€10,000 bursary for Clare bladesmith

€10,000 bursary for Clare bladesmith


Sam Gleeson – Photo: Michael Dillon/Coalesce

Five of Ireland’s most talented emerging craft makers, including one from Clare, have been recognised with a €10,000 bursary each for the development of their craft and/or business skills.

The 2021 RDS Craft Awards are among the most prestigious awards in the craft sector. This year the RDS Craft Awards recognised makers ranging from fashion to furniture, knife-making to glass-making.

With a total fund of €50,000, the awards are the largest annual prize fund for craft makers in Ireland and are given at a critical time in early professional careers. In addition to the €10,000 bursary, the award winners are provided with a free stand at Gifted – The Contemporary Craft & Design Fair held in the RDS in December.

This year’s recipients are include bladesmith Sam Gleeson based in Co. Clare.

Sam uses both metal and woodworking techniques, and often incorporating reclaimed materials and ocean plastics, he creates exceptionally beautiful and functional knives for culinary use. Sam who is also a chef, plans to open a blade-smithing teaching facility where he will share his craft skills with others.

He will use his bursary money to attend a high-level forge-welding course in the United States, to undertake the research and development of new work, to purchase new equipment and the creation of promotional content.

Sam Gleeson – Photo: Michael Dillon/Coalesce

Dr Jennifer Goff of the National Museum of Ireland chaired an experienced independent judging panel: “The panel was overwhelmed with the quality of work to choose this year’s winners from. Craft makers from Ireland are increasingly sought after around the world. Irish craft is having a moment and this year’s winners, and indeed the longlist too, are testament to that. I know that all five winners will use the prize money to accelerate their career progression and I look forward to seeing their future success.”

Geraldine Ruane, RDS Chief Executive said, “We are delighted to contribute to the development and growth of standards of excellence in the craft sector through enabling these talented makers to excel in their careers. For generations the RDS has supported Irish craft makers and today the craft sector in Ireland is a dynamic and vibrant one. Irish craft businesses are characteristically small in scale and are geographically widespread, however the industry is a key employer and makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy.

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI), which the RDS helped establish 50 years, have over 3,000 registered client enterprises and engages with over 150 retailers across the country who specialise in selling Irish craft products. It is wonderful for the RDS to support the craft sector with a €50,000 prize fund in the fiftieth year of DCCoI.”

The bursaries were presented following a competitive virtual interview process in mid-March. The funds can be spent on further education and training, research, development of new work, mentoring, purchase of equipment, studio improvements, technology, website and residencies. To be eligible to apply for the RDS Craft Awards, emerging craft makers must have won a Design & Crafts Council Ireland, Future Makers Award or Support in the preceding year.