Offaly and Westmeath Crafters go Head-to-Head with Santa Claus as their products are displayed at the Tullipakkahuone Christmas Fair in Finland
As the home of Santa Claus, Finland is no easy market to break into when it come to Christmas gifts but that’s exactly what a group of Irish crafters have done when their products recently went on display at the Tullipakkahuone Christmas Fair and the Kokkola Taito Shops in Finland.
Craftlink, the initiative that brought the crafters to the Finnish market, is run by the Offaly Local Development Company and Westmeath Community Development. Both organisations have worked closely with the creative industries over the past 10 years, and the Craftlink initiative, which began in 2019, supports the sector through training and shared learning.
As Ireland went into lock-down, Craftlink brought together Irish and Finnish crafters and afforded the opportunity for them 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 ecommerce to boost sales.
Amongst the products being produced by the crafters are handmade soaps and shampoos, candles, hand-painted silk scarves, enamel jewellery, handcrafted bespoke furniture, handmade dolls, natural diffusers, framed art pieces and a range of quirky ornaments.
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, hand crafted 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.’
Westmeath-based crafter, Clair O’Neill of Meab Enamels, whose exquisite handmade enamel jewellery, silk scarves and facemasks are on display in Finland, 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
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 http://craftlink.eu/
For media interviews with Eddie Shanahan or Clair O’Neill contact Antoinette Tyrrell on 00353.87.4378898
View the full range of Craft products available Offaly & Westmeath Craftmakers - Craftlink