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New display of chairs by emerging designers from ATU Connemara goes on display at NMI - Country Life in Co Mayo

Micheál Kilcoyne, ATU Connemara, with his chair that is now on display at the NMI - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar. Image: Aoife Herriott

A new display of chairs crafted by emerging designers from ATU Connemara has gone on display at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life in Co Mayo as part of the exhibition Our Irish Chair: Tradition Revisited.

The chairs were designed and constructed by a group of students undertaking the B.Sc. in Furniture Design and Manufacture programme at ATU Connemara in Letterfrack, Co Galway.  

The chairs were selected for display by a panel of adjudicators from the National Museum of Ireland, ATU Connemara and the Office of Public Works. 

The work came about through a partnership initiative between the National Museum of Ireland and ATU Connemara which challenged furniture design students to respond to examples of chairs in the national collections and design a piece of furniture for the modern home. The students were inspired by a particular Irish chair type known as the Tuam or Sligo chair. 

The National Museum of Ireland recently hosted a special event at Turlough Park to celebrate the significant contribution of ATU Connemara to the exhibition, which was originally launched during difficult circumstances when strict COVID-19 public health restrictions were in place.  

Speaking at the event, Paul Leamy, Head of Centre for ATU Connemara, National Centre for Excellence in Furniture Design and Technology, said: 

We were delighted to work with the National Museum of Ireland on this exciting project. Our students were challenged to respond to a stimulating design brief. The final chair designs are impressive contemporary interpretations of the original Tuam/Sligo chairs, but yet are thoughtful in paying respect to the masters of the past.”

Clodagh Doyle, Keeper of the Irish Folklife Collection at the NMI – Country Life, said: 

It is inspiring to see how these emerging designers applied such creativity, skill and commitment to their individual works. I think that speaks immediately to the visitor when considering these beautiful pieces of furniture. It is especially engaging to see how these modern interpretations are so striking and vibrant yet still manage to evoke a sense of a timeless and enduring design passed down through the generations by dedicated craftspeople.”

Our Irish Chair: Tradition Revisited is on display at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, until March 2023. Admission is free. 

Chairs designed by students of ATU Connemara went on display in two lots between October 2021 and March 2023. 

The first selection of chairs which were on display from October 2021 to October 2022 were made by: Dana Beir, Letterfrack, Co Galway; Joseph McGuire, Ranelagh, Dublin; Barbara Doran, Waterford City; Neil O'Donoghue,  Oranmore, Co Galway; Daragh Hickey, Rush, Co Dublin; Ann Marie Woods, Dunleer, Co Louth; Daniel Lang, Ballyneety, Co Limerick; and Matthew Sexton, Clonakilty, Co Cork. 

The second selection of chairs which are on display from October 2022 to March 2023 were made by: Ricarda Bolle, Letterfrack, Co Galway; Daragh Murphy, Dromahair, Co Leitrim; Craig Brock, Ballina, Co Mayo; Sean Ryan, Portarlington, Co Laois; Micheál Kilcoyne, Castlebar, Co Mayo, Matthew Shakespeare, Deansgrange, Co Dublin; and Vincent Lam, Naas, Co Kildare.

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