WORTH AMBASSADOR INTERVIEW: LOUISE ALLEN

Recently we got to sit down with our WORTH Ambassador from Ireland, Louise Allen, to get to know more about her motivating work as the Head of Innovation and Development at the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.
Discover how she is part of the movement that is progressing Ireland as a country on a global scale and how her work is overcoming obstacles, establishing a more positive future for the creative industry.

How do you feel that your work is contributing to the progression of your countries’ creative industry and that of Europe as a whole?
I headed up the International programme for Irish Design2015 an Irish Government initiative that secured an investment of €5 million and provided a return of €55 million. The international programme assisted in growing exports and promoting Ireland abroad by presenting over 100 events in 60 cities across the world.

I am now responsible for driving a lot of the work in terms of design policy and infrastructure for the country. I helped to secure funds of €1.8 million for a Regional Centre for Design and I am currently leading on ‘Design for Growth’ – a programme that embeds strategic design skills and methodologies into small and medium enterprises in order to drive efficiency and look at ways they can expand their market. At a national level a Ministerial led Design Forum has been convened to examine how Ireland can embed design across society and within Government with the prospect of developing a National Design Centre as part of infrastructural plans for 2040.

From a craft perspective, I am the President of World Crafts Council Europe which is raising awareness of the craft sector within the EU. In May 2019 we launched the ‘Crafting Europe’ Manifesto, a six-point action plan that looks at how we can get more visibility for the sector and how we can address challenges in relation to support of small to medium craft enterprise, transmission of skills and lobbying the European Commission for recognition as a distinct specialism.

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s role is to champion the craft and design sector, to drive innovation and stimulate commercial growth. To do this we deliver programmes and provide support in the areas of enterprise and market development, internationalisation, innovation, research and education. Our National Design and Craft Gallery showcases and promotes high-end craft to national and international audiences. Much of my role involves relationship building with organisations across Europe and with philanthropic organisations such as the Michelangelo Foundation and LOEWE.

What is the most prominent challenge affecting your countries’ creative industry and how may you suggest overcoming it?
There are a few things, there is so much disruption in the market at present. I think mindset, capacity and skills to compete internationally are quite significant, whether that be from a commercial trade or fine craft perspective. Brexit is a significant factor for us at the moment, expanding our reach on-line, through international exhibitions and export markets is important. For craft and design practitioners and SMEs access to market knowledge and to the right supports such as finance and business planning is crucial to success.

Do you feel it is important to sustain aspects of creativity in your country in regard to innovation, preservation of heritage values and ancient techniques?
Yes, I think it is hugely important, particularly at the moment when you have significant possibilities that are brought through technology. Digital tools when combined with material knowledge and haptic skills offer incredible opportunity for engagement and transformation in the sector. But we need to be aware of what’s at stake, I think it’s making people super conscious of the need to preserve traditions and skills that have been handed down through generations. This among other things is a core focus of World Crafts Council Europe.

What are some current events or initiatives you have taken part in and wish to promote further, what was your involvement in these?
We have just come out of a busy period where WCC-Europe launched the Crafting Europe Manifesto in Paris and held the World Crafts Council Europe General Assembly in Tbilisi Georgia. At the same time our National Design and Craft Gallery opened Surface Matters an exhibition showcasing the work of the top Irish craftspeople in Barcelona. On the 12th of July we will open ‘Aurea’ the graduate exhibition of our Jewellery Centre of Excellence at the National Design and Craft Gallery followed by ‘Crowded Thresholds’ an inter-disciplinary exhibition that coincides with the launch of Kilkenny Arts Festival.

 

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