block, inked, printed and then scanned and coloured digitally. Her most popular piece is called “Copper Coast”, followed by some of the most popular Dublin swimming spots, with prints entitled “The sea which held me” (Seapoint) and “Lead me to the water” (Vico Baths), ranging in price from €22-€55 depending on the size ordered.
She loves how people connect with her work “and make it their own”.
“There are so many stories and memories associated with the landscape and I love that my work can reflect parts of who we are,” she says.
10 Sarah McKenna, ceramicist
Having concentrated on sculpture for exhibition after graduating from college, in 2013, Louth-based ceramic artist Sarah McKenna discovered a love for making “functional objects” after creating a series of plates with drawings.
“I love to create pieces that have meaning and use. So, when you gift a bowl or vase, it includes a message, which becomes a daily reminder to the recipient,” she says,
Sarah’s pieces are handmade with soft slabs of clay and imprinted with patterns and textures that are given a wash of colour. The work includes drawings or text, such as her best-selling piece, “Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”, €95.
“It has been sent all over the world. So many Irish people abroad wish they could be close to their loved ones. Even those with only a cúpla focal are familiar with the Irish phrase,” she says.
11 Martyna Potocka, The Little Big Moments
When COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions hit, Martyna Potocka began crafting to fill her spare time. With more babies being born in her circle, the graphic designer decided to create a baby milestone book as a gift; which in turn inspired her to set up her business, The Little Big Moments.
Each book is designed and handbound by Martyna, with a personalised cover decorated with the baby’s name and date of birth using heat press vinyl (from €69). Other products include keepsake boxes, nursery decorations, name signs and baby milestone cards, with plans to expand the range in 2023.
Her advice to other new businesses?
“Don’t wait for the perfect timing and the perfect circumstances,” she says.
“Start where you are, with what you have and keep growing!”
12 Emmet Bosonnet, Kopper Kreation
Emmet Bosonnet first became aware of scrap metal waste while working in the renewable sector for 10 years.
“I researched how much energy and carbon was used in actually recycling metals and was shocked, so I decided to try and reuse some of the pieces of copper and Kopper Kreation was born,” says Emmet, who set up the business in 2018, with his first sales at the Honest2Goodness farmers’ market in Glasnevin, Dublin.
His best-selling piece is his set of three bud vases (€40), which won an award for sustainability at Showcase in the RDS earlier this year.
“I am really proud of this product as it is 100% recycled. The copper pipes are offcuts and then the glass test tubes were bought at auction from an old science lab that closed down,” says Emmet, who also recently launched a new collection of table and floor lamps.