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Irish crafts

Irish crafts

Any list of Irish crafts has a tendency to read like a tourist's shopping list, and the one below is no exception. The reason is simple: these crafted products have 'Irish' written all over them, sometimes quite literally, always figuratively. They are a tangible shorthand for 'Ireland'.

Hand drawn threadwork from Fergusons
Irish linen and lace tablecloth.
But while you may be happy to see these crafts as a list of ideas for creative Irish gifts or holiday souvenirs, you might well question how learning about them takes your family history research forward. It is, after all, hard to imagine that fine lead crystal or freshly laundered Irish linen featured in the daily life of those families huddling in mud and thatch cabins, as so many were in the 19th century!

However, most of these crafts developed from ancient skills our ancestors had passed down the generations and some, for example the craft of Tweed making, remain regional specialities only. Others were originally developed from imported skills and subsequently taken to a higher level due to the exceptional quality of local materials. Irish linen is an example of this phenomenon.

While only few of our ancestors would have enjoyed the ownership or use of many of these crafted products, many communities in Ireland benefitted by the employment these early industries provided. As such, Irish crafts have played a part – and sometimes a very significant part – in the lives of our ancestors and can help us to understand more about the world and society they lived in.

Featured Irish crafts

Irish textiles

Food and Drink

  • Irish whiskey – the water of life.
  • Irish cheese – the flavour of the land.

Irish tableware

  • Irish crystal – the story behind the sparkling glass.
  • Porcelain – from heavy clay soil to the table.

Watch, learn and buy

Today these Irish crafts are mostly produced in high-tech 24/7 factories. Many of these have visitor centres where you can learn more about the craft involved and, of course, buy their creative Irish gifts and souvenirs.

There are also many individual craftspeople fine-tuning their traditional skills in small studios and workshops across Ireland where you can buy handmade crafts and observe their creation. Although scattered across Ireland, they are not difficult to find. Many now have websites or are listed in brochures produced by local tourist offices. Alternatively, contact the Irish Crafts Council.

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Dry Stone Walling

One of the traditional Irish crafts that you'll find on display almost everywhere in Ireland except in a gift shop is dry stone walling, so called because there is no mortar holding the stones together.

Dry stone walls on Cape Clear

Most are constructed by farmers using stones cleared from the soil to allow cultivation and restrain livestock. These are not necessarily stable.

Othere are works of great skill and are rock solid. These are created by specialist stone masons, typically from the west of the country.

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By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2016 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
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