Project Curator and Creative Director
Makers & Brothers
The term souvenir may have an unfortunate veil of commercialisation drawn over it due to mass tourism but at its root, it is literally about memory and recollection. A souvenir is so much more than useful or beautiful; it is a loved object laced with emotional associations. This collection of new Irish souvenirs carefully explores this thinking, filtering it through the local context, embracing the subtleties of the land, weather, histories and people.It is a gathering of objects with meaning and depth that softly speak of a time and place.
Irish Design 2015
Ireland is home to a vibrant design and craft sector which has its roots in Ireland’s heritage and tradition but is continually innovating, exploring new ideas, approaches and techniques. Inspired by the country’s stunning landscapes and an abundance of local materials, designers and craftspeople throughout the island of Ireland create contemporary objects with a strong sense of place.
The ambition of The Souvenir Project is to showcase the extraordinary creative talent and quality of materials and making within Ireland. Souvenirs are a symbolic reminder of experience, location and culture, and this collection of authentic Irish products, designed and made in Ireland, provides visitors a means of taking home the very best of Irish design. These products reinvent, reclaim and redeem the humble and often stereotypical souvenir, making it beautiful, meaningful and eminently collectible.
Irish Design 2015 marks a pivotal chapter in Irish design, helping to inspire, promote and develop Ireland’s design capacity and culture. This commissioned project, through a series of collaborations between designers, makers and manufacturers, demonstrates the power design has to create future where designers make opportunities, and businesses have the opportunity to make it.
Taking elements of the island’s past, the designers and makers featured in The Souvenir Project have created a collection of products that reflect Ireland’s design-led future and celebrate Irish materials, culture and heritage. Each tells a unique story of Ireland.
Designed by Johnny Kelly
Made by Nicholas Mosse Pottery
This plate is the result of a collaboration between Nicholas Mosse Pottery and animator Johnny Kelly, commemorating the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland on the 22nd of May 2015.
Inspired by the pottery’s extensive back catalogue of designs and colour, the resulting rainbow pattern is reconstructed entirely from this archive of motifs, including elements dating back to the 1970s when Nicholas Mosse Pottery was established.
This souvenir is a small celebration for a big moment in Ireland’s history, a gently waving flag for equality.
The Honey Pot
Designed and made by Stephen Pearce Pottery
Honey produced by Coolmore Bees
Packaging by Post Studio
Direction by Makers & Brothers
One field, the source of both the clay for the pot and the raw honey that it holds.
Good food is very much related to the land and as such to memory of place. This honey pot is about one very specific place - a field in East Cork. The pot contains raw honey created on the banks of the Blackwater.
Clay was sourced next to the hives. That same clay was formed and fired a few miles down the road from this field and the raw honey sealed inside with the wax created in the production of that same honey. A vessel containing all one field in Cork has to offer.
Patterns designed by Scott Burnett
Made by J. HILL’s Standard
In Ireland we have many names for rain. The words ghost their original Irish form. They describe the force, direction and potential consequences of the rain. Most tellingly, they lay bare our diverse feelings about this too regular imposition: A soft day brings steel grey cloud which wipes out the landscape and dulls all feeling; Spitting; a mild inconvenience allowing the suffering to weave between the drops. It’s absolutely Lashing; rain bounces off the ground and unleashes a torrent of dialogue, aghast at the state of the weather.
Elements speak of nature and landscape and our interpretation of them says a lot about us. Rain can be symbolic of melancholy, passion, wistfullness, creativity. It lends the Irish land its verdant greenness and its water and fire colour palette.
J.HILL’s Standard produces hand made contemporary crystal in Waterford, Ireland, cut with precision by craftsmen who use age-old knowledge and skill.
The physical nature of rain is especially satisfying to interpret in cuts on crystal. J. HILL’s Standard have used a series of different cutting techniques to achieve the effect of imagery created for them by Graphic Designer Scott Burnett.
Designed by dePaor
Board design collaboration by Sphere One | Lucy Downes
An brandub is the boardgame mentioned since the sixth century in Irish texts. The old game of ground is presented here as a section of peat, compressed and cut into thirteen figures, played on a punctured wool felt mat. An brandub, the raven, is perched at the centre of the board, outnumbered and surrounded, and plays for stalemate – an island game.
“The centre of the plain of Fal is Tara’s castle, delightful hill; out in the exact centre of the plain, like a mark on a brandub board. Advance thither, it will be a profitable step: leap up on that square, which is fitting for the branán, the board is fittingly thine.”
– Attributed to Maoil Eoin Mac Raith
Stone Wall Patterns
Designed and made by Superfolk
Print assistance by Print Block
Stone Wall Patterns is a collection of prints inspired by the dry stone walls of Ireland. Seemingly haphazard yet structurally sound, the dry stone wall holds its form without mortar. The expressive character of the wall describes the underlying geology of the area. Distinctive patterns emerge as you journey through the countryside.
This collection of patterns (Aran, Burren and Connemara) has been developed by hand, through loose ink brush drawing and relief block print meth ods before screen-printing on natural Irish linen.
Designed by Makers & Brothers Made by Bronze Art Foundry
The hidden and humble root vegetable introduced to Europe in the 16th Century that has since become uniquely associated with Ireland. The hardy tuber has a deep and emotive narrative. The Lumper, once the most prevalent food source in Ireland, is now grown on only one farm.
An oddity in bronze, Lumper is a memento with a wonderfully curious form and is presented with an essay by celebrated Irish chef Darina Allen.
Designed and produced by Cathal Loughnane & Peter Sheehanz
ibi is a precious and personal object – a souvenir – that allows an individual, through a simple gesture, to be immediately transported back to a time, a place and a feeling.
Special memories are collected during a lifetime, forming an intimate record of how we experience the world. Objects, images and sounds trigger them. Small things that are completely meaningless to others have a heightened resonance for the individual.
Crafted from native Irish hardwoods and Wexford linen, each ibi contains a personal memory. Rotate gently and listen.
Designed by WorkGroup
Made by Shane Holland
Cocktail by American Village Apothecary
Direction by Makers & Brothers
Measc Muddle is an Irish sycamore and brushed brass cocktail muddle, inspired by the layered landscape of west Galway. The muddle is the result of a collaboration between design studio WorkGroup, Shane Holland and America Village Apothecary. It has been designed to work beautifully for any drink where ingredients need to be crushed, pounded or ground in the glass.
Measc Muddle is a specially created tool, designed so that the markings on the shaft can be used to make an Irish red clover, bog myrtle and Irish whiskey cocktail: the Móin Bhuí.
Designed and made by The Tweed Project
Packaging by Post Studio
A wool pom pom ring with a refined heritage style.The Sally is a modern accessory inspired by The Tweed Project’s friend who wears and makes endless pom poms.
The Sally is made from 100% Irish wool and created from the offcuts of The Tweed Project’s Blanket Coats produced in collaboration with Molloy & Sons in Donegal. It continues The Tweed Project’s dialogue with the slow fashion movement, where time and craft take priority.
Souvenirs: Memory Rebooted
and identity in contemporary
The term souvenir, as any good Latin dictionary will tell you, comes from Subvenire and means ‘come to mind’. A souvenir is a trigger, a reminder of a place or time, a tool for easy access to memories and feelings for someplace or sometime, or, most commonly, both. A souvenir is usually a physical object. Tradition dictates it is often small and relatively inexpensive, easily transportable. A souvenir is a difficult thing to define as its shape and form and materiality are without any common ground. Souvenirs can be the canned air from a Spanish monastery, the certainly fake concrete scrap from a no-longer existing monument to Communism or the plastic rain shoe of a geisha (all of these I have bought). In fact, a souvenir only becomes a souvenir once it is in your belonging and connected to your memories – an ownerless souvenir cannot exist. How very metaphysical.
The meaning of what a souvenir is and what it does has slowly evolved over time, just as the way we travel and experience places and even how we access our memories has changed. Today’s souvenir is ripe for reinterpretation: Forget about products reflecting clumsy stereotypes, mass-produced some-where far, far away from the place they depict and imagine instead objects with a genuine connection to the land from which they came: Things that gently echo the people, history, geography or nature of a place. Today’s souvenir can be, if we allow it, an extra-ordinary object, rare in its bridging of experiential and object cultures and fascinating in its shape-shifting nature and sentimentality.
Consider how concerned we all are with ‘locally made’ produce, with provenance and with integrity. Think of our infatuation with and taste for craft and craft production. Then there is our love of ‘experience’, all of these modern day pursuits hint at the poss-ibility for a renaissance of the souvenir, reborn as an authentic object making use of locale materials and speaking directly, and strongly, of place.
Souvenirs have been around for as long as humans have travelled. The 17th century grand tour phenomenon established the popular tradition of souvenir collecting (miniature coliseums and pantheons were essential purchases, along with the odd renaissance painting), fashions such as Japonism fetishised objects from far away (and the cultures they represented) and the Victorians cemented our need to discover (conquer?), collect and display, a passion that permeated from museum to mantelpiece. For many people the idea of a souvenir will be stuck in the seventies with the jovial, kitschy mass-market type of objects that were popular by-products of package tourism. In the recent past the souvenir has been a collective thing: homogenous and unindividual.
The way we experience places and share those experiences is still changing. We no longer look to a stuffed donkey to remember a holiday; increasingly we revisit our travels in digital spaces and share those experiences, widely, with others. That doesn’t mean that the souvenir’s purpose is extinct, just that its value has shifted slightly. The souvenir has become a more personal artefact; it is less about sharing common or familiar experiences as it once was – we have Facebook for that – and more about preserving rare and intimate memories. Whereas we would once rejoice in the shared experience of a place and, in turn, the object that represented it (consider the classics here; Spanish doll, Eiffel tower, snow globe) we now search for something authentic and less expected, because that is also the way we travel and that is also how we place value on objects.
As a rule, souvenirs need not even be something purchased. A found object has just as much right (and perhaps more charm) to be called a souvenir as something bought at a local market or gift shop. But in the past there has been a heavy leaning towards cultural mementos; architectural monuments in miniature are a (personal) favourite, reproduced art works and even political figures (Mao, Lenin etc) are common haul. This is commodification of course and it is interesting to consider the process of manufacture of these memories-made-physical: who has made them and why? And, importantly, whose memories are they in fact? Souvenirs use archetypes and iconography, they are by their nature reductive – a souvenir need only offer us a glimpse of a place, a tiny fragment of it, from which a whole experience can be accessed. This is where their power lies.
We live in an increasingly efficient and detached world and it is very usual, now, to hear designers and manufacturers talk about the importance of ingraining objects and products with ‘narrative’ and ‘emotional connection’. These things are predisposed in a souvenir. And it is this ultimately, the inherent sentimentality of souvenirs, which ensures their survival.
Laura Houseley is a design critic, author, and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Design Review magazine
The Souvenir Project was Launched
at The London Design Festival
The Souvenir Project will continue at Dutch Design Week Eindhoven
17 - 25 October 2015
Opening hours: 11:00 - 18:00
Map No. 19
Commissioned by Irish Design 2015
and The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland
Curation by Jonathan Legge
Creative Direction and Exhibition Design by Jonathan Legge and Makers & Brothers
Project Production by Makers & Brothers
Exhibition Fabrication by Michael Carroll
Graphic Design by Commission
Website by Archive
Essays by Laura Houseley and Alex Milton
Video by Andrew Nuding and Makers & Brothers
Photography by Andrew Nuding and Makers & Brothers
Contributing imagery by Superfolk, Cliodhna Prendergast and The Tweed Project
As ever there are many whom without their help this project would not have come to life. A very big thank you to; Alex Milton, Brian McGee, Susan Brindley, Una McMahon, Alex Calder, Anastasia Dack, Mark Legge, Susannah Hill, Bríd Maher, Jessie Smith, Meghan Elward-Duffy, Torlac O’Byrne, Jo Anne Butler and Claire Davey.