Meet The Young Design Talent Nominees

Young Design Talent

Voting is live for the inaugural Image Interiors & Living Design Awards. Need to know more? All the nominees are here, and over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting interviews with our shortlist. In the second instalment of the series, here are the Young Design Talent nominees…

Meet Simon Doyle
Furniture designer Simon Doyle is nominated twice in this year’s awards. With a background in English, philosophy and carpentry, it was when working for Stevan Hurting Furniture that he decided to study furniture design, before setting up his own studio in 2014. “My background and training mainly involved working with wood and that is the material I am closest to.”

Young Design Talent

Cherry lamp

In 2015, Simon was chosen for the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’s (DCCoI) publication, Portfolio Critical Selection, and was also part of a group of Irish designers to showcase their work at Tent London at London Design Festival. In January of this year he showed at Maison & Objet in Paris and went on to win the Future Maker of the Year award to boot. “I think the work in Ireland speaks for itself and has generated a real momentum with ID2015 and international acclaim for architects and designers. I was fortunate enough to be included in DCCoI exhibitions of Irish design in London and Paris this last year, and it was clear that the design of the exhibition and the quality of the work was up there with the best of them.”



Young Design Talent


For Simon, good design is, “something that can translate the complexities of human interactions into simple objects.” He admires the work of Perch Design in Dublin, “both for their integrity and their innovation,” and Åke Axelsson in Sweden, “because of the great many chairs he has designed and his continuing productivity well into his 80s.”

Young Design Talent

Hall table

With exhibitions, awards and a collaboration, 2016 has been a busy year and he is set to embark on his next project: “I am just about to start making a new version of the Toro table and a sideboard which I have been developing for the last while.”

Meet Aoife Mullane
Textile designer Aoife Mullane is a recent graduate of NCAD where she studied printed design. Aoife explains, “Graduating with a design degree in Ireland can be somewhat daunting. However, I decided to use this to my advantage by creating luxurious Irish pieces with a contemporary edge.” The wealth of creativity in the design industry combined with on-going opportunities are a motivator for the young designer. “I think there are so many talented designers in Ireland at the moment. I feel there has been some really exciting things happening, in recent times especially. People are much more interested in investing in well crafted, Irish designed pieces.”

Young Design Talent

Crackle fabric

The fabrics used in her designs are all selected with an emphasis on quality, using silk, linen, cotton and wools that are all 100% natural fibres where possible. “I believe that in order to design products that have a long life span, fabric choice is essential. I have spent time sourcing unusual and interesting base fabrics for printing, so that my end result is unique to anything else on the market.”

Young Design Talent

Fossil print cushion

For Aoife, good design is about “creating something unique, authentic and lasting beyond trends”. Inspired by her surrounding landscape she describes her work as “a combination of intricate detail with more organic fluid marks. I often collect patterned pebbles, or speckled birds eggs as these inspire aspects of my prints. I think this Irish connection helps to set my work apart.”

Young Design Talent

Copper and devore print

Aoife uses a combination of techniques to produce her designs, from hand painting, foiling, hand dying and screen-printing. Each design is  slightly different. “I would describe my fabrics as innovative, luxurious, unique, contemporary, and above all – Irish. They have a true hand rendered feeling – speckles of disorderly metallic and bled areas of dye embellish the surface of my designs. These little imperfections are what set my fabrics apart.”

Meet Aisling McElwain
A recent graduate from the DCCoI Ceramics Skills and Design Course, Aisling McElwain was awarded Student of the Course and was also shortlisted in the Emerging Makers category at the RDS Craft Awards 2016. For Aisling, good design is, “not just design that is aesthetically pleasing or is the most innovative; it needs to fulfil a purpose, be made of quality materials that are durable and be user-orientated.” Aisling’s forms are simple, classic and move away from trends. She describes her pieces as timeless. “It is important to me that any craft products that I buy for myself aren’t just beautiful to look at but beautiful to use and touch and I keep this in mind when designing my own range.”

Young Design Talent

Gold rim bowls (Dylan Vaughan Photography)

Aisling values the incredible support that there is in the Irish design industry particularly for emerging makers. “Ireland is renowned for its rich tradition of craftsmanship and production of quality products from quality Irish materials. It is exciting to see how contemporary designers are building on that skill and pushing beyond it with new innovative ideas, strong design awareness and confidence. Irish designers are well able to hold their own on the global stage.”

At present her designs are exclusively in ceramics made with a stoneware clay, “with a bit of grogg in it rather than a smooth clay”, although, she does work with both. Growing up, Aisling was never far from designing and making as her father made furniture and her grandfather made musical instruments. Further down the line, Aisling is very keen to explore the possibility of incorporating wood into her pieces.”

Young Design Talent

Rich black ceramics (Dylan Vaughan Photography)

Aisling explains that drawing is an integral part of her creative process. “It is the first and possibly the most important part of my creative process and I could happily spend hours at it. It helps to identify if and how a piece is going to work. It allows me to eliminate ideas early on but it is not until I sit at the wheel and make the piece from beginning to end that I know if it will work or not.”

Inspired by the flora and landscape which surround her, the glazes she uses are natural, earthy colours: “Greens, browns and gold, and I have a range in a rich, black colour reminiscent of Irish bog oak.”

Young Design Talent

Tea set (Dylan Vaughan Photography)

For Aisling, experimentation is key. “When designing a new range you have to be open to what comes out of the kiln as, more often than not, it is absolutely nothing like you had in mind! However, there can be key pieces that spark off different ideas and new directions for your work to go in.”

Meet Kate Mc Guane
Kate Mc Guane is a recent graduate of the Ceramics Skills and Design Course in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny and for her, good design should be original, innovative, creative and durable. “From a maker’s standpoint, it is being able to represent what you wanted to create, accurately and to the best of your ability through the medium with which you work. It’s not just the finished product but all of the different stages gone into making something that are evident in the object that make it good.”

Young Design Talent


The beautiful seascape of West Cork inspire her work and she spends time searching for gems like sea glass and intricate seashells. “The qualities these trinkets possess are what I seek to recreate in my own work.”

Each piece begins with a sketch. “It is vital to get my ideas down on paper and develop them before I get my hands dirty. From here it’s onto the wheel to get making. After this I will often make alterations to pieces. The alterations allow me to experiment and get creative with otherwise very functional objects.

Young Design Talent

Yellow tea set

Porcelain is a favourite material. “For anyone who has ever worked with the material will know how difficult it can be at times, but it is also very beautiful. If porcelain were a person, they would be elegant, strong and sensitive.”

Although an emerging talent in the industry, her experiences have been been encouraging. “I think Irish design is strong and is getting greater recognition internationally. We are known historically as being creative people and I think the best is very much yet to come.”

Young Design Talent

Blue bowl

Kate has an upcoming exhibition in November: “I am currently working on a new body of work. I’ve made some new editions stemming from my previous exhibition and I will be showcasing it in the Lewis Glucksman Gallery Craft Fair in UCC.”

To vote for your favourite nominee in each category, click here.

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