Guest Post: Liberties Press Author SYLVIA THOMPSON on Achill Secret Garden's Craft Market

Sylvia Thompson
A few months ago, my Dutch friends, Willem van Goor and Doutsje Nauta asked me if I’d like to come and sell signed copies of Hands On: The Art of Crafting in Ireland at their summer craft market on Achill Island.  Instantly, I said yes. Here was a chance to visit one of my favourite parts of Ireland and to stay in the beautiful Blenaskill Lodge whilst also bringing the book west of the Shannon just two weeks after its launch!

Driving onto Achill Island is like arriving in another country.  The landscape just seeps into your being – the flat brown peatlands which give way to striking cloud laden mountains and golden sandy beaches.  Blenaskill Lodge offers both B&B and self-catering accommodation with the backdrop of Achill’s Secret Garden - a garden which you meander through “themed rooms” with fruit trees, flowers, ornamental trees and sculptures.  

Sylvia is the author of Hands On
On Saturday, the garden’s first craft market was set out beautifully with specially designed stalls selling hand knitted hats, scarves and toys, baskets, pottery and my book. My daughter, Juliette Fox sold cards from her Dad’s newly opened half moon gallery in Greystones, County Wicklow. Glass artist, Cheryl Browne from Essence of Mulranny displayed intricate glass sculptures made at her workshops. Nearby, the environmental group, Gifts of Hands showed off their rugs, woven from cutoff strips donated by Foxford Woolen Mills.  Willem van Goor, a botanical artist as well as designer of Achill Secret Garden was showing visitors his art in the boathouse.   Unfortunately, the mixed weather meant that visitor numbers weren’t as high as expected but we all braved it out and enjoyed the experience.   Dinner at the Lodge and a very comfortable bed for the night gave us the enthusiasm for a quick dip in the ocean on Dugort beach before the long drive home.  

From East to West and back again in a weekend of celebration of the landscapes and crafts that shape our lives in many little ways we barely acknowledge. 

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About the Author: Sylvia Thompson is an author and award-winning journalist who writes mainly on health and environmental issues for The Irish Times. She also interviews Irish craftspeople and is always impressed by their skill and commitment to creating beautiful objects. This book grew out of a weekly column on learning craft in The Irish Times during the Year of Craft, 2011. Her previous books include Test-Driving Complementary Therapies and When Food Becomes Your Enemy. She has an honours degree in psychology from Trinity College Dublin and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Dublin City University. Sylvia is currently writing a new weekly column in The Irish Times called ‘Heritage Hot Spots’.