Friday, September 9, 2016

Connemara marble was so uncool

Once upon a time, I thought Connemara marble was so uncool and old fashioned. As a twenty-one- year-old living away in Spain, this stone symbolised to me everything that was twee and kitsch about little ol' Ireland, in there with leprechauns and green pints of Guinness on Paddy's Day. 
 close up of Connemara marble pendant
close up of Connemara marble pendant available from Handmade by Amo'r
Ok, ok, I hear ya - nothing wrong with a few harmless little leprechauns. But don't anyone dare mess with my Guinness! Being a student of history and literature with a strong background in the tourism industry, I am very proud of Irish heritage, but there is often a shaky line between culture and naff. A peek into many a souvenir store the world over should prove my point. Even the best of them have to have their share of tackorama. That's not always a bad thing. My besties and I have a long-running game trying to outdo each other with the most spectacular piece of tack we can find on our travels.

Connemara marble comes in so many shades of green
My ignorant young self was, however, so wrong about Connemara marble. Working with this beautiful, ancient stone I've come to understand and appreciate its rarity, its beauty and its heritage value. The Irish green stuff is as iconic as the black stuff - and every bit as smooth. Indeed, it takes a lovely polish. The marble is our very own, 6 million-year-old natural resource that comes in a wide array of beautiful shades from a creamy white-wash to the darkest forest green. The yellower shades have a high content of the mineral, serpentine. Some pieces feature dots of shiny quartz. No matter how big or small, no two pieces are exactly the same and there are usually several tones within even the smallest of beads.

An increased number of Irish jewellery artists, homeware designers and sculptors are currently producing exciting work using Connemara marble or other traditional  materials such as Kilkenny marble, bog oak, wool, copper and wood. These materials are as relevant today as they ever were and lend themselves to interesting modern design.  I've picked out four of my favourites from Etsy.
Sheepskin & Irish bog oak stool, MayFly Etsy shop
Natural edge mortar & Pestle,  MBWoodturning
Copper wall clock, Guilded Hound
Felt painting, Mairead Ryan Textiles. 

There is often a  nod to tradition found in my  own, contemporary  jewellery designs.   Irish    marble beads are not so easy to come by, but Galway and Mayo  have  some quality,  artisan masons     who provide me with suitable cuts. Connemara marble also matches very well with materials from abroad such as Swarovski crystal, Italian onyx and American amethyst.

Afternoon Tea, Connemara marble teapot pendant, Handmade by Amo'r
What's more Irish than a cuppa tae and a bun? This super cute pendant combines modern, whimsical design with a reference to Ireland's other traditional beverage.

Connemara marble and Swarovski crystal, Handmade by Amo'r
Classic, hand-cut Connemara marble meets modern, precision-cut Austrian crystal in an elegant pair of gala earrings.
Wild Heather, earrings. Connemara marble & amethyst

Purple amethyst complements the cooler shades of Connemara marble. While Ireland does have its own, virtually untapped, resource of amethyst seams, most famously on Achill Island, county Mayo, our gemstone industry remains underdeveloped. Beads like these have to be imported. Commonly, amethyst beads on sale in Ireland come from North America and the UK.

Kilkenny marble earrings

Irish seaglass and copper wire pendant

Want to know more about the materials I use? Click HERE (or click the Materials button on the menu bar at the top of the page) to learn more.

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