Donegal Craft Village

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2007, 12:00am

There is something alluring about buying a piece of art or a sculpture from a local artist, especially if that person takes the time to discuss their work with you. At Donegal Craft Village in the Republic of Ireland you can do just that. It's one place where you can be certain the item you're buying is genuine, handmade and designed and created in Ireland.

The village was built 22 years ago with the aim of preserving Ireland's handicrafts and is a haven for the country's most talented artists. Many have dedicated their lives to perfecting their craft and are graduates of Ireland's numerous art, sculpture and design colleges. The village is a showcase for metalwork, batik designs, jewellery, sculpture and other contemporary works of art. You can stroll around the courtyard and drop into various workshops, where you will often find the artists creating masterpieces.

The works on display are for sale and commissions are accepted.

Sisters Elaine and Lyndsey McGonigle put their creativity to the test by setting up a glass-design studio, where they use several techniques, including slumping, fusing, sand-casting, blowing, engraving, enamelling and bead making. These graduates from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin produce glass plates (Euro125/HK$1,280), pictures and jewellery. A fused glass brooch with floral engraving costs Euro20 and matching pendants sell for Euro40. Their nature-inspired designs are colourful, striking and full of detail.

Sculptor Brendan McGloin (below left; began his career as a stone sculptor after working on restoring heritage buildings in Australia and New Zealand. A graduate of Ireland's Leitrim School of Sculpture, he is making a name for himself by producing public sculptures for county councils, many of which can be seen in parks and by the seaside. Wander around Donegal town and you'll spot examples. On a smaller scale, the works on display in his studio include stone-carved items such as candleholders, bowls and wine blocks. Another sculptor, Michael Griffin, works with rock and wood, which he turns into birds, animals, fish and abstract objects, all priced from Euro185.

The traditional art of hand weaving (below right) is kept alive in the form of Clare O'Presco's delicate scarves (from Euro45), bags (from Euro35) and other accessories. Scarves are hand-woven or hand-knotted using a multitude of yarns, including Donegal tweed, silk and synthetic fibres. You can watch

her create beautiful tapestries free-hand on a loom using hand-carded fleece. For something more Celtic, pick up some jewellery or a sculpture from Niall Bruton, whose contemporary artworks retain an ancient look. A Celtic ring is yours for Euro190.

For wall adornments, try Fionntan Gogarty's hangings, which combine batik and Irish linen in native timber frames. His paintings (from Euro75) are inspired by northwest Ireland's windswept landscape. Also on sale at his studio are poems by young poets printed on handmade paper and creatively illustrated using pressed foliage and found objects (from Euro25).