Forget sticks of rock and dodgy keyrings – the future of the souvenir is rooted in beauty and exploring local design talent. WGSN Lifestyle Editor Sarah Housley reports
Irish Design 2015 has collaborated with makers of many different disciplines to re-imagine the souvenir – taking it from kitsch impulse buy to a poetic, finely crafted object. Launched during the London Design Festival last month, The Souvenir Project is a collection of homewares and accessories that wear their heart on their sleeve – each piece is rooted in the culture, landscape and textures of Ireland.
Coming at a time when both design and retail are becoming more localised – celebrating slow living, craft and making – the project is a poetic exploration of what it means to come from somewhere, to belong there, and to consider it your homeland.
Each thoughtful piece interprets the idea of the souvenir in a different way. There are screen-printed Irish linen textiles that take mark-making inspiration from the island’s dry stone walls; a honey pot made with clay, wax and honey all sourced from the same single field; crystal vases etched with interpretations of each of the different Irish expressions for rainfall; and a modern interpretation of an ancient Irish board game, Boardum, which gathers 13 compressed peat playing pieces on a wool felt mat.
Ibi, designed by Cathal O’Connor and Peter Sheehan, is a personal highlight: a sound souvenir enabling travellers to record a precious audio memory of their trip, capturing it inside the wooden vessel to replay whenever they would like to return to that moment.
The political landscape also comes into play: animator Johnny Kelly created the Rainbow Plate to celebrate Ireland’s May referendum on same-sex marriage, with a joyfully bright expression of traditional sponge-ware patterns.
Rounding off the collection is the Measc cocktail muddle, made with Irish sycamore and brushed brass, and inspired by the landscape of West Galway; and The Sally – a characterful bag tassel crafted from 100% Irish wool by The Tweed Project.
And last, but not least – perhaps even best of all, if you’re as whimsically-inclined as me – is Lumper, a bronze rendition of the hardy tuber that once ruled Ireland’s food culture.
The project’s curator, Makers & Brothers co-founder Jonathan Legge, says of the project: “A souvenir is so much more than useful or beautiful; it is a loved object laced with emotional associations. This collection of new Irish souvenirs carefully explores this thinking, filtering it through the local context, embracing the subtleties of the land, weather, histories and people. It is a gathering of objects with meaning and depth that softly speak of a time and place.”
We say: By making a product very specialised to one place, you often end up giving it global appeal.
DESIGN FUTURES: Find out how the key trends from this year’s London Design Festival will shape design over the coming seasons in our full Trend Analysis from the event.
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