Design & Crafts Council Ireland announces winners of the RDS Irish Craft Bursary & the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary 2023
Design & Crafts Council Ireland and the RDS collaborate to promote the work inspired by Ireland’s rich history of craft and lacemaking with a combined €12,000 bursary prize.
11th December 2023: Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI) and the RDS are delighted to announce Stevan Hartung, award winning furniture maker, as the recipient of this year’s RDS Irish Craft Bursary 2023 and Jack O’Meara as the recipient of the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary 2023. These awards are part of the longstanding partnership between the RDS and DCCI and representative of the common aim they have in nurturing the craft and design sector in Ireland. The awards are funded by the RDS and managed by Design & Crafts Council Ireland.
The RDS Irish Craft Bursary, which is open to makers in DCCI’s PORTFOLIO programme, is valued at €10,000. Each year, the judges look for proposals demonstrating how the award could help develop a maker’s practice and career, as well as being of benefit to Irish craft.
The purpose of the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary, which is valued at €2,000, is to provide supports to contemporary Irish lacemakers. The lacemaking tradition is very strong in Ireland. In recent years, knitting, crochet and needlework has undergone a revival.
Stevan Hartung, recipient of the RDS Irish Craft Bursary, intends to continue his work with humble wood such as hawthorn, rowan and blackthorn, to create finely crafted cabinets, and help to instil in others an appreciation of the value and beauty of native Irish hedge trees. Currently, Stevan is finalising his work on three small cabinets using this type of timber, which forms part of a commission for the National Museum of Ireland/DCCI permanent collection of craft and design. To date, Stevan has completed two of the three cabinets. The first in holly and the second in wild cherry. The third cabinet will be made from hawthorn and hazel, which is currently seasoning for use in 2024. By winning the RDS Irish Craft Bursary, Stevan can now add an additional two cabinets to his series as well as completing a book on his work by the end of 2024.
RDS Irish Craft Bursary recipient Stevan Hartung said, “Receiving the RDS Craft Bursary will be a considerable support to me in the continuation and completion of my project creating a series of small wall cabinets using the wood from native Irish hedgerows. It will allow me to expand on the original comission for the NMI permanent collection of craft and design, and to record and illustrate my work with the publication of a book. I feel that this project is the culmination of many years of experience which bring together my love of cabinet making and my interest in, and concern for, our natural environment.”
The winner of the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary, Jack O’Meara, intends to use the bursary to create a series of ceramic vessels that draw on Irish traditional lace and relevant techniques for visual information. His aim is to experiment with soft and hard materials, combining lace stitches and buttonhole stitch variations with hand built clay panels, in order to create uniquely constructed vessels. The vessels will not just contain areas of stitching, rather, they will rely on interlaced stitching and the forces of gravity to keep them structurally sound. The materiality of both textiles and clay are vast, and Jack wants to compare and contrast the processes of lacemaking and embroidery with ceramics and clay. As well as lacemaking, Jack has a keen interest in Raku, since taking pottery classes as a child. Jack hopes to experiment with attempting to capture Irish lace motifs on raku clay bodies using a process similar to horsehair raku.
RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary recipient Jack O’Meara said: “My interest in lace has only recently developed out of my obsession with embroidery. As embroidery is a core tenet of my practice, it seemed only natural to progress to using needlepoint lace as my work became smaller and more intricate. My practice is inspired by Irishness, our rich material culture and society, and my own textile heritage. I am delighted to receive this award as a recent graduate, to be given the opportunity to celebrate and reimagine the historical materiality of Ireland is a privilege.”
The lace bursary is named after Eleonore Riego de la Branchardière. Renowned for her 72 ground-breaking books on needlecraft, Eleonore played a pivotal role in revolutionising the global lace industry and exerted a significant influence on Victorian-era fashion. her father from France — Eleonore seamlessly integrated the cultural richness of both backgrounds, facilitating her effortless assimilation into Victorian society. She became a needlework star, and her patterns were used by Irish women to create the in-demand fashion for English ladies. The RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary, in recognition of Eleonore’s contributions, aims to celebrate the spirit of innovation and resilience in the field of needlework. The bursary is designed to support aspiring individuals, ensuring the continuation of the tradition of excellence in lace craftsmanship.
Rosemary Steen, CEO, Design & Crafts Council Ireland said: “Design & Crafts Council Ireland is delighted to continue its collaboration with the RDS on both the Irish Craft Bursary and Branchardière Lace Bursary. It is vital we work hard to ensure all heritage crafts continue to thrive. These awards play a crucial role in providing support to both emerging and established craftspeople, preserving traditions through innovation and creativity. Jack and Stevan are both very deserving winners and we are delighted to assist their journeys in the development of their craftsmanship and the contribution they are making to the progression of Irish craft and design.”
The RDS Arts programme supports, artists, craftmakers, and musicians in Ireland through the provision of significant bursaries, as well as performance, studio, residency and exhibition opportunities.
Niamh de Loughry, Deputy Chief Executive – RDS Foundation said, “We are delighted to partner again this year with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland on the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary. Valued at €2,000 this year, the award provides funds to support innovation in both lacemaking and contemporary craft inspired by lacemaking. It is open to DCCI member organisations and was launched in 2021 to mark DCCI’s 50th anniversary. Since 2020, the RDS has invested over €300,000 in 35 Irish craft makers and designers starting out in their professional careers. We are delighted to contribute to the development and growth of standards of excellence in the craft sector through our support of these talented makers. I know that the winners of the RDS Branchardière Lace Bursary and RDS Irish Craft Bursary will use the prize money to accelerate their career progression and I look forward to seeing their future success.”