Traditional Crafts of Ireland


Within sight and sound of the wild Atlantic Ocean, a spinning wheel turns rhythmically in time to the high lonely cry of the sandpiper, echoing the history of a craft which may go back 3000 years into Ireland’s past. The Shaw-Smiths documented more than forty different traditional Irish crafts, from the weaving of crios (colourful woollen belts) and the making of pampooties (moccasin-type shoes) on the Aran Islands, to the crafting of items as varied as harps and candles, curraghs, drystone walls and Irish lace among other traditional Irish textiles.

Imbued by a sense of the urgent need to record crafts in their natural surrounding before they disappeared completely, David Shaw-Smith and his wife Sally, under contract for RTÉ have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland and its islands to assemble this important collection of films on traditional Irish crafts and lifestyles, where the emphasis is on the skills of human hands rather than on machines. The films not only record the various craft processes in great detail, but also portray a unique archive of life in Ireland at the end of the 20th century. David’s superb colour photographs are accompanied by Sally’s skilled explanatory drawings, and with descriptions from some of Ireland’s finest historians and craft writers. In each of eight thematic sections—among them woodwork and textiles, leather and stone, pottery and metalwork— we are introduced to the practice, the history, and perhaps above all, the craftspeople.

The section on Irish traditional crafts is divided into eight distinct categories by the materials used. These are: 1. Textiles, 2. Wood, 3. Ceramics, 4. Metal, 5. Stone, 6. Leather, 7. Willow, Rush and Straw and 8. Miscellaneous.

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