Over the years, the ‘Crafts Centre’, as it is known locally and has been home to a wide range of talented people. Of course no centre of it’s kind would be complete without a place to sit down and relax over a nice cup of coffee, and the Ceardlann is proud to host one of the finest award-winning cafés in all of Ireland, An Builín Blasta. It’s well worth a visit.
The concept of a crafts centre in Spiddal was first mooted in the 1980s by Spanish sculptor and art-gallery director Jesús Modia, who lived in Connemara.
He had established an art gallery in Spiddal and felt that a craft village would be a valuable local asset. Údáras na Gaeltachta agreed and came on board to create the first such venture in Ireland.
Jesús Modia was living in Ballinasloe, working for a company called Stone Developments when he was sent to Spiddal on a job. He fell in love with the place and decided to move there.
He soon rented a house in the town-land of Cnocán Glas from Joe and Máire Ó Curraidhin, a move which was to bring a lasting legacy to Spiddal and Galway.
Jesús decided to open an art gallery in a shed beside the house and in that space, he hosted a huge array of exhibitions, of work from established and emerging artists. This small gallery was quite successful but he soon felt that Spiddal should have a proper, purpose-built art gallery, supported by local people.
He approached Údarás na Gaeltachta (the Gaeltacht Development Authority) and they liked his idea, but broadened it and proposed a craft centre. The site they selected had originally been designated for high-density housing, so there was much relief in the local community when the Ceardlann was proposed.
The Stone art gallery opened in 1984 and a few months later, weaver Máíre Ní Thaidhg, potter and ceramic artist Rob D’Eath and Gearóid Ó Murchú of An Spailpín Fánach moved into their own shops, along with four or five other craftspeople.
Many craft workers came and went through the years, while these original three have stayed, developing and re-inventing their work and their outlets.
Jesus Modia died in 1988 a few years after the Craft Centre was established, and today the Ceardlann stands as a legacy to his memory, with a wide range of talented craftworkers and artists making and selling their work on site.
Údarás na Gaeltachta was very supportive in initially getting the centre off the ground and have remained a constant in ensuring its survival and success over the years.