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Image / Style / Irish Design

Irish Design Spotlight: Ed Forristal


By Ed Forristal
06th Aug 2023
Irish Design Spotlight: Ed Forristal

Ed Forristal set up his eponymous woodwork brand in 2017. Specialising in beautifully crafted homeware made from sustainably-sourced native Irish wood, everything is crafted by him in his studio in Co Mayo. Here he shares more about his inspirations as a designer.

Tell us about you and your brand
My name is Ed and I am the owner/maker of Forristal Woodwork. It was set up part-time in 2017 and has been full-time since 2022. My aim is to produce long-lasting, quality furniture and homewares using sustainably sourced, native Irish wood and materials crafted here in Ireland.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer? 
Not at all! I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do, so opted to study English and philosophy in college as it was broad enough to allow a bit of flexibility. Before finishing, I took a year out to travel around Japan working on different farms across the country. I had never done any woodwork until one farm had me cutting down trees and building a garage and other bits out of the woodland surrounding their home. That was my first taste back in 2010 and from then on, I was hooked. 

What kind of items do you stock?
At the moment I’m focusing on bowls, boards, plates and other smaller home décor items, made from sustainably sourced, native Irish timbers. I’ve made various larger bespoke pieces too ranging from dining tables and standalone cabinets to wall art and unique, company-specific pieces for corporate gifting. I’m currently working on a line of made-to-order kitchen and dining room furniture. 

What new brands or items are on your radar?
Well, I’m a sucker for tools! I’m usually trying to reinvest much of what I earn into better equipment for the workshop. Or even vintage hand tools – they just have so much history! I keep eyeing up old hand saws right now. I may have a problem… 

Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Of course! It always is though, right!? This work requires a lot of initial capital and workspace, so I’ve always tried to grow as organically as possible, acquiring what I need or improving what I have along the way. I was working full-time in hospitality when I began, and only in the past year have I been fortunate enough to be in a position to go full-time. Between Covid, moving from Kilkenny to Mayo and now myself and my partner having our first child, it’s been a rollercoaster few years. I’m lucky to have such a great community of support.

Best business advice you’ve gotten 
To understand the value of what you do. When I started out I was eager to get whatever jobs I could, and would undercut myself and supplement my income with my day job. Which, looking back, is crazy. It’s been a real learning curve for me to understand this and also stand behind the quality of my work and, as a result, value and price it correctly. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a super supportive partner, who can see the amount of work that goes into each job and so can (lovingly) slap some sense into me when I need it! It’s taken a long time to change years of bad habits but now I can put a prospective job into an Excel sheet I’ve made (and tweaked a lot) and work out relatively quickly the time and costs involved for me, in order to fairly price a piece for a client. It helps me to be 100% transparent with my costing, and I think that’s the best way for a client to understand the value of my work. 

Favourite design accounts you follow 
Oh, there are so many… @isana_furniture and @tokunagafurniture for some amazing woodwork and craftsmanship, @materialmatters.design for amazing crafts in general, @dwellmagazine for a broader look on beautiful home design and @edpavez for something completely different I’m not sure you’d call him a designer, he’s a photographer and playwright (I think), but is really fascinating and makes beautiful videos. 

Other Irish brands you love
Aisling McElwain is an outstanding Kilkenny-based ceramicist, Hugo Byrne makes some of the best-looking kitchen knives I’ve ever seen (I’m always perving on his Instagram!), Criostal Na Rinne in Waterford are making stunning contemporary crystal pieces. These craftspeople are all making functional items but are really elevating them to be works of art in themselves. Super inspiring! 

Most useful learning since setting up a business
For sure the idea of embracing failure, or at least not letting the fear of failure stop you from trying. It’s not solely related to business, but the business has made me have to face this notion head-on and learn that success isn’t always a simple A to B route with a definitive start and end. Also (is this cheating, to write two things?), not to be afraid to self-promote. Maybe I’m generalising here, but we Irish are usually quite self-deprecating – we often downplay our achievements. To be comfortable ‘tooting your own horn’ doesn’t necessarily come naturally but it is amazingly helpful to get a start in a business like this! Ireland is the perfect place to put yourself out there too. Everyone I’ve met in the crafts community has been so warm and helpful. 

Proudest moment so far
Oh, there have been many milestones over the past few years, but definitely going full-time has been a big leap. It’s an exciting and slightly nerve-wracking experience but It’s allowing me to grow in ways I didn’t expect. Again I’m lucky to have a partner who seems to have endless patience to encourage me!

I want my brand to be remembered for… sustainable, long-lasting designs that perform perfectly and age beautifully. That’s not a lot to ask, is it!?

Imagery provided by Ed Forristal.