What is your own background/ethnic heritage?
I am originally from Dungannon County Tyrone but trained as a goldsmith in Dublin and London before moving to County Louth in 2002. I came from a family where Irish and Celtic culture was celebrated. There were seven kids in my family and we spent many nights in Tyrone, Donegal and County Louthwith my grandparents listening to stories and singing songs. It might sound clichéd but that is how I learnt my sense of heritage. I have continued my interest into adult life and was involved in setting up a Gaelic club in my village in the last few years. I might be pushing it a bit age wise but still like to get on the pitch to play myself and as ex chairman they humour me the odd time and let me play for the team!
How long have you been with the company, and what is your position there?
I have worked in the jewellery industry for almost 25 years. I set up my own jewellery design business in 2002 after moving to County Louth. My studio is based at the foot of the Cooley Mountains beside Carlingford Lough. I do everything in the company from making the pieces to doing all the paperwork!
What are the challenges of the profession?
Personally for me the cost of precious metal makes it very difficult today, especially in the current economic climate. I do feel however that people do like to buy Irish made work and something that it a little bit different from the mainstream.
What are the rewards?
I enjoy working for myself and having control over the way a design can take shape at the bench and transform flat metal into something very beautiful. I like to see the reaction of people when they see a piece they really love or can relate too.
What is the company’s core mandate?
I try to make quality affordable products that each have a story to tell.
What are your key products?
I have a collection called The Voyage based on the Johnny Duhan song made famous by Christy Moore. Each piece comes with a story card with the song lyrics and this is very popular with all the romantic souls! I have several ranges based on Celtic folklore such as the Warrior Queen Meabh and the fairy Luck Child.
What is your marketplace?
My work sells in quality outlets in Ireland, the UK and America. I have a very comprehensive range of work that appeals to all ages so there is usually something for everyone.
How do you differ from your competition?
A lot of my work is inspired by my surroundings and my Celtic heritage. There is usually a story behind my work that has intrigued me and inspired me to create something that reflects that. I have many collections inspired by the area in which I live such as Cloicin (from the Irish for small stone) which was inspired by the stony shores of Carlingford Lough.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Irish economy?
The last few years have been very tough and there are few who have escaped difficulty. I am somewhat positive about the year to come because there are small signs that we may be about to see some improvements. People have adjusted to having less in their pocket but they also appreciate things a bit more and are keen to support Irish businesses.
Are we doing enough to preserve& promote Celtic culture generally?
In the area I live in there is a concerted effort to preserve our culture. The area where I live was the last Gaeltacht or Irish speaking area on the East Coast of Ireland. Music, Gaelic games and craft also have a key role to play in teaching the next generations about the history of Ireland, and I sense a return to core values of community. In this area we actively work to make our culture something the general public can relate too through festivals celebrating key events such as the first recorded game of Gaelic football in Ireland which was played in Omeath or the re-enactment of the Tain March over the Cooley Mountains. I spend a lot of time in Glencolmcille in Donegal and it is very heartening to see visitors from all over the world visiting to try and learn some Irish and experience the culture. I like my work to be contemporary in design but to have a sense of Celtic heritage. I try to tell stories through my interpretations.
What’s next on the company agenda?
To keep growing my business and looking for inspiration around me and in my children!