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Book Review: Traditional Crafts of Ireland
by David Shaw Smith

As with most countries, Ireland began to lose touch with its cottage industries as the Industrial Revolution and digital revolution brought new and increasingly impersonal methods of production. However, the growing prosperity these changes made possible served to ultimately preserve endangered crafts as a revival of interest in traditional crafts took place.

In this brilliant book, time stands still as we meet the skilled practitioners of more than forty-eight traditional Irish crafts, from woodcarvers, thatchers, goldsmiths, and potters to glassblowers of the world-famous Waterford crystal, crios weavers from the Aran Islands, and the makers of items as varied as harps and quilts, baskets and curraghs, drystone walls and Irish lace.

To assemble this comprehensive record, the author traveled the length and breadth of Ireland and its islands, documenting the crafts in their natural surroundings before they disappear completely. His superb color photographs include both poetic images of the finished craft pieces and informative sequences explaining the production process. Accompanied by Sally Shaw-Smith's evocative drawings, each craft's history and lore are intriguingly presented by some of Ireland's finest historians and craft writers. The story of hand knitting, for example, includes references to literature as the types and meanings of various stitches are explained.

A magnificent testament to the centuries-old traditions of a vibrant land, the book is both a chronicle of times past and a celebration of an enduring culture, and will appeal to anyone connected with the Emerald Isle or who has ever visited it. It is the culmination of a forty-year project, the first fruits of which were seen in David Shaw-Smith's earlier book, Ireland's Traditional Crafts, published in the 1980s.

About the author: David Shaw-Smith is a Dublin-born independent film producer. His films on traditional Irish crafts have been seen all over the world and have received many awards, including the Golden Harp. His research and photographs on traditional crafts are scheduled to become part of the Irish National Archives.

 

Tue, Aug 26, 2014


The idols of Boa Island

Boa is at the lower end of Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh. Here, in the ancient Caldragh cemetery are two pre-Christian stone figures - the Janus statue and a smaller statue, the Lusty Man. Shown is the more famous of the two - a double-sided figure of two beings carved back-to-back. Interestingly, this type of figure is often referred to when the calendar year has just turned and we are glancing back even as we move forward. Also, the month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. Often flowers and coins are left at the base of both statues - perhaps for good luck in the new year? Speculation as to what the idols represent continues.
Photo Credit: Bucknell University

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New edition of a knitting classic! Traditional handknit designs for men and women. Features colorful Fair Isles, hard-wearing Arans and Guernseys, delicate Shetland patterns, and garments from Iceland and the Falklands. Includes re-usable pattern sections.
See our Article on Aran Isle Knitting
Click here for Irish Knitting.


 

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