A new website, theIrishworkshop.com, has been launched by former Rose of Tralee, Charmaine Kenny and ex-New Yorker, Fearghal Mulvihill to allow shoppers around the world discover unique Irish products and buy directly from the makers, designers and artists who made them.
Charmaine Kenny, who first thought of the idea when visiting Irish communities around the world during her year as the 2009 International Rose of Tralee, explains “We not only want to give small, creative, independent Irish businesses access to the international market but we want to provide people across the globe with somewhere to buy authentic, Irish products directly from the people who make them.”
The Irish Workshop has already signed up over 60 Irish creatives to sell art, jewelry, knitwear, fashion accessories and gifts on its marketplace website. Everything sold is curated by the team to ensure quality, making it different to many other international marketplaces. Aside from being predominantly handmade and designed in Ireland, all products also carry what Kenny calls a strong “Irish narrative”.
The website has been live for just one month now with popular items being the ‘Real Irish Turf Fire’ Candles made in Belfast, limited edition prints of street scenes and famous pubs by a Dublin artist and a jewelry line inspired by the ancient Irish myth of “The Children of Lir”.
The site features creatives based across Ireland, from Dingle, County Kerry in the south to Portrush, County Antrim, in the very north of the island (close to the famed ‘Giant’s Causeway’). What’s more, if shoppers know exactly where their ancestors came from, they can search and find sellers from the same county. Mulvihill hopes this search option will help shoppers find products that mean even more to them.
“We want the customer to feel like they are buying more than just a high quality, handmade product, that they are also learning its back story and connecting with the person who made it and in turn connecting with the country – their country.”
“When I worked in New York I was asked by an Italian-American colleague ‘how can you tell if someone is Irish American’? Before I had time to think he jumped in ‘He’ll tell you!’ That joke absolutely captures the sense of pride so many Americans have in their Irish heritage. We hope that the products on our site will be conversation starters wherever they are displayed and will provide their new owners with even more opportunity to talk about their Irish roots.“
The marketplace is adding new creatives and products every day and is expecting a busy Christmas shopping season. Of course, it also helps that the dollar-euro exchange is very favorable for American shoppers at the moment.
“Traditionally people in the US do not think of giving Irish gifts at Christmas, but we hope to change that.” says Kenny. “Instead of dreaming of a white Christmas we want people to start dreaming of a green one!”