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Hand-Made

Ireland's Cottage Crafts.

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Good fortune on St. Patrick's Day., Digital ID 1588218, New York Public LibraryHappy St. Patrick's Day! 

The legacy of handmade crafts--tweed, lace, baskets, woolen knits, and more--has been sustained in Ireland over centuries. These handmade traditions are tied both to individual makers' efforts as well as organizations that worked to revive and sustain interest in cottage crafts and industries in the 1880s. Janice Helland's British and Irish Home Arts and Industries, 1880-1914: Marketing Craft, Making Fashion provides an illuminating overview of the organizations that fostered this revival, and the complex issues of class and politics that shaped the movement.

One cottage crafts revival organization was the Donegal Industrial Fund, founded in 1883 by Alice Rowland Hart, a London merchant's daughter. Hart had become committed to finding urban markets for rural Irish handicrafts after touring destitute Irish communities of Donegal. As Helland explains, Hart held exhibitions, opened shops, and managed sales of handmade Irish goods. Hart's efforts focused upon assisting Irish women in creating livelihoods, but she shared the some of the same romantic notions of pre-industrial craft held by William Morris and John Ruskin.

And what of cottage crafts today? The traditions are alive and well in Ireland today, as Betsy Klein shows in Cottage Industry: Portraits of Irish Artisans. A few of the many devoted artisans celebrated in Klein's book are Kevin Donaghy, who makes woolen tweeds; Rory Conner, who creates knives; Áine & Tarlach de Blácam, who produce woolen knits; and Sadie Chowen, who operates the Burren Perfumery.

To find more Library resources on Irish handicrafts, simply look in the Library Catalog under the subjects Artisans--Ireland and Handicraft--Ireland. And online, the Crafts Council of Ireland is a good place to explore Irish makers active today.

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