My First Visit to The National Design and Craft Gallery

On the rare occasion that I get to visit another city I would always look up the various attractions on offer. The selection can vary from restaurants and landmarks to museums and parks. I have rarely afforded my own city the same courtesy. There are so many aspects of Kilkenny that I have just never bothered with.  I tend to eat in the same places and not bother with what could be classed as tourist attractions.

A dear friend of mine asked me to be her plus one at the opening of an exhibition.So many thoughts flooded my brain. What does one wear to an exhibition? I’m not sure my Blush Belly and Babies hoody would cut it.  What if someone talks to me and realises that I’m not an exhibit type of person, the only art I own has been rescued from the bottom of a school bag. Will I stand out like a sore thumb and it was a school night to top it all off.

After I pushed the crazy to the back of my mind I was delighted to hear that the exhibition that I was attending was that of Rudolf Heltzel, a world renowned goldsmith and silversmith. Many times I have lusted after pieces skilfully displayed in his Patrick Street store. Each piece designed and hand crafted with a skill that dates back centuries. Each piece of jewellery is unique and unquestionably magnificent.

The exhibition was hosted in the National Design and Craft Gallery housed in The Castle Yard which is located within arm’s reach of Kilkenny Castle. Without fail I get goose bumps when I walk under the arch and into the yard. The rustic walls are steeped in history and culture. We arrived at the exhibition to be greeted by grey and white walls and perfectly lit glass display cases. Each one encapsulating some of Rudolf Heltzel’s most complicated creations of the past, paired with more recent work.

I think in this time of mass production we forget that everything once upon a time was handmade. I was blown away by the thoughts that each delicate link or crystal was manipulated by the hands of this man. The guest speaker Mary Mullin spoke about Rudolf’s role in keeping this skill alive, not only passing it to many students over the years but onto his own son Christopher. A number of Christopher Heltzel’s rings were on display in another exhibit just across the yard from his father proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That exhibit also housed pieces from Eimear Conyard and two artists from China Hu Jun and Binyu Chen.

Despite the worry that my big Mammy head wouldn’t fit in I really enjoyed experiencing something out of comfort zone. The surroundings were stunning and the people were refined and classy. We sipped on a warm gin cocktail as we perused these pieces of fine art and the need in me to be creative was fueled by the environment. No matter what your chosen field is, it may be card making, flower arranging or in my case my writing, it’s life affirming to be creative. Expressing you in some form or another is good for the soul.

The next time I see a new event being advertised I’m not going to let my own silly worries about not fitting in hold me back from attending. To see the legacy that this man will leave was inspirational. I’m going to look into all that Kilkenny has to offer and do a few touristy bits. We have a rich tapestry here and the natives just take it for granted.  Both exhibitions, Rudolf Heltzel In Precious Metal and Bounded + Unlimited Contemporary Jewellery, are open until the 18th April. Don’t miss out on your chance to see history in the making. I’m glad I didn’t.


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