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East Clare blacksmith Mark Wilson in his forge at Mountshannon. Photograph by John Kelly

Mark sparks ‘Revival’ of ancient crafts

AN ANCIENT craft is undergoing a revival in Mountshannon. Artists and blacksmith Mark Wilson has created a video series to share the knowledge and lore.

A series of short pieces, shared on his Facebook page, have been getting major traction, and in Mark’s own words have “literally gone bananas”. Entitled ‘Revival – Tricks and Trades for the New World,’ the series has touched, to-date, on topics including wood crafts, making gifts and the ‘heritage of hammers’. On Hallowe’en night, Mark went live on Facebook and – lit by candle light – discussed the traditions and folklore associated with the festival.

“I had been travelling the length and breadth of Ireland working in schools and passing on craft techniques,” he explained. “I have quite a lot of knowledge at this stage and I wanted to pass it one. This was something I was working on well before lockdown, but now making videos has become incredibly trendy.”

While the production values of the videos are highly impressive, the tools used have been readily available, and even include Mark’s phone. “Some of the videos have been shot on the phone and some on a tablet. I branched out a bit after a couple of editions and got a better camera and microphone and I’m very happy with the results.”

Mark learned the craft of blacksmithing in school, then studied ceramics in college in Manchester. After moving to Ireland, he developed his skills in woodworking and chalked up an RDS Award in 1997 for a community forestry development. A severe allergy to certain wood saps prompted Mark’s return to blacksmithing and he has never looked back.

He has recently been working on a number of commissions including one supported by Mountshannon Arts Festival and Creative Ireland Clare. “I’ve made a seat that went into Aistear Park over the summer. It was designed by Transition Year students at Scariff Community College. I love working with young people. It’s mainly primary schools, but some TYs and some teenage stragglers too. They’ve helped me make the move towards technology.”

Another project on the ‘to do’ list is supported by a funding award from the Mountshannon Arts Festival, is a sculpture of a blacksmith. That piece will be installed outside the 300-year-old forge, which serves as a studio-cum-workshop. “It’s going to be made out of old ploughs. Tom Lyons was the last blacksmith here and the family still own the place.”

Now, after close to three decades in the county, Mark is embedded in the local arts and crafts community.

“It’s my 27th year in Mountshannon and I’m quite infamous now,” he joked. “Mountshannon is quite quirky with lots of people involved in the arts and lots of craftspeople. One of the programmes I’m very involved in is Heritage in Schools and there’s a number of people from the county who also work with that scheme. There’s a wealth of talent here. I suppose I came to the right place at the right time, just as a number of local festivals were starting and shows were being revived. There’s a strong and healthy arts community here and we’re all quite different in our approach.”

‘Revival’ is available on Mark Wilson’s Facebook page, and on patreon.com. More details on Lyons’s Forge is available on the Mountshannon Forge Facebook page.



About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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