It might be the second smallest county in Ireland, but this hasn’t stopped Carlow from leading the way in the delivery of a European project called Craft Hub – focused on craft in the context of cultural heritage and its continuing relevance in contemporary practice.
The primary activities centre on investigating and documenting craft skills and processes along with their differing application in creative practice across Europe. It also asks questions of cultural specificity and discovers the individual motivations of practitioners.
Now in its final year, the project comes to an exciting conclusion with opportunities available for craft makers across Ireland in the form of international exhibitions, conferences and workshops.
Speaking about Carlow’s leadership in Craft Hub, which is supported by Creative Europe and Creative Ireland, councillor Andrea Dalton, who is cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, said the programme would highlight both the wealth of creative talent in the county and the importance of the sector within the Irish economy.
“We are delighted to be leading the Craft Hub Project as we believe that craft and creativity are important to Co Carlow for many reasons,” she said.
“The craft and design sector in Ireland is worth over €10.3 billion each year and employs thousands of people across the country. Also, across the county of Carlow, we have people who have creativity and craft in their DNA.”
In addition to its economic importance, the councillor believes, craft and creativity is embedded in the culture of Co Carlow, which has a long and rich history of traditional crafts such as weaving, pottery and metalwork.
Dalton is also a passionate supporter of community development and believes that art can help to bring people together and encourage growth.
“Craft and creativity can also help to build community and social cohesion,” she said. “When people come together to create something, they are able to connect with each other on a deeper level and this can help to build stronger communities and reduce social isolation.
“Craft and creativity can also be a powerful tool for learning – and when children are given the opportunity to explore their creativity, they are able to develop their problem-solving skills, their imagination and their self-confidence.”
Stacey Phelan, EU project administrator with the Local Enterprise Office in Carlow County Council, explained what the Craft Hub project is about.
“Craft Hub is a European project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme focused on craft in the context of cultural heritage and its continuing relevance in contemporary practice,” she said.
“A comprehensive and exciting programme has and will allow the creation of new craft work and experimental investigations into process and material, which has been supported by 42 transnational maker residencies, 305 days of outreach work and a festival, exhibitions and conference.”
“Many activities will take place in the coming months, and during August we look forward to opening the Irish leg of the International Craft Hub Exhibition which will feature work and learning from the project.”
The exhibition was held in Carlow’s flagship Arts Venue Visual from August 22 to September 3.