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INTERVIEW Simple design, super powered

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Simple design, super powered

Simple design, super powered


Ciara Moynihan

Superfolk, based at The Quay, Westport, was last week named recipient of The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland Creative Island Award 2015 at the Showcase craft and design trade expo in Dublin’s RDS. The owners of the home-ware design studio, Gearóid Muldowney and Jo Anne Butler, were understandably thrilled with the accolade.     
The Showcase craft expo ran from from Sunday, January 18, to Wednesday last, January 21. A yearly event, it is the country’s largest international trade show. With 5,000 buyers from Ireland and up to 26 countries around the world visiting the fair, it is a major calendar event for Irish designers and craftmakers, generating sales orders of up to €20 million over the four days of the show.
Superfolk was one of 91 designer-makers chosen by an independent jury to be part of the Showcase’s Creative Island exhibition area, all of whom were deemed to demonstrate stand-out creativity, innovation and craftsmanship. To be named the best out of this cohort is a great honour and a wonderful affirmation.
“It’s great!” Gearóid, who is originally from Castlebar, told The Mayo News. “We got the award on the first day of Showcase, so we started the event on a really positive note. It’s just given us the thumbs up – we’ve been recognised by our peers, by the Design and Craft Council of Ireland and by Showcase Ireland as being on the right track.”
Superfolk’s latest line of products include large hand-cut lino prints, wood-and-rope pot stands and clay and glaze ceramic wear. In the past, Gearóid and Jo Anne, who hails from Ballyhaunis, produced contract furniture, including stools and tables, and examples of their work can be scene in several prestigious cafés in London. Now the couple, who met at art school in Dublin in 2005, are focusing on smaller products that can be shipped to international markets, with these products inspired by the local environment.
“For example, the lino prints we have at the moment feature three different types of edible seaweed. The inspiration for these came from being in Westport, seeing what’s there … We did a couple of foraging courses locally, then began to read quite a lot about what was there to be harvested and enjoyed … The illustrations are of carrageen moss seaweed, sea spaghetti, dillisk.
“Our tableware currently focuses on pot stands and ceramics. The ceramics are watercraft – a handle-less jug and handle-less mugs, and we’re looking for a long-term partner for the manufacture of those. We don’t think we can do everything, so we’d like to partner with a bigger company that could help us meet the demand that the products seem to be generating.”
The timber used for the pot stands, is where possible, sourced in Ireland, and the clay used in the ceramics is Irish clay. “It’s all about using natural materials in simple ways. The trivets (pot stands) don’t have glue, for example. It’s bare essentials, products that wear well and respect the materials being used.”
Superfolk products are influenced by Irish vernacular folk design. “That’s where the name originated from,” Gearóid explains. “The products are based on an appreciation of and research around Irish vernacular objects … the evolved craft … people making lobster pots from heather because that was the material that was nearby. Our philosophy comes from that – using what’s close to hand, and using it in the correct way, not over processing the materials and trying to allow them speak for themselves.”
It seems to be a winning strategy. Gearóid and Jo Anne’s products have garnered huge interest from buyers and galleries not only in local markets like Dublin, Belfast, Cork, but also in the UK and as far away as Sweden. Superfolk looks set to secure a place among the superheroes of simple, honest, visually arresting design in the west of Ireland.   

For more information on Superfolk and the products designed by Gearóid Muldowney and Jo Ann Butler, visit www.superfolk.com.

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