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13 Aug 2022

Offaly crafts displayed at Finnish Christmas markets despite crazy Covid world

Offaly crafts displayed at Finnish Christmas markets despite crazy Covid world

Monica Daly of Heartworks

There was light at the end of the tunnel last week for local crafters in Offaly and Westmeath following a tough 2020.

As part of the Craftlink initiative, local crafters had their products go on sale at Finland’s Tullipakkahuone Christmas Fair and in the famous Kokkola Taito Shops, in conjunction with Christmas window displays at the Tullamore Tourist Office and on the corner of Castle Street and Pearse Street in Mullingar.

The products featured on the stalls of the Tullipakkahuone Christmas Fair are doing exceptionally well as people rush to complete their Christmas gift buying.

Buying local and supporting small businesses has never been more important than in 2020 and it is through the support of Westmeath Community Development and the Offaly Local Development Company that the crafters have the opportunity to showcase their products in an invaluable international market.

The Craftlink programme is part of the continuing support provided to craft makers in Offaly and Westmeath over the past 10 years.  

Craftlink involves an enterprise craft training programme in partnership with the Finnish Craft Producers. As part of the programme, crafters in both countries were afforded the opportunity to develop new techniques and skills while benefiting from an enterprise and product development programme. This involved upskilling in areas including the use of marketing and e-commerce to boost sales.  

Amongst the products being produced by the crafters are handmade soaps and shampoos, candles, hand-painted silk scarves, facemasks, enamel jewellery, handcrafted bespoke furniture, handmade dolls, natural diffusers, framed art pieces and a range of quirky ornaments.

Offaly-based Crafter Monica Daly of Heartworks, specialising in handmade soaps, shampoos and creams along with exquisite slate homeware said: "It’s been a really tough year for all businesses and none more so than local crafters. The involvement in the Craftlink project gave my business a much-needed lift and allowed me to gain exposure to markets that previously would not have been possible. The skills I learned as part of the Craftlink programme will help me continue to grow my business for many years to come."

Eddie Shanahan, leading consultant to the craft, fashion, and retail sectors in Ireland, who provided training on the programme says it’s time to refocus on small, local producers as the issue of sustainability, both in terms of products and local communities, has been brought even more to the fore with the onset of Covid-19.

Eddie said: "There’s been a rethink over the last months about quality and craftsmanship as an evolving cohort of curatorial consumers places renewed emphasis on authenticity. They are buying less but buying better and creating a new local circularity that sees them supporting local makers, through local retailers to the benefit of local communities.

"There is also a move by retailers to a more thoughtful style of selling or Calm & Considered Commerce, in response to the needs of consumers fatigued by conspicuous consumption. It is reflected through better service and a more enlightened understanding of the real meaning of value.

"That’s where local suppliers come in, providing distinctive, handcrafted products, that will mean something to those that buy them. The products made by the crafters who took part in the Craftlink programme share the DNA of leading luxury brands through their skill and craftsmanship. Their collections are made with passion, genuine care and attention to detail. The collections these artists are creating in their purpose-built workshops or small home studios are nothing less than exceptional."

The Craftlink programme will continue in 2021, and Offaly Local Development Company and Westmeath Community Development are interested in hearing from local crafters who wish to be involved. For further information on the Craftlink programme visit www.craftlink.eu

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