Grace Claro interviews Christine O’Donoghue de Vries, a former UCC Law graduate turned award winning sustainable artist designer and the woman behind House of Kerry
For this month’s issue, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Kerry based artist and award-winning designer Christine O’Donoghue de Vries. She is the creator of House of Kerry, a nature inspired and sustainability-focused Irish designer brand, located in scenic Muckross, Killarney, County Kerry. Christine is no stranger to UCC, having graduated with an honours degree in Law and French here in the university. Eventually practising as a barrister, she worked in a wide range of fields from asylum seekers to criminal law and general litigation.
However, after several years in the legal profession, Christine felt her passion for art and photography guiding her back to her native Kerry. She returned home, took several part time art courses to hone in on her skills, and in 2016 she established House of Kerry, officially launching at the Glucksman Art Gallery’s Craft and Design Fair. It is no surprise that during the preparations for the photoshoot Christine expressed her delight at our invitation to collaborate with Motley and the Glucksman, stating that the space has a special significance for her.
As a sustainably certified farmer, Christine’s practice is inspired by the indigenous landscape of her native Kerry. She also spoke of the importance of art-historical points of reference in her design process, citing Georgia O’Keefe’s and Salvador Dalí’s as key figures.
Christine uses all her own artwork in her designs, namely her own fine art photographs. With the help of CAD technology, images of the land are rendered in a dreamily subtle haze, fused with blushes of watercolour paint and cursive inscriptions. She says her work begins as an artistic concept that is then injected with functionality and made into ‘wearable art.’
With an ethos of cherishing the environment, Christine’s process of creating the designs for her collections is slow, mindful and considered. All the fabrics she uses are either naturally derived like silk and cotton or upcycled vintage. Striving to avoid waste, she makes use of her off-cuts and leftover materials and upcycles them into bowties and woollen berets.
Furthermore, she re-purposes seemingly unconventional materials such as silage netting by using dyes and assorted embellishments such as Swarovski crystals. Once the design process is complete, Christine sends her finished prototypes to be brought to life by local tailors. She spoke of her unwillingness to outsource this crucial work to a factory abroad, as she was concerned for both the ethical and environmental issues that would arise.
Since its genesis in 2016 House of Kerry has received numerous awards and nominations in Ireland. She was also a finalist in the RDS Craft Awards 2017 for her silk scarf the ‘Magic of the Skellig Ring’, which was also exhibited at the Dublin Horse Show 2017. Christine won the HI Style Fashion Designer of the Year Award in 2018 as well as Fashion Designer of the Year Award 2019 at the Rose of Tralee International Festival. She is registered with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.
House of Kerry fuses contemporary art and design with the awe-inspiring natural architecture of the land in order to create mesmerizing and wearable fashion. During my time working with Christine it was encouraging to see a person dedicate themselves to sustainability whilst creating an innately Irish visual aesthetic, making ‘fashionable art’ out of it. House of Kerry is putting sustainable conscience and indigenous natural heritage centre stage in contemporary Irish design.
Find her at: https://houseofkerry.com/