The Souvenir Project
A new collection of objects that explore our local context and questions what a souvenir might be, The Souvenir Project is a gathering of objects with meaning and depth that softly speak of a time and place.
A thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place or event, the term souvenir comes form the French word for ‘remembrance’ or ‘memory’. The souvenir offers an opportunity to authenticate the experience of a place through the possession of an object that that is laced with emotional associations. A material and haptic possession, the function of a souvenir is only fully realised through displacement into a foreign environment where it acts as a signifier that is embodied with memory and recollection.
In the 1950s Bórd Fáilte initiated a scheme to foster the production of genuine souvenirs in Ireland, encouraging the making of black Connemara shawls in Co. Mayo, Aran crios bands in Galway, Irish perfumes and leatherwork in Dublin, and tweed in Co. Donegal as a select example. These souvenirs were produced in Ireland, mostly by hand, and made with a connection to or influence on their local context. However this idea or thinking has been lost and souvenirs are generally a mass produced trinket made outside of Ireland and engulfed with commercialisation.
The Souvenir Project explores the idea of the souvenir as being more than just useful or beautiful but as an object laced with emotional associations. The origin and making of each is obvious with the local context at the core and each object exists through a narrative of land, weather, histories and people. Over 20 of Ireland's most interesting designers and makers including Tom de Paor, Stephen Pearce, Johnny Kelly, Superfolk, J Hill's Standard, Nicholas Mosse, Conor + David and more have merged to create exciting new and original work for the project.
‘Recently I bought a little gift for my pen pal in America. I was about to parcel it up, when I discovered that my little Irish teapot with “My Wild Irish Rose” written on it was made in Japan!'
'The intention is that the resulting souvenirs will form a unique group of carefully developed ideas and objects that truly commemorate our time and our place, all designed and created to be collected, used and treasured.'
A Rainbow Plate commemorating the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland is a gently waving flag for equality, cut crystal vases are inspired by the variety of types of Irish rain and the language used to describe them, a honey pot vessel and its contents all come from the very same field, a collection of prints are inspired by the patterns of the distinctive traditional dry stonewalls that criss-cross the landscape of Ireland, a muddle is inspired by the layered landscape of west Galway, the lumper, once the most prevalent food source in Ireland is cast in bronze, an brandub is the boardgame mentioned since the sixth century in Irish texts, a wool pom-pom keyring is a token momento and ibi is a precious and personal object that allows an individual to be immediately transported back to a time, a place and a feeling.
Each souvenir embodies cultural and material characteristics unique to Ireland and of each of their designers and makers. Nine special objects that are playful, useful or simply curious have questioned what a souvenir should now be, and have championed creative collaborations between designers and makers.
The Souvenir Project will be exhibited later this month at Rochelle School in Shoreditch, London and all souvenirs will be available to purchase through M&B in September.
The Souvenir Project is commissioned by Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCOI).
Landscape imagery by Andrew Nuding
Product imagery by Makers & Brothers
Quote by disgusted teenager, Co. Kilkenny - Irish Farmers Journal, June 23 1973
Quote by project curator and creadive director Jonathan Legge