August Craft Month 2012 begins this week with a celebration of the work of talented, innovative young designer makers who are ‘making it’ in Northern Ireland.
This year the theme for the annual festival of craft is ‘Made in Northern Ireland’, which will shine a light on the innovative, intricate and contemporary work currently taking place in this thriving sector of the arts and creative industries.
Joe Kelly, Chief Executive of Craft NI, which organises August Craft Month, said designer makers were promoting the best of Northern Ireland by exhibiting top level work in major cities throughout the world.
“Northern Ireland has been in the spotlight this year for all the right reasons, with major events such as the Titanic Centenary, the Land of Giants show and the Olympic torch relay. The craft sector has played its part in promoting a positive image of a cultural renaissance that is new, modern and energetic,” he said.
“The public should be proud of the ingenuity, creativity and enterprise of the contemporary craft sector. This year, we will be looking at how makers are inspired by the place they live, by its people, its landscape, its culture and industrial heritage.”
August Craft Month will feature a huge array of exhibitions, workshops, festivals, seminars and talks from all corners of Northern Ireland. Its message is that Northern Ireland is a great place to view and buy contemporary craft.
Joe Kelly added: “There is a very wide range of events taking place throughout Northern Ireland this August. I would encourage the public to visit the exhibitions, talk to makers, try out the workshops and purchase something unique, imaginative and above all, Made in Northern Ireland.”
Appropriately, the opening exhibition at the Craft NI Gallery in Cotton Court in Belfast’s Waring Street this Thursday (August 2) will feature the work of six members of ‘making it’ programme a two year development programme run by Craft NI to help makers establish sustainable businesses.
Joe Kelly added: “We are very excited by this new exhibition, which highlights the sheer variety of skills, materials and influences that drive our makers on to produce work of the highest quality. This exhibition will feature work in materials as diverse as steel and silk, and works of art inspired by our rural and urban landscapes, our industrial traditions and our close family connections.”
Among the ‘making it’ makers is sculptor Alison Lowry, one of Northern Ireland’s brightest emerging talents who currently has a stunning piece showing in London at the Olympic-inspired international exhibition, Glass Games. Alison was also one of the Irish artists chosen to exhibit their work at the major international art fair, Art Shanghai.
There is also metal sculptor Eamonn Higgins, who hails from the Glens of Antrim and is inspired by the history, heritage and culture of this most beautiful part of Northern Ireland. Eamonn is involved in a number of community art projects that explore our shared cultural traditions.
Catherine Keenan, who is based at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart has attracted a lot of attention with her distinctive and colourful ‘Eye Candy’ range of glass sculpture and goldsmith Diane Lyness, a descendant of the legendary Lyness family of Silver Platers, is known for her highly skilled, delicate pieces of floral inspired jewellery.
Making up the six are textile designer Katie Brown who prints images of industrial cranes, tower blocks and the skeletal remains of the shipbuilding industry on swathes of vibrantly coloured silk. And Michelle Stephens, whose work is textile based, but uses wood, metal, and paint, along with woven fabrics, to explore the nature of cloth and the way that it is made.
In recent years there has also been a rebirth of interest in Northern Ireland’s linen-making past and this is reflected by the Linen Diaspora, an exciting exhibition curated by Professor Karen Fleming at the R Space Gallery in Lisburn, which opened on July 28 and runs until August 31.
August Craft Month is supported by the National Lottery Fund through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Invest NI, and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. It is delivered in partnership with 40 arts and cultural venues and organisations across Northern Ireland.
For more information about the events taking place during August Craft Month visit www.craftni.org