Scarfskin: Show and Tell
Show and Tell Interviews: Sharon Greene and Kari Cahill of Scarfskin
“Wild, raw, brave” is the three word combination Sharon Greene and Kari Cahill use to describe the underlying artistic vision of Scarfskin, their newly established venture to provide high-quality wool and leather products from Irish sources and material. Deriving from the old vernacular word for the outermost layer of an animal’s skin, the pair say that the idea for the business came to them in the course of a trip along Ireland’s rugged Western seaboard.
“We had both been working pretty flat out all summer on different projects and as the season grew to a close we decided to take a bit of time off and head up the coastline in the van”, they say. Away from the constant clamour of Dublin, indeed of urban life, they found the wilder environment of the West more conducive to inspiration and thought. Winding their way up the coast from Cleggan in Connemara, they found themselves in Westport, Mayo.
They “stopped off in lots of little towns and pottered around their craft shops picking things up for friends and enjoying a bit of time off”. Searching for sheepskin rugs to bring home, and finding a dearth of quality produce in the shops, they looked to the farmers directly. Chatting to farmers and poking their way around the sheep sector of rural Connaught, they wondered why it was so hard to find good quality sheepskins.
“It turned out that the last tannery operating in Ireland, in Carrick-on-Suir, had closed its doors ten years previous”. By the time they were driving back to the hectic East, “we had pretty much decided that we would be doing something to revive the trade”.
Another trip to Kerry led to the first prototype, and the realisation that the experience the pair had already accumulated meant that “that part came pretty natural to this project”.
For the moment, the company focuses its attention on sheepskin cowls and rugs. A key concern was the preservation of the skin itself. “We wanted to preserve its integrity, the way the wool falls, the way the skin sits; we wanted to highlight the fact that every single one was unique”. Collaborating with JC leather in Dublin, they continued to look to the history and the heritage of the West of Ireland as inspiration to the project. “Our heritage is important to us as a people, not just designers. Over the last few years we think there has been a change in how Irish people value their heritage and history – they have started to look inward to discover who they are.”
Speaking about the future of the company, Scarfskin’s said their participation in H&G’s Show & Tell event last weekend fills them with enthusiasm. “It’s a very exciting time to be a maker in Ireland, there is a real energy simmering in the creative industries field”, says Sharon. Kari continues that “I think putting this many designers and makers in a room together acts as a kind of validation”.
Validation or not, you sense they’ll continue at it either way. “There is a little bit of Wild in all of us”.
If you missed Scarfskin at Show and Tell, you can catch them at the Dublin Flea Market at the former John Players Factory on South Circular Road on the 11-13 December.
Words: Charlotte Ryan, Cathal Kavanagh