How did you start your career?
I have always been into making. As a teenager it was clothes and accessories and during my architectural studies I began making small functional objects and furniture items. In the summer of my third year in college, I worked with a furniture maker in Cork but I always knew what I was looking for had to be less conventional. Although Farm 21 probably started when I was about 15, the pieces didn’t come until I was about 25.
What are you thoughts on Irish craft and design right now?
The internet and globalisation are changing how we see our world. Design has changed because of this, it’s something we couldn’t have anticipated even 20 years back. It’s getting harder to identify whether a piece was designed and made here in Ireland or abroad, and in some respects that is very sad because we lose our aesthetic heritage. In other respects, it puts us on the equal platform at a global scale.
We have an incredible history of craft and making. After I returned home from living in New York, I was really struck by the breadth and quality of the work produced in our relatively small country. I think the people who digest our heritage and then go on to produce contemporary work appreciated both here and abroad are real winners. There was definitely a few outstanding designers and makers who hit that nail on the head at Future Makers this year.
What advice do you have for emerging artists?
It’s really hard work starting a business and to make it succeed you need to be very clear on your goals, your strengths and your weaknesses. Designing and making is only a fraction of the job. When you’re on your own you have to cover so many different aspects like researching, sales, marketing, PR, accounting. Do a short business course. I did one through my local enterprise board and it was absolutely brilliant, the mentoring support afterwards was so helpful.
At the end of the day, you’ll sink unless your product is outstanding. Only show the best you have and in the best environment possible. Collaborations really help get your name out there and boosts confidence. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice from someone whose work you admire. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
Why are the Future Makers awards important?
I think it is important to recognise and encourage younger designers. The money will genuinely help those who have won, the prestige is just fantastic for confidence and opening doors. Few people fly on the first jump. It can take a few years to get into your stride. There were quite a few people in the awards who had really lovely work but it wasn’t quite there yet. We hope that our feedback will help to encourage them to get on the right track and come back next year with work that blows us all away. Most designers and makers work on their own and it’s hard to get objective criticism from those around you so it’s a good means to showcase your work.
What makes an outstanding creator?
It’s hard to pinpoint – it’s usually about someone forming a language that is absolutely theirs and all their products reflect this. Languages as we know constantly morph and develop and the best creators are those who think and work a step ahead of the rest. They test out the unknown and push the boundaries of their work.
Everyone fails from time to time, and the best creators I know are the ones who aren’t afraid to embrace this. I look for someone who really understands human nature and how we should operate in this world. As designers, we have a massive role in influencing not just day-to-day activities but also the direction we are going, and thankfully governments are starting to appreciate this. Designers are problem solvers, hopefully with a sense of humour too.
What advice would you give to the designers who missed out this year?
First of all, well done for putting your work out there. It takes confidence and determination to make an application for an award like this and not winning does not mean you are a failure. It’s more likely that there were a huge number of applicants in your category. Come back next year – it’s always worth giving it a shot. Be really specific in your application. Keep on working and request feedback, which will hopefully have some helpful pointers.