Winner of RDS Irish Craft Bursary Award 2019 Announced

Posted 21.11.19

The winner of the 2019 RDS Irish Craft Bursary, worth €10,000, is jewellery designer Seliena Coyle. The announcement was made by Dr. Philip Dodd, Chair of the RDS Committee of Arts, at the opening of Surface Matters, an exhibition of new and innovative works from Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection 2019-20 publication, at the National Design & Craft Gallery, Kilkenny on 21st November 2019.

Seliena Coyle’s is an ambitious project that will see the production of 100 contemporary icons inspired by and dedicated to women. The RDS bursary will support a period of research in addition to the production of this work. This body of wall-based work will explore the narrative format while utilising skills and techniques familiar to the jeweller, thereby allowing each vignette to retain the intimacy more acquainted with the brooch. Assemblage and symbolic references will combine to construct a micro cosmos unique to each protagonist. They will serve to honour and eulogise the individual.

Speaking about the award, Coyle commented: “I am so delighted to have been awarded this year's RDS Irish Craft Award. It will enable me to undertake the most ambitious project of my career to date and marks a radical shift in my practice. I would like to thank the RDS and Design & Crafts Council Ireland for this support.

The RDS Irish Craft Bursary is part of the restructured RDS Craft Awards announced in 2018 and is a partnership between the RDS and Design & Crafts Council Ireland. The bursary is open to all members of Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s PORTFOLIO programme, both those who are featured in the Critical Selection publication and also those featured in the wider, online programme, a group of over 150 makers.

Seliena Coyle is jewellery designer, curator and educator based in Derry. After receiving a Bachelor of Design in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Scotland in 1993, she went on to complete the Jewellery Production Skills course at the Design & Crafts Council Ireland in 1994. She subsequently achieved a Masters of Fine Art in Metalsmithing and Jewellery Design from Indiana University, USA in 1998.

Michael Duffy, RDS Chief Executive, said: “The RDS is committed to helping Ireland’s vibrant craft sector fulfil its potential and last year we announced significantly increased direct financial support towards this objective. This new RDS Irish Craft Bursary, valued at €10,000, is part of those changes, and will be an important new financial support for established craft makers who are setting a benchmark of excellence with their work. It is designed to work in tandem with changes to RDS Craft Awards that we introduced last year; these annual awards distribute a total of €50,000 to five emerging craft makers. The overall RDS fund of €60,000 for craft makers will not only financially support those pursuing excellence within their discipline, but will give them an opportunity to invest in improving their own craft and business skills which are vital to sustaining a professional career in the sector”.

Glass artist Edmond Byrne was the inaugural RDS Irish Craft Bursary winner in 2018. Edmond used his bursary to engage in a collaboration with metalsmith Adi Toch. Their aim was to establish a collaborative interdisciplinary practice exploring the synergies between glass and metals to discover a new visual language at the intersection of glassmaking and metalworking. From this collaboration, Byrne and Toch have developed a collection of three groups of unique, fully resolved vessels and objects. This new work will be launched at Collect Open, a platform for new ambitious craft-led installations in February 2020 in London, with plans to exhibit at The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh at a later stage.

Louise Allen, Managing Executive of Design & Crafts Council Ireland, commented: “One of the key aims of Design & Crafts Council Ireland is to promote Irish designers and makers and support them in innovating and developing their expertise and skills. We are thrilled to partner with the RDS again on this award which will assist an established maker to push boundaries, explore fresh ideas and create new and exciting work. Congratulations to Seliena on what looks to be a fascinating and thought-provoking body of work and I wish her every success along the way.

In order to be eligible for the RDS Irish Craft Bursary, applicants are required to be a member of Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s PORTFOLIO programme, a potential pool of over 150 makers. Eleven applications were submitted and assessed by three judges: Liz Cooper, Development Manager, Design-Nation, UK; Dr Maureen Bampton, former Director of the Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool, UK and Dr Audrey Whitty, Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland, as the representative for the RDS. The panel looked for proposals which were well thought out and which demonstrated how the award could help develop a maker’s practice and career, as well as being of benefit to Irish craft and design on an overall level.

PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection is Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s flagship biennial volume of the best of Irish contemporary craft in an international context, as chosen by an independent jury. For the 2019-20 edition, 24 makers were selected from a wide field. New work from these chosen makers is displayed at the National Design & Craft Gallery in Kilkenny until 24 February 2020 in a special exhibition entitled Surface Matters, presented by Design & Crafts Council Ireland and curated by UK-based curator, Liz Cooper.


For further information, contact: Lily Killeen, Fleishman-Hillard Dublin, at or on 01 618 8444.

Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s PORTFOLIO programme actively works to grow the reputations and potential of designer-makers across all major disciplines of contemporary craft. Featured makers are those producing innovative objects, either one-off pieces or limited editions, and working to the highest standards of design quality and technical skill. Selected by an international expert panel, the programme currently features over 150 of Ireland's most renowned makers in disciplines including ceramics, glass, jewellery, metals, paper, textiles, fashion, calligraphy, furniture, woodturning, stone and basketry. PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection, which is part of the broader PORTFOLIO programme, is a biennial publication of the best of Irish contemporary design and craft in a world-class context. The publication aims to increase awareness and understanding of leading Irish makers and their current work.

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 over 60 member organisations and more than 3,000 registered clients.

About The RDS 
The RDS (Royal Dublin Society) is one of the world’s oldest philanthropic organisations; it was founded in 1731 and works to see Ireland thrive culturally and economically. It does this by working across a number of areas, including the arts. Craft is an important component of its arts work programme.

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