Over the past 40 years Showcase has become renowned for the variety and high standard of products presented at the show. At Showcase you’ll find brands with many years of experience in the production of traditional products, easily associated with Ireland, and designed to appeal to an overseas buyer or the tourist market. However, Showcase is also a show that is associated with cutting edge design and with the presentation of new brands who exhibit a unique synergy between the past and the present, between old skills and new ideas.
Coolree Design from Co. Kildare and Danu Ceramics in Dublin are just two young contemporary Irish brands at Showcase who utilise traditional techniques whilst creating products with very modern appeal. Coolree Design founder, Warren Hayes, is a newcomer to Showcase for 2019 having established his business in March this year. Warren’s furniture-making knowledge and skill was forged at the illustrious GMIT in Mayo in the west of Ireland and further developed through his work with some of the most esteemed furniture designers and manufacturers in the UK, New Zealand and Australia
Every piece of Coolree Design goes through Warren’s hands and he carefully selects the wood for each item he produces - be that ash, walnut or mahogany. The Coolree Design range includes beautiful, functional, yet playful items such as his Wrap and Loop wall hooks and his Spun clocks, bowls and trivets. Warren also works with clients to produce bespoke products and furniture. Key furniture pieces for him at the moment are the beautiful Coolree Rocking Chair (a feature on the Showcase website) and the Archi and Fáilte dining chairs.
The designer prototypes each and every product using hand tools and every product is made using carefully selected timber in his workshop and finished by hand. “You need to get the right timber, because if not, the piece will begin to warp, crack or twist,” says Warren. “I can spend full days in my timber suppliers selecting just the right pieces that suit my aims. It’s a personal choice - my favourite timbers are ash and walnut, but for commission work I use what the client specifies. It’s very important to have good quality wood even if the piece is painted afterwards.”
The aesthetic of Coolree Design is a combination of the modern and the traditional. The founder’s experience of working with some of the top furniture designers globally means that he has developed a strong sense of design and a critical approach to his work - developing a brief, tweaking the design, reviewing and refining his products until he is satisfied with the end result.
He enjoys Mid-Century Modern style but says that he has chosen elements of that period which he believes have stood the test of time whilst dismissing elements he feels have become dated. “It’s about exploring which elements of furniture design from the past still work for today’s consumer. In my opinion some details no longer work and so it’s about incorporating the ones that do into my own work.”
Many of the items in the Coolree Design range, such as the hooks and clocks, also exhibit a playful, colourful aspect. “I love timber, it’s my whole life and I’m passionate about it, but I also feel that if you have too much plain timber it can become a bit bland - sometimes colour can add life to the timber and it allows me the scope to develop my products or to keep on-trend as time goes on.”
For Showcase 2019, Coolree Designs will present their range of homewares, which includes clocks, wall hooks, bowls, mirrors and chopping boards. The beautiful Coolree Rocking Chair will also be on view to visitors. As a hands-on designer and maker, Warren believes that the customer is seeking products which have a personal touch, something that has been made with integrity rather than “pumped out of a factory”. “Everything that comes out of Coolree Design I personally make from start to finish. I think, in an era in which everything is so mass-produced, that people are looking for things that they can believe in - for products that have a sense of meaning,” he says. -
Another young designer and maker, Ruth Power of Danu Ceramics, produces beautiful homewares at her studio in Dublin - pieces such as ring dishes and bowls to add beauty to any dining- or dressing-table. New products for Danu Ceramics at Showcase 2019 include a range of bowls made from a stoneware clay and glazed in a matte, Shino-inspired glaze, as well as the designer’s complementary new range of jewellery created from porcelain and gold lustre.
“Shino ware is a Japanese pottery glaze which was developed in the 1500s. My charcoal matte bowls are finished with a halo of glossy gold lustre around the undulating rim,” explains Ruth, whose ethos revolves around the Japanese notion of Wabi Sabi which values the handmade, the imperfect and the natural. “I believe that objects created from clay should retain a natural quality, showing appreciation of the integrity of natural objects and processes, with evidence of being made by human hands.”
Traditional techniques are apparent in the Danu Ceramics range of products via Ruth’s hand-application of gold lustre onto porcelain －a technique which was developed in China in the 9th Century. “To make the bowls, I use a slip casting technique (pouring liquid clay into plaster moulds) which was introduced to Staffordshire in the UK in the 1700s,” she says. “However, the earliest plaster moulds that have been found are over 9,000 years old.” Ruth also uses hand-building techniques to create her ring dishes and jewellery - a process which has been around since humans first created pottery - the oldest found pottery shards being some 20,000 years old and from East Asia.
“In a post-industrialised society, there is a growing trend for contemporary tastes to favour an organic aesthetic with evidence of being made by human hands - a backlash against mass-produced, factory-made items created in questionable conditions,” says Ruth Power. “Hence in my work, some of the pieces are partially glazed, exposing the raw, earthy clay from which the product was made, connecting the owner with the material and processes. The rims are left organic and honest. The glaze application is poured and the drips are left undisturbed. This is juxtaposed with an on-trend, contemporary and ever-changing palette, currently consisting of teal, grey, black and white.”