Winner of the RDS Irish Craft Bursary Award Announced

Posted 20.02.19

Images: Edmond Byrne and prototypes of collaborative work by Edmond Byrne and Adi Toch

The winner of the inaugural RDS Irish Craft Bursary, worth €10,000, is contemporary glass artist Edmond Byrne. 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 the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection 2019-20 publication, at the OPW’s Coach House Gallery, Dublin Castle on Thursday, 21st February 2019.

The RDS Irish Craft Bursary is part of the restructured RDS Craft Awards announced in 2018 and is a partnership between the RDS and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. This new bursary is open to all members of the Design & Crafts Council of 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 140 makers.

The award is for activity taking place in 2019 and Byrne’s ambitious and innovative project is a collaboration with award-winning metalsmith Adi Toch. The aim is to explore the meeting point of metal and glass, stretching and challenging specialist knowledge and skills to make a new original body of work. Through the cross-pollination of processes, skills and materials, the meaning and various approaches to contemporary craft-based practices will be examined. Metal and glass share a rich and colourful history and the project will also be informed by this. Byrne’s aim is to create a series of five fully resolved sculptural vessels as well as set up the working relationship, knowledge and multidisciplinary practice to create more work in future.

Speaking about the award, Byrne commented: “I have reached a crossroads in my career where I have the desire to expand my material language and redefine my practice. I’m eager to collaborate and start a new experimental journey that will open up new ways of making. This bursary will enable me to explore an ambitious multi-material approach, discovering new territories, audiences and a visual vocabulary for the next step in my career.” 

Byrne graduated with a Bachelor of Design in Craft from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 2000 and completed a Higher Diploma in Art and Design Education in 2007. In 2008, Byrne went on to study for an MA at the Royal College of Art in London, finishing in 2010. He is part of the wider PORTFOLIO programme and was selected for PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection 2017-18 and 2015-16 editions. His most recent exhibitions were in the Joanna Bird Gallery, London; Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh; and London Glassblowing, London. He is currently based in Surrey and teaches at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, UK.

Michael Duffy, RDS Chief Executive, commented: “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. 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.”

In order to be eligible for the RDS Irish Craft Bursary, applicants were required to be a member of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s PORTFOLIO programme, a potential pool of over 140 makers. Thirty-one applications were submitted and assessed by four judges: Liz Cooper, Independent Curator & Project Manager, Design-Nation, UK; Johan Valcke, Founder of Design Flanders and Owner of Valcke Art Gallery, Ghent, Belgium; Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art, National Museums of Northern Ireland and Dr. Audrey Whitty, Keeper of the Art and Industrial Division of the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, 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.

Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, said: “Stimulating innovation and growth in the design and craft sector is one of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s key aims and we continually strive to support Irish designers and makers in pushing boundaries and developing their expertise and craftsmanship. The RDS has been a longstanding and generous supporter of our sector and we are delighted to partner with them on this new award which was created to assist an established maker to explore fresh ideas, expand their skills and progress their career. Edmond has outlined bold and innovative plans for a new body of work and we are looking forward to witnessing how this materialises in the coming months. I congratulate him and wish him every success with this project and the continued development of his practice.

PORTFOLIO: Critical Selection is the Design & Crafts Council of 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 OPW’s Coach House Gallery, Dublin Castle until 19th May 2019 in a special exhibition entitled Surface Matters, presented by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in partnership with the Office of Public Works, and curated by UK-based expert, Liz Cooper.


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

The Design & Crafts Council of 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 140 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 the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland
The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the national agency for the commercial development of Irish designers and makers, stimulating innovation, championing design thinking and informing Government policy. DCCoI's activities are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI 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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