Generation: Exhibition on Familial Traditions of Making to Open at National Design & Craft Gallery

Posted 18.02.20


Image (l to r): Sense of Place by Cara Murphy; Dome Coat with set-in sleeves by Álla Sinkevich; Extended Matter #5 by Katharine West

Generation, an exhibition of objects and textiles designed and created using inherited traditions of creativity and innovation, will open at the National Design & Craft Gallery in Kilkenny on Thursday, 12 March 2020. This exhibition invites us to consider the unique perspective of a group of Irish-based designer-makers who are custodians of craft traditions, continuing and/or reinventing the work begun by previous generations of their family. It will be opened by special guest Jean Blanchaert, renowned Italian gallerist, curator, journalist and artist.

For these eight designer-makers, tradition is not static; it is in constant movement. The exhibition traces ways in which their cultural legacy is defined, or sometimes re-defined, as they navigate contemporary studio practices and workshops. Each is inspired by the work and craft tradition of earlier generations or has learned unique skills which they now apply to contemporary practice. Silversmith Cara Murphy’s bowls, each bursting with colour and texture, are created using the technique of basse taille enamelling and deep drawing learnt from sharing a studio with her parents Deirdre and Michael McCrory; Mourne Textiles draws from designs and skills of three generations of master-weavers and uses centuries-old techniques for pieces that have a decidedly modern sensibility; and, following his father Edgar who worked at Aldermaston Pottery for over 30 years which revived the art of lustreware pottery, ceramicist Mark Campden continues to develop contemporary reduced pigment lustreware, an exploration that is equally rewarding and challenging.

Curated by Frances McDonald and Muireann Charleton, Generation explores how generational relationships and personal histories have encouraged an added sense of responsibility, influenced aesthetic considerations and helped shape overall narratives. Focusing on the idea that making matters, the exhibition reminds us that within any medium, the importance of making and respect for tradition remains at the heart of these family enterprises.

Commenting on their experience of curating Generation, Frances McDonald and Muireann Charleton noted that “having both had a long-held interest in inherited skills and memory from previous generations of Irish makers, we began to consider the unique position of those who carry on a family tradition and whose generational relationships and personal histories have shaped a distinctive narrative. We are most grateful to this group of makers who have kindly shared stories with us of how they have been inspired in new and different ways by those who are nearest and dearest to them.

Louise Allen, Managing Executive of Design & Crafts Council Ireland, added: “Ireland has a rich history of design and craft tradition with specialist knowledge passed down from one generation to the next. One of the aims of Design & Crafts Council Ireland is to support the preservation of these unique skills while encouraging the continuous development of makers and craftspeople so that this expertise is applied in new and exciting ways, keeping the sector contemporary and vibrant. This exhibition allows us to explore this cultural legacy and to reflect on its importance in our country’s heritage, and to consider the possibilities when we apply traditional techniques in a modern way. We are delighted that these eight makers are sharing their extraordinary work and unique familial histories with us at the National Design & Craft Gallery.”

The concept for Generation was proposed by Frances McDonald and Muireann Charleton in 2018 as part of the National Design & Craft Gallery’s open call for exhibitions. Their project was one of three that were commissioned as part of this call-out. Following explorations with a number of makers who continue to build on their familial creativity or craft, the eight selected makers were invited to present work which speaks to their personal story and reflects their commitment to the continuation of an inherited creative and curious mindset. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication that includes essays by the curators and by Glenn Adamson, author of ‘Fewer Better Things’.

Generation connects with a pertinent theme of our time, highlighted by the fact that major craft biennale HOMO FABER 2020, presented in Venice again this autumn by the Michelangelo Foundation, will focus on celebrating handed-down craft skills and sharing of knowledge between generations. Renowned Italian curator Jean Blanchaert will once again curate the primary exhibition of the biennale, this year titled ‘Next in Europe’, which highlights contemporary makers of excellence who have studied under master makers or honed their skills through their family tradition. As well as opening this exhibition on his visit to Ireland in March, Blanchaert will take the opportunity to visit studios and meet makers in Ireland who are in consideration for inclusion in HOMO FABER 2020.

Generation runs at the National Design & Craft Gallery in Kilkenny from 13 March to 21 June 2020. See for more information. This exhibition is supported by RTÉ Supporting the Arts and our accommodation partner, Pembroke Kilkenny.


For further press information, please contact Michelle Lynch at FleishmanHillard Dublin at: or 01 618 8444. 



Róisín de Buitléar is a visual artist who uses a variety of media to respond to the making process both personally and intuitively. Working in layers of meaning, she uses the material's inherent beauty to draw the viewer into the artwork through light, shadow and colour.

Cultural heritage and shared histories are central to her practice. Róisín has used glass as a medium to pay homage to stories and traditional skills such as basketry, lacemaking and glassmaking, so these crafts could be viewed with a fresh perspective. Her father, Éamon de Buitléar was a recognised wildlife filmmaker and musician, and this awareness of her own cultural heritage and shared histories is central to her practice. Recent collaborations with contemporary musicians have focused on creating ephemeral public performances with sound objects made from glass in an ongoing collaborative exploration of cultural resonance.

Róisín graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 1983. She teaches and lectures on glass in Ireland and overseas. She is based in Dublin and works to commission on large-scale artworks for public spaces and for national and international exhibition.

Using traditional and contemporary techniques, Hugo Byrne hand-crafts knives that function on a practical and ergonomic level as well as being objects of beauty. Incorporating materials that include 6,000-year-old bog oak from Glenstal Abbey, pearwood from his own garden or flotsam found on the beach, his work celebrates their natural qualities. This aspect of his practice is something he shares with his parents, Mary Nagle and Mike Byrne, who use found objects in the creation of their own artworks. When Hugo’s knives are held in the hand, and used daily for something as primary as the preparation of food, the energy and journey of the material becomes apparent.

Hugo Byrne is a recipient of Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s Future Makers Studio Support Award and Image Interiors & Living Magazine Emerging Design Talent Award in 2019. He has also received an International Mobility Award from Limerick Culture & Arts Department.

Mark Campden’s ceramics are distinctive for the skill of his brushwork decoration and rich in an imagery inspired by nature. Working in the traditional majolica technique, his pieces are first formed in earthenware clay and covered with a white tin glaze. The surface then becomes a canvas for meticulous hand-painted decoration.

Mark grew up in Aldermaston village in Berkshire across from Aldermaston Pottery established by Alan Caiger-Smith. It was here that his father, renowned potter Edgar Campden, worked for over 30 years. His mother Doreen is also an accomplished sculptor and ceramic artist. The influence of his father’s work is evident in Mark’s own practice, which incorporates the majolica tradition from the Middle East. In more recent years he has also been making reduced pigment lustreware. Incorporating metal compounds made from silver and copper, this new direction in the work is equally rewarding and challenging.

Since moving to Ireland Mark Campden has exhibited widely. He is the recipient of several RDS National Crafts Competition awards, including the Award of Excellence Reserve Prize, the Ceramics Traditional First Prize and Design & Crafts Council Ireland Purchase Award.

Ryan Connolly established Connolly & Company in 2012 with the aim of making furniture to an exceptional standard in a range of sustainably sourced hardwoods. The subtle shades and grain twists in these woods are inherent while the desirable characteristics of natural timber give each piece its unique personality and style.

Connolly & Company is located adjacent to the family business in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan. Established by his father, it makes domestic furniture that was originally sold in family-run furniture shops throughout Ireland. Growing up, Ryan worked weekends and summers as an upholsterer. It was an experience that helped shape his thinking in terms of efficiency and problem solving.

He then studied furniture design at GMIT Letterfrack. This was followed by time spent working with makers at renowned workshops in Ireland and Germany. From 2015 to 2017, he won both the Emerging and Established Maker – Furniture Category Awards at the RDS Craft Awards, as well as the IACI RDS Muriel Gahan Award. In 2016 he received a Judges’ Spotlight Prize from Design & Craft Council Ireland’s Future Makers Awards and Supports programme.

Mourne Textiles, based in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, is renowned for pure merino wool, mohair loop yarns and cottons and linens rooted in mid-century design. Respecting and drawing on the work and skills of three generations of the same family, these master-weavers re-interpret the vision of Gerd Hay-Edie, the Norwegian design pioneer and founder of Mourne Textiles. Both Gerd Hay-Edie and her daughter, Karen Hay-Edie worked closely with the local community of farmers and craftsmen, buying fleece of particular shades to use in their rugs.

Today, Mourne Textiles has the same approach as past generations. Customising looms to fit in with their distinctive system of warping and weaving, the studio is now led by Gerd’s grandson Mario Sierra.

Mario Sierra studied textile art at Winchester School of Art. Inspired by his grandmother’s legacy and mother’s expertise, Mario continues the family tradition, presenting a carefully selected collection of contemporary homeware items and scarves. Influenced by Mourne Textiles iconic design archive and rich weaving heritage, their work is rooted in the landscape and community of Northern Ireland.

Cara Murphy utilises traditional silversmithing techniques to create innovative and sculptural tableware and objects. In 2016, she won the Rosy James Memorial Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which enabled her to learn the process of vitreous enamelling from her mother, Deirdre McCrory, a renowned enameller and printmaker. 

Cara’s current work has embraced her new learnings resulting in the creation of numerous series of bowls, each bursting with colours and textures evoking those found in the Irish landscape. The bowls are created using the technique of basse taille enamelling and deep drawing pioneered by her father Michael McCrory. The organic patterns created on the surface of the silver are highlighted by the refraction of light through the coloured enamel.

Cara’s daughter Caitlin continues the silversmithing family tradition today, studying Silversmithing & Jewellery in the Glasgow School of Art, exactly 30 years on from when Cara started.

Álla Sinkevich is a sustainable fashion designer-maker from northern Ukraine and the Polesia region of south Belarus. She studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin where she won the Student of the Year Prize in 2018. Álla is currently studying for an M.A. in Fashion Design at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Her practice is driven by her appreciation of hand-crafted objects, natural material, design for purpose and resourcefulness. Her hand-felted seamless Dome coats reflect the influence of hand-crafted objects inherited from her family, in particular from her grandmother Fedorchenko Efrosinia, and the poignant relationship she has with them. Her collections are rooted in her childhood experience of making crafts in northern Ukraine, which inspires her designs.

In 2019, Álla received an RDS Craft Awards Bursary and was featured as One to Watch at The Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. She was a recipient of Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s Future Makers Awards & Supports programme, a finalist in the 25th edition of the Mittelmoda Fashion Award, Italy in 2018, and her collection Existential Nomad was exhibited as part of CREATE 2018 in Brown Thomas.

Katharine West moved from Scotland to Dalkey, Co. Dublin in 1967 and grew up between the rocky, watery east and west coasts of Ireland. Central to Katharine’s ceramic sculpture are phenomena associated with nature, landscape, seascape and the human body. 

West grew up amongst the backdrop of an easel and paintings by her mother Margaret Irwin West. This exposure to visual art in the family home from a young age nurtured a particular preoccupation with observation, process and form in space. Katharine's work explores our collective memory addressing connections between past, present, artefact, object, function and space. Her forms explore the folds or pleats of matter and how they relate to the void, suspending and stretching the clay to connect with physical possibilities which become almost geological in nature.

Katharine West is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, the School of Decorative Arts, Strasbourg, France and the NYSCC at Alfred University, USA. She is a Fulbright Alumna, a member of the International Academy of Ceramics and lectures in Contemporary Art and Industrial Design at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology while living in rural Co. Galway between the shores of Lough Corrib and the Atlantic coast.

Notes for editors

About Frances McDonald
Working with state agencies and academic institutions, galleries, design studios and makers, Frances McDonald has worked on numerous international exhibitions, events and seminars for clients that include Design & Crafts Council Ireland, Joseph Walsh Studio, the National Museum of Ireland, Oliver Sears Gallery and Taste Contemporary Geneva. She also writes regularly on contemporary craft and has contributed to Irish Arts Review; Ceramic Review; Neues Glas: Art & Architecture; Ceramics Art & Perception and Frances has a Degree in Design Communications from Limerick School of Art & Design and an MA in Design History & Material Culture from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.

About Muireann Charleton
Muireann Charleton is a lecturer in Design at the Yeats Academy, IT Sligo. Her experience ranges across design, enterprise, education, museums, visual and material culture and innovation. In her various roles she has led on the development of many craft, design and cultural programmes, including in her former position as Innovation Manager with Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI), and in Enterprise Development with the Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD) LIT where she produced LSAD’s inaugural fashion festival Unwrap in 2017. Muireann has a Degree in Visual Communication from TU Dublin and an MA in Design History & Material Culture from the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. She has published her research into renowned goldsmiths Pádraig Ó Mathúna in Irish Arts Review (2009) and Erwin Springbrunn in Iterations (2015).

About the National Design & Craft Gallery
Established by Design & Crafts Council Ireland in 2000, the National Design & Craft Gallery is Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design. It exhibits Irish and international designers, artists and makers who push boundaries in their engagement with the making process. Its mission is to inspire appreciation, creativity and innovation, and it plays a critical role in building understanding of craft and material culture in Ireland.

About Design & Crafts Council Ireland
Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI) is the national agency for the commercial development of Irish designers and makers, stimulating innovation, championing design thinking and informing Government policy. DCCI's activities are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCI currently has 59 member organisations and more than 3,000 registered clients.

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