Skip to content

Design & Crafts Council Ireland pays tribute to legendary filmmaker and former Board member

Posted 20.01.2021
Press Releases

The Board and staff of Design & Crafts Council Ireland have expressed sadness at news of the passing of the award-winning filmmaker, David Shaw-Smith. 

David was a long-standing member of board of the Crafts Council of Ireland, and he made an invaluable contribution to the crafts and design sector throughout his 50-year film career. 
David produced more than 100 documentaries, primarily focusing on Irish life in the latter half of the 20th century. These included a series on the history of Dublin, contemporary Irish artists, architecture angling and – notably –  his critically acclaimed ‘HANDS’ series documenting traditional Irish crafts and way of life. He said of the project: “I was very concerned that these wonderful traditional crafts would disappear without a record.” In fact, his work became a catalyst to protecting and growing these traditions which are still retained in Ireland today. 

Throughout his life, David was a key supporter and champion of craftspeople across the island of Ireland. He was an acclaimed filmmaker, photographer and archivist of Irish life and times. David helped to set up and was chairman of Ceráta Inneona, Ireland’s first school of blacksmithing. 
He directed and produced ‘A Life in Colour’, a documentary on the celebrated ceramicist John ffrench, was a member of Aosdána and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Dublin, Trinity College. He served on the Board of Management of the Crafts Council of Ireland for 25 years from 1987, where he was a very passionate and active board member.  
DCCI Chief Executive Rosemary Steen said: “During the course of an incredible career, David had a profound influence over the design and crafts sector in Ireland and he had an immense impact while serving on the Board of the Crafts Council of Ireland for 25 years.” 
“We would like to express our gratitude for the invaluable contribution that David has made to the Irish craft and design industry for so many years. Our thoughts are with David’s wife Sally, his four children, family, colleagues and his wide circle of friends at this very sad time.” 
Born in Dublin in 1939, David had a life-long interest in crafts and from an early age was inspired by traditional practices and the natural world. He joined RTÉ in the early 1960s after returning to Ireland from the US, and it was during his time with the State broadcaster that he honed his skills as a cameraman before becoming an independent filmmaker in the early 1970s. 
David produced and photographed the acclaimed television series ‘HANDS’ for RTÉ in the 1970s and ’80s, alongside his wife Sally Shaw Smith. HANDS is a unique, multi award-winning series of 37 documentaries on Irish craft. During the filming of HANDS, David and Sally travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, bringing Irish heritage and craftsmanship to the wider Irish population. 
For further information, please contact [email protected]