The Blackwater Valley Makers is a new collective of artists, craftspeople and designers from the Blackwater Valley area around the town of Fermoy in North County Cork who have come together with the support of Cork County Council’s Directorate for Municipal Operations and Rural Development to raise the public awareness of the quality of craft and design production in this area of rural County Cork.

The genesis of this project has come about through developmental work done in 2017 by Cork County Council’s Municipal Directorate, bringing together business, culture and tourism interests through the establishment of the Fermoy Forum.

This process brought together a group of highly talented craft makers and designers with studios in the local hinterland but who were working in isolation. Over a 12 month period the group, working with Cork County Council’s Arts Office has achieved several key goals including the establishment of a collective of thirteen outstanding craftspeople and designers, the launch of a new website, a new craft trail and most recently the opening of a new outlet in the centre of Fermoy, through the Council’s Pop-up Shop Scheme.

The impact of this initiative in the town of Fermoy has been significant. Townspeople and businesses have welcomed the development as a valuable addition to the trading resources of the town.  The makers have seen a huge increase in their sales, and footfall into the shop unit has exceeded their expectations.

Ceramicist Siobhain Steele, Chairperson of Blackwater Valley Makers said, “The support of Cork County Council has been critical to our success to date. They have given us the confidence to achieve our objectives and we are now seeing this in public reaction.  Typical responses include “we had no idea such talent existed on our door step”.  “Fermoy has been crying out for a place like this”.”

Glass artist, Suzanne O’Sullivan said, “The Pop Up created a fantastic buzz within the town square. A huge number of individuals and families of all ages came to browse and purchase and were genuinely impressed and proud of our showcase.  People were delighted to have the opportunity to meet and chat with the makers.  Great conversations were had and dialogue was opened for future art projects and ideas”.

Plans are now advancing for the establishment of a permanent retail space, the development of incubation units for emerging creatives, increasing opportunity for creativity through the development of classes and workshops delivered by local makers and planning for the development of Creative Experience packages for the tourist market in co-operation with local tourism interests.

Fermoy Tidy Towns Group Awards 2018: Overall Best Initiative 2018. L-R Carol O’Sullivan, Suzanne O’Sullivan, Siobhain Steele, and Charley Mc Carthy of Blackwater Valley Makers