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Craft holidays in Ireland

Posted by Catherine Mack at 08:38 on Wednesday 17 March 2010

Like most fellow Irish people at this time of year, I was recently musing over my St. Patrick’s Day break (traditionally a long walk and a get together with good friends and a few pints), when an invitation to a knitting weekend landed on my doormat. I felt as if middle age had just jumped up and grabbed me by the throat. What happened? I had gone to bed an active hiking, biking desperately trying-to-stay-young sort of a girl, and woken up as my granny. However, I kept reading and, to my surprise, I found myself falling into a world of comforting quilts, rocking chairs, herbal teas and, of course, beautiful works of art.

Knitting is really not really my thing, however, but the more I delved into the arts and crafts cupboard of holidays out there, the more I wanted to experience their comfort zones. Weaving, I confess, has always fascinated me, and I have met a few weavers on my travels.  Beth Moran, for example, at Ballytoughey Loom on Clare Island is one of Ireland’s most gifted, and from May to September she hosts weaving, spinning and natural dyeing weekend and week long workshops. I can’t think of a better teacher, not just because of her skills, but also as a warm hostess to anyone wanting to experience this stunning island and its culture for a few days (clareisland.info/loom).  For information on other weaving courses, contact The Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

Photo: Green Wood Chairs, greenwoodchairs.com 

Competing for top place on my wish list is a three day break learning to make a chair from scratch. Alison Ospina, the founder of Green Wood Chairs in Skibbereen creates pure works of art, or furniture, from ‘green’ or unseasoned Hazel which is coppiced in West Cork (greenwoodchairs.com). Also in West Cork, the Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre (kinsaleceramics.com) offers a plethora of courses including jewellery making, stained glass and, of course, pottery. Weekend craft packages are from €220 including b&b and one dinner. Some for children, others for adults, and even some for ‘hens’.  They also work in conjunction with Ballymaloe House, where they lay on an introductory pottery course, one night’s b&b,  and five course dinner for €299 ( ballymaloe.ie or phone +353 (0)21 4652531 for details).

Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre - Hen weekendPhoto: Hen Pottery weekend, Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre, kinsaleceramics.com

In the Burren, County Clare, you can take a weekend transposing the exquisite light which bounces off the karst limestone into watercolour at the Burren Painting Centre. From the end of April, it runs various workshop weekends, from €205 for two nights B&B, 1 dinner, and two days painting tuition, (burrenpaintingcentre.com)

For something a bit more earthy, head to County Clare for a ‘Weekend in the Woods’, May 8-9, where the Celt Centre has workshops in traditional skills of felting, leatherwork, dry stone walling, coppercraft and silversmithing.  Camp there for free, or stay at one of several recommended hotels or b&b’s  (celtnet.org).

Wordsmithing is also considered by many as a fine traditional Irish craft, and if you want to combine this with a love of travel, head to Lismore, County Waterford, in June for Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, programme to be announced in April (lismoreimmrama.com). Or for poetry in paradise, (my description not theirs – I adore this place) Cnoc Suain in the hills overlooking Spiddal’s coastline has a residential poetry weekend with poets Kevin Siggins and Lorna Shaughnessy (28-30 May and 13-15 August, (cnocsuain.com). Read more about Cnoc Suain's weekends on their greentraveller listing.

Last but not least is the Leitrim Sculpture Centre, Manorhamilton’s magnet for artistic brilliance. Two day courses include wood carving and contemporary print making, as well as the uniquely Irish stone letter cutting course, 17 & 18 April (leitrimsculpturecentre.ie). Book  nearby eco-havens Tawnylust (tawnylustlodge.com) or Ard Nahoo (ardnahoo.com), beautiful eco-creations in their own right.

 This article, by Catherine Mack, was first published in The Irish Times


The Knitting Class

Hi Catherine

such a pity YOU didn't jump up and grab the knitting weekend by the throat! You would probably have been very surprised to learn that far from being a pass time for grannies (although lots of grannies still do knit) knitting is having a major revival and bright young things all over the country are discovering what wonders can be made with two sticks and ball of string!

I started The Knitting Class in September 2010 and teach at Winnie's Craft Cafe in Booterstown Co Dublin, a purpose built Wool shop and Cafe which opened its doors in November 2010. We may be in a recession, but let me tell you the place is always buzzin. I do have two grannies in one of my project classes, but the average age of my beginners is 22. I also have a k2tog-parent and child class where they learn together and share a new passion. In fact I have three generations in one of my k2tog classes grandmother, mother , two children---and a best friend.

I use the word 'class' but you'd never think to look at the smiles and hear the chatter around the table that there was a class in the old sense of the word. I try to stick by my motto for The Knitting Class...where the focus is on technique, skill, style and ..enjoyment.

So next time you are invited to knit..go for it

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