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Time Out!

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I stepped off the treadmill for a few days, and had a ball.  Ireland has so much to offer, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.

Every year I try to make it to the biggest event in rural Ireland’s calendar – the National Ploughing Championships.  Urbanites and sceptics listen up: this is an event for everyone!  Where else are you likely to see grown men and women, complete with coats, bags and boots, grab a partner and dance to live music at 11 in the morning?  There’s fashion shows, cookery exhibitions, crafts and artisan food, alongside every possible agricultural necessity, all expertly laid out on 800 acres of walkways.  And that’s all in addition to the ploughing itself.  Is it going too far to say it’s the highlight of my year?  I don’t think so – I just love it!

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

By the time you’ve walked all 800 acres, maybe more than once, and reached your car, you’re more than ready for that traditional Irish ‘tea and sandwiches’ before setting off on the road.

This year, we stayed over in Tullamore, and I’m delighted we did.  Next day, we went exploring one of Ireland’s hidden treasures: the somewhat eccentric Charleville Castle, just outside Tullamore.

This year will see it celebrate its 200th birthday - still young, in terms of castles!

This year Charleville Castle celebrates its 200th birthday – still young, in terms of castles!

After the guided tour, complete with details of the castle’s colourful past, and current ghosts, we headed for home.

Next day was busy, with Castleblayney’s 2nd Annual Fair Day underway.  A fantastic event, the town steps back in time, with shopkeepers and visitors alike arriving in traditional dress, and memories from yesteryear taking centre stage. Horses, goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys share the street with traditional crafts, vintage vehicles, old shop records, and street traders.  It’s a sight for sore eyes.

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

And finally, have a look at what I picked up at the Car Boot Sale in the wonderful Iontas Centre, in Castleblayney, on Saturday morning…

One of a pair of stained glass window panels.  Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

One of a pair of stained glass window panels. Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

The day ended with an 18th birthday party, which went on well into Sunday morning!  Any wonder it took me a while to get back onto that treadmill on Monday morning?!

 

 

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My moment in the spotlight

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They say that everyone can enjoy a few minutes of fame in their lifetime.  Mine came when the film-makers arrived at King’s Forge, to have a look at what I do.

Irish TV is a new channel with the brief to show the world the real Ireland. County Matters is a half hour programme, and every county has its own team County Matters film-makers, on the lookout for items of interest in the locality.

I was honoured to be asked to be featured, and attached is the very first episode of County Matters – Monaghan.  First, viewers have a look at Monaghan’s own Rally School; there’s an interview with the owner of the famous Castle Leslie, along with an insight into entrepreneurs Combi Lift.

King’s Forge is featured right after the Rally School, and viewers get to have a pretty good look around my forge workshop hidden away at the top of the fabulous Monaghan countryside, and a little insight into what goes into making fused glass.  Enjoy!

http://www.irishtv.ie/monaghan-matters-episode-1-part-1/

Don’t forget to keep an eye on Sky channel 191 for all the latest episodes of County Matters, from every corner of Ireland.

Renaissance?

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Apologies for a delay in writing too long to make excuses for. I’ve been focusing on the development of my glass work…happily turning out kiln-loads of fused beauties!
But I’m now the bearer of exciting news.          After a lot of persuasion, complaining, and yes, the promise of cold hard cash, I’ve cajoled my own personal web developer to give my tired, stagnant and boring website a major makeover!!
I’ve handed over the reins for now and soon http://www.kingsforgeglass.com will be relaunched as a vibrant, living site which should combine my blog, my online shop and my Facebook page in one big friendly venue!!
I can hardly wait…!

Dublin Showcase a Host of Irish Talent

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Just back from a trip to Dublin’s RDS, which annually invites Irish artists, craftspeople and fashion designers to showcase their work to buyers from all over the world.  This is a trade fair, not open to the general public, but it is instead an opportunity for wholesale buyers to see what is new and exciting in the creative arena here in Ireland, and to place their orders for the year ahead.

What a wonderful venue, and full to the brim of humbling talent.  As my friend, encaustic artist Niamh O’Connor, and I strolled round the stalls, we spoke to many of the exhibitors.  For some reason, my impression was that the majority of the stallholders were women, and it is, of course, wonderful to see women forge ahead in such exciting and creative fields.

There are several halls exhibiting the more established businesspeople, as well as up and coming artists.  Monaghan, where I’m from, was well represented, with batik artist Louise Loughman, weaver Liz Christy, Brenda McGinn of Busy Bee Ceramics, and fashion designer Helen Steele, all busy with buyers.

Silk painter and batik artist Louise Loughman, at Showcase 2013.

Silk painter and batik artist Louise Loughman, at Showcase 2013.

There really is something for every taste at Showcase.  Fashion is stunning, with a catwalk parade twice daily; there’s woodwork, stonework, sculpture, ceramics (check out Sarah McKenna and Ian Carty), visual art (Breda Marron and Patricia Murphy come to mind), textile art (my own favourites were Breda McNelis and Bernadette Fox), jewellery design, furniture design, home decor, giftware, soap and candle makers, and so much more.

My own special interest is, of course, in glass, and I wasn’t disappointed!  There was stained glass work, blown glass (check out the work of Kerry Crafted Glass – blown 100% recycled glass), and plenty of my medium, fused glass, on offer, with gorgeous work on display from artists Jonathan Ball, Louise Rice, and my own favourite Maura Whelan, amongst others!

If you can beg, borrow, or steal a pass, make it your business to check out Showcase in Dublin’s RDS … at the very least, you can look online at www.showcaseireland.com.  And don’t forget, it’s up to all of us to support these businesses, by buying local and buying handmade.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Things have been very busy for the last few weeks, with lots of glass to get ready for all the Christmas shops popping up around the country.

I’m delighted to have my handmade fused glass on sale in Galway’s ‘Granny Likes It’ on Abbeygate Street…now open!

You can always find it in the gorgeous Glasson Craft Gallery in Co. Westmeath, just outside Athlone.

And now, I’m thrilled to be included in Dublin’s newest retail outlet for quality Irish art and craft… the tasty Irish Design Selection in the Westbury Mall, off Grafton Street.

With so much making, baking and boxing going on, the studio became a very busy spot. Here’s a picture of my constant companion, and would-be helper, Pip the poodle!

Pip the Poodle

It’s a dog’s life!

Kitchen Cobwebs for Halloween

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Spooky...or time for a Spring clean?!
Boredom is the enemy as far as I’m concerned, so yesterday, I decided the time was right to give my plants an autumn makeover. I grow a few ivy plants above my kitchen cabinets, and I climbed up to take away the dead leaves.
It occurred to me that this was the perfect opportunity to decorate for Halloween, so I started draping cobwebs across my plants. (I had to get rid of all the real cobwebs first, of course!!) Then, creativity got the better of me, and I stretched the cobwebs from one end of the room to the other.
It wasn’t long until the kitchen resembled a scene from Great Expectations, and, according to my son, I didn’t look unlike Miss Havisham either!
At least I know who I’ll be dressing up as this year! Happy Halloween!

Gur Cake comes to Monaghan

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I’m looking forward to displaying my hand made glass at this weekend’s Taste of Monaghan festival.  It’s a chance to combine my two great passions… my glass work, and of course, food!

I don’t know about you, but I know my own childhood memories are peppered with food associations.  Any other Dubs out there (that is, people from Dublin, Ireland), at least those of a certain vintage, will remember Gur Cake.  The name supposedly comes from the slang word ‘gurrier’ – a young Dublin rascal!  In fact, Gur Cake is the same as Chester Cake or Fruit Slice.

It was created long ago, and is cheap and easy to make.  I suspect it was developed to make something sweet and satisfying out of leftovers… with our current economic status, maybe this is the perfect time to bring it back, although it may never have gone away!

It’s hard to be specific with a recipe, as every bakery, and family, had their own take on Gur Cake.  At its simplest, it is a mixture of bread and fruit, baked in a roasting dish, between two layers of pastry.  When cool, it is cut into generous slabs, and is filling and satisfying!  Here’s how to go about it… experiment and find a recipe to suit yourselves!

Break up a small white loaf (or cake or brioche), stale is fine, in a bowl.  Add enough liquid to bind.  I used about a quarter pint of milk… but think of tea, espresso, perhaps a dollop of brandy, or Irish whisky! Add a beaten egg, 500g dried fruit, a cup of caster sugar, the grated rind and juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of mixed spice, a spoonful of treacle to give it its traditional dark colour, and mix it all up.

Roll out enough shortcrust pastry to cover the base of a deep, square baking dish, or roasting tray.  Spoon the gur filling on top, and cover with another layer of shortcrust pastry.  Prick the top with a fork, brush with beaten egg, and bake in a moderate oven (about 180C) for about 40 minutes.

When cool, dust with icing sugar if you’d like, cut into squares… and enjoy!  Serve it up to a Dub near you, and listen to them reminisce!

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