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The Venue

02 August 2017

2017 RDS Craft Awards Winners Announced

  • With a total competition prize fund of over €30,000, the RDS Craft Awards is one of Ireland’s most important annual showcase and competition opportunities for craft makers living and working on the island.
  • RDS Craft Awards Exhibition on before and during Dublin Horse Show, August 2017.

The 2017 Established Maker RDS Award of Excellence of €5,000 was awarded to Gráinne Watts for her hand-thrown porcelain clay vessel entitled Vortex. This decorative double walled vessel scored top marks with the judges and, according to Claire Curneen and Philip Wood, the ceramics category judges, this work is ‘beautifully executed with great attention to detail and great scale’. The work explores Gráinne’s fascination with organic geometry and was inspired by stones collected by the sea that are indented and pockmarked by small invertebrate.

For the third year in a row, a graduate from the Jewellery and Goldsmithing Skills and Design Course run by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in Kilkenny has won the Emerging Maker RDS Award of Excellence. The 2017 recipient is Eleanor Haworth. The jewellery judge noted her excellent craftsmanship and described her group of three pieces as a good example of working with and developing a design idea. According to Eleanor, the “pieces were developed from an experiment with weaving. I introduced coloured threads because I was struck by their vibrancy and depth when overlaid”.

Showcasing and rewarding excellence in Irish craft since 1968, this is the third year the RDS Craft Awards is a two-strand competition with an independent panel of craft experts assessing the work of emerging and established makers separately. This allows the Awards to celebrate the best in Irish craft, as well as provide a platform for the next generation of makers.

The top prize winners in both the emerging and established craft strands received €5,000 as well as the California gold medal. Thirteen category prize winners in both emerging and established maker strands received €500 sponsored by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland as well as an RDS medal and certificate.

The William Smith O’Brien Perpetual Challenge Cup was awarded to Anne Kiley & Mary Palmer for their collaborative quilt entitled ‘Literary Landscape’ which is inspired by the poetry of W.B. Yeats and the natural environment in which he immersed himself in. Constructed from a mixture of cottons (velvet, linen, wood wadding), this unique collaboration between a print maker and a quiltmaker was described by the embellished textile judges as ‘exquisite, front and back’. The double-sided nature of the piece is an important element of the work, drawing inspiration from Yeats’ own belief in another parallel world.

Supporting emerging talent is at the core of what the RDS Arts Programme is all about. With this in mind three separate awards specifically for emerging makers each valued at €2,000 are awarded annually. The RDS Muriel Gahan Award of €2,000 is awarded to an emerging craftsperson to assist with their career or business development. This year the prize went to Ina Olohan for her beautifully designed and made screen printed homeware fabrics. The €2,000 prize money will help her to make improvements to her studio space and to purchase some essential equipment. The judges liked her sensitive use of linen and described her piece as a good product.

The 2017 RDS Graduate Award of €2,000 was awarded to Orlaith de Paor a graduate of the National College of Art & Design for her woven textile fabrics entitled Well Worn. The work was described by the judges as ‘a very strong collection’. Orlaith recreated the Japanese Sashiko method in constructing this work; this method involves stitching geometric patterns to repair worn or torn clothing.

The National Craft & Design Fair Award consists of a free stand valued at over €2,000, for an emerging maker at the busy retail craft fair which the organisers hold in the RDS every December. This prize was awarded to textile designer, Katharine Griffith who will show and sell her hand-made hobby horses that have utilised off-cuts from woollen mills and upcycled fabrics.

With categories ranging from woodturning and jewellery to ceramics, glass and textiles, the RDS Craft Awards is an important celebration of indigenous craft and design endeavour, and follows an RDS tradition of promoting and supporting Irish craft which dates back to the 19th century.

Winning and selected entries will be shown at the RDS Craft Awards Exhibition in the RDS Concert Hall from 2-4 August (free entry) and during the Dublin Horse Show, RDS 9-13 August (entry fee applies). Prize winners will be shown again at the National Crafts and Design Fair, RDS, in December.


Notes: To be eligible to enter the emerging maker strand, entrants must be able to show that they are either: Students studying craft in a third level institution, or have within the last five years set up a craft business, or are new to a craft discipline within the last five years, either studying via an apprenticeship or are a life-long learner on an informal course.

 Major Awards:

  • RDS Award of Excellence €5,000 – Established Maker: Gráinne Watts
  • RDS Award of Excellence €5,000 – Emerging Maker: Eleanor Haworth
  • RDS Muriel Gahan Award €2,000 – Ina Olohan
  • RDS Graduate Award €2,000 – Orlaith de Paor
  • National Crafts & Design Fair Award  - Katharine Griffith
  • RDS William Smith O’Brien Perpetual Challenge Cup – Anne Kiely & Mary Palmer

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