Collection: Kilkenny Design Workshop

Collection DescriptionThe Kilkenny Design Workshops were founded in 1963 by Córas Tráchtála, the Irish Export Board, in a radical move which in effect established a state-sponsored design research and development body tasked with improving the design of Irish products and thereby increase exports. Córas Tráchtála had been concerned with design, packaging and marketing since its inception in 1951 and as part of the national programme for economic growth full responsibility for design in industry was transferred from the Arts Council to the newly reconstituted Córas Tráchtála in 1960. Under the leadership of William H. Walsh the former stables at Kilkenny Castle were acquired and converted, opening in 1965 with five workshops - silver and metalwork, textile weaving, textile printing, ceramics, and woodworking. Designers from across Europe were employed as lead designers and mentors, producing prototypes which were offered on a royalty basis to industry. Initially the emphasis was on craft-based industries but over time the workshops expanded to include industrial and product design. KDW provided an interdisciplinary environment for individual designers who produced designs for goods using various materials and techniques, and for different market segments. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s KDW moved more overtly into the area industrial design. In addition to the objective of improving the design of Irish products KDW also had an educational role. KDW organised exhibitions which celebrated traditional Irish crafts, e.g. patchwork, which were toured in Ireland and Europe. In the late 1970s KDW instigated a designer development training scheme providing twelve recent graduates annually from the country’s art schools with a six-month residential placement at the workshops. Schools competitions and annual design awards also offered opportunities for aspiring designers. KDW made access to good design available to the public through its retail outlets – the first KDW shop opened in Kilkenny in 1966, a second was opened in Dublin in 1976. These shops stocked examples of the craft-based products designed by KDW and also goods produced by other Irish craftspeople and manufacturers. The Dublin shop included an exhibition space which hosted design related events open to the public. (
Collection Web Address

Repository: National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL)

Repository NameNational Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL)
AddressThe Clock Building National College of Art & Design 100 Thomas Street Dublin 8
EircodeD08 K521
Telephone(01) 636-4347
Web Address
CommentWe are grateful for the assistance provided by Anne Hodge, Administrator, in compiling a list for the original Directory.

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