Offaly, Westmeath, and Finnish creatives recently took part in an exciting craft business and creative skills exchange. The Craftlink programme funded through the Rural Development Programme, and launched in 2019, provides craft makers in both countries with opportunities to develop new techniques and skills.

Much of the programme had to move to online training and mentoring.  Masterclasses were also provided for creatives in both countries. The creative businesses were supported by experts such as Eddie Shanahan in new product development as well as digital marketing, promotion, and the development of a digital catalogue for wholesale & retail.

The Craftlink programme includes critical advice to creatives on engaging and converting audiences, capitalising on the value of heritage techniques and inspiration in product development.

Traditional Straw Weaving with Padraig Larkin

Following the resumption of travel, 10 creative enterprises from Finland visited the midlands in April 2022. The focus was on business development, networking, and skill sharing. In conjunction with DCCI, LEO Offaly & Westmeath, Ballinahown community hosted a two-day event.  Fuse product development clinics designed specifically for creatives were delivered on day one while business networking, and craft skills exchanges took place on the second day. The FUSE Product Development Clinics are essential for craft and design enterprises looking to develop their product range and brand identity.

Wood Carving at Celtic Roots Studio
Bog Wood Carving at Celtic Roots Studio
Finland and Irish Creatives, Ballinahown Hall
Finnish Craftmaker delivering a jewellery workshop

The group then traveled to Birr where they had the opportunity to visit and learn from Cathal BaThe group traveled to Birr where they had the opportunity to visit and learn from Cathal Barber, a professionally trained goldsmith and retailer. The group enjoyed a visit to Cathal’s open studio, located within his retail shop.

Cathal Barber Goldsmith
Cathal Barber Goldsmith Studio
Finland Group at Cathal Barber Goldsmith Studio & Retail Shop

Green Offaly, a non-for-profit sustainable development trust, discussed the opportunity for development with the sustainable development goals being center stage.

Five Craftmakers from Offaly and Westmeath visited Finland in May 2022 as part of the Finnish Skills Exchange. Participants took part in workshops, delivered workshops, and visited the studios of other craft makers during the visit. Creatives were able to acquire new skills and learn sustainable business practices in Finland during the visit.

For further information on the Craftlink Programme please visit