August Craft Month – a celebration of art and talent on our own doorstep

Artisans from Northern Ireland and further afield will participate in this month's annual celebration of craft. Kelly McAllister speaks to organiser Jan Irwin about the event, and why linen is, perhaps unsurprisingly, central to this year's showcase

Craft NI's main focus during August Craft Month is getting the public involved
Kelly McAllister

ARTISTS, designers and makers around Northern Ireland will be showcasing their talent for the next four weeks with a huge programme of events taking place as part of August Craft Month.

The annual celebration of craft is back with a range of workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations that will shine a spotlight on the work of local creators. This year there will be over 100 events including a selection of new offerings that focus on wellbeing, glass bead design and more.

Craft Month is organised by Craft NI on behalf of craftspeople around the north and their main focus is getting the public involved.

“We've got so much talent on our doorstep and Craft Month offers all of August for all things craft,” explains Jan Irwin of Craft NI. “It's hugely important; it's that whole collective idea of people working together and doing more together.

“The idea is to get as many people as possible together to make, see, learn about and buy craft. There is so much evidence of craft contributing to health and wellbeing now."

This year's Craft Month will see the introduction of a ‘Weaving for Wellbeing' workshop. Participants will join Belfast-based weaver Emily McIlwaine in creating their own unique tapestry sample as they learn the therapeutic benefits of weaving.

The launch of the celebrations, at the Millenium Court Arts Centre in Portadown, will coincide with Linen, an exhibition featuring work by craftspeople Christine Maursberger, Mylene Boisvert, Sandra Turley, Damian Magee and Jill Phillips.

Linen will be part of the north's first ever Linen Biennale, an extended arts festival that celebrates the textile, which has deep historical connections with the north.

“I think the biennale is an amazing project; it is so important to the whole history of linen in Northern Ireland,” Jan said.

As part of the biennale, internationally recognised British BioArtist Anna Dimitriu will present her latest exhibition From the Field. It will feature new and existing artworks that are inspired by the biology, history and mythology of linen.

Anna often uses linen in her work as a metaphor for the impact of microbiology on our human lives and environment.

One linen-based exhibition that Jan recommends is the work to be showcased in the old drying room of the former flax-spinning site in Conway Mill, Belfast.

Exhibiting artists have drawn upon the mill's linen history as inspiration for their work. During Craft Month they are giving people a chance to recreate their own version of the Conway Mill flax flower tile.

According to Jan, a big part of Craft Month is the inclusion of international artists and makers attending and mixing with local makers as well as with the public.

Derry craft collective Number 19, Craft and Design will be hosting a Meet the Maker weekend, allowing visitors the chance to meet designers. The event will feature demonstrations including hand-weaving, leather craft, painting and pottery.

Among those present will be designer Leona Cregan, a North West Regional College graduate who produces hand-woven Irish Tweed using her own loom.

As the owner and designer of Elsie Tweed, Leona produces a range of fashion accessories and soft furnishings all of which are "imagined, designed and hand-crafted along the Wild Atlantic Way".

Now in its 12th year, August Craft Month is continually growing and Craft NI's Jan believes it is hugely significant in boosting tourism and bringing people together.

“Throughout the month we try to encourage people to have something craft-orientated in their venue. We have crafters popping up all over the country and people coming together in one collective activity.

“August Craft Month has the potential to be a good tourism project as well. Craft is part of the tourist structure in Northern Ireland and because of our weather it is important to have something to do inside. Its about showing that we can contribute in a positive way.”

:: For information on events happening throughout Craft Month visit

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