Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Devine design: Modern take on Ireland's Claddagh ring by Tatty Devine

A blog post by jewellery designers Tatty Devine comparing their original handmade pieces with very similar items being sold by chain store Claire's Accessories caused a social media storm last week.

Photos of Tatty Devine's quirky pieces contrasted with purchases from Claire's were shared with thousands on Twitter. As Claire's Accessories became a trending topic, the retailer stayed silent, with some claiming that critical comments calling for a boycott were deleted from Claire's Facebook page. Tatty Devine called the lawyers in and froze comments about Claire's made on their blog, while Claire's later released a short statement to say that they were "aware of the blog post... and is currently investigating these comments".

The story drew me (and countless others) to Tatty Devine's website for the first time and I was hugely enamoured by what the English art jewellery brand has to offer by way of tongue-in-cheek statement pieces at not unreasonable prices. One design that caught my eye was a modern take on the classic Claddagh ring, which many an Irish girl has worn down through the years.

CLADD' IN GOLD: The large Claddagh necklace by London-based Tatty Devine (above and below) costs £48 (approx. €57) and is a contemporary twist on the old Irish design. Made from matt gold and red perspex, it is studded with Swarovski crystals. Images: Tatty Devine

Originating from the Galway fishing village that bears its name, the Claddagh ring has been used a token of love since the late 17th century. According to its Wikipedia entry, the design is said to represent the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands) and loyalty (the crown). Indeed, the way you wore the ring relayed information about your love life:

  1. When worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer is free of any attachment.
  2. On the same finger but the other way round, with the heart pointing away from the fingertip, it suggests someone is romantically involved.
  3. When the ring is on the left hand wedding ring finger, it means the person is married or engaged.

As Tatty Devine points out, the Claddagh design is much prettier than a Facebook relationship status update!

HEART MAKER: The classic Claddagh ring design. Image: Wikipedia
RING IN THE CHANGES: Tatty Devine's Claddagh ring (£24, approx. €28.50) sees the design placed upright on the finger. Image: Tatty Devine

Tatty Devine has a range of Claddagh pieces, which also includes a medium (£27, approx. €32) and smaller version (£21, approx. €25) of the necklace, along with pretty earrings (£39, approx. €46.50).

I'm sure the original designers of the fáinne Chladaigh would approve of Tatty Devine's stunning update.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fighting words: Vintage political posters

This guest post is by Eoghan (follow him on Twitter and see his blog here):

Art has long been used for propaganda purposes. From the statues and paintings ascribing super-human strength to Roman generals, through to the enormous Communist monuments of workers proudly building the Soviet Union, politicians have for centuries used art for their own gain.

Today, the most famous political posters are probably Uncle Sam's 'I Want You' and the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' message from World War II. A look online can turn up some fascinating lesser known examples of art being used to overtly political purposes.

World War II posters have proven particularly popular over recent years with reproductions widely available. Many of these posters carried one of three simple messages: Save oil to help the war effort, don't waste food, and don't tell anybody information that may give away army positions.

'Loose Lips Sink Ships' became a famous slogan in the battle to encourage people to keep their traps shut. There are a lot of variations on this theme, however, including the brilliantly simple: 'If you talk too much, this man may die'.

Amongst the most interesting posters of the war are those aimed at women. The messaging towards women seems hilariously sexist when viewed through modern eyes - with the men fighting the good fight, women were encouraged to do their part by shopping efficiently and doing the jobs they left behind.

Back at home, Irish politicians have been known to take to the canvas to get their message across. This Cumann na nGaedheal effort, which most likely dates from the 1930s, gets a simple message across.

Cumann na nGaedheal, of course, went on to become Fine Gael. Perhaps the above poster is one their current coalition partners should bear in mind.

A selection of political posters can be found at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Come fly with me: Retro Aer Lingus travel posters

Vintage travel posters depict a time when air fares were beyond the means of ordinary people, and a trip to Dublin Airport was a holiday in itself (I hear it was a popular spot for a date back in the day!).

Judging by the number of people who land on a post I did about the two Aer Lingus Boeing 747s (it's the most viewed post ever on Mo Theach), there is a huge interest in the early days of what was once also known as Irish International Airlines.

CALENDAR GIRL: I bought this 1960 Irish Air Lines pocket calendar on eBay a while back. I love the red-haired air hostess. A real spéirbhean!

I like to keep an eye on eBay for old bits and pieces relating to the airline, such as the purchase above. The beautifully-designed travel advertisements of old always attract my attention and I picked up this vintage Aer Lingus poster at an exhibition a year or two ago at the National Museum at Collin's Barracks. This image was used in much of Aer Lingus' publicity materials and depicts the luxury and style associated with flying at the time. The fact that it's in French makes it seem even more exotic.

OOH LA LA LANDING SHORTLY: I picked up this Aer Lingus poster (circa 1960) believed to be the work of Jarlath Hayes (who designed the harp that is on Irish Euro coins) from the shop at the National Museum of Ireland, Collin's Barracks. It costs €8 and fits into off-the-shelf frames. 

Aer Lingus tapped into the nostalgia that surrounds their brand as they celebrated their 75th anniversary last year, painting a brand new Airbus A320 in the old Irish International Airlines livery. They also raided the wardrobes to show how the stewardess (and steward) uniforms have changed over the years.

RETRO JET: Aer Lingus painted this new Airbus A320 in the old white and dark green livery last year to celebrate their 75th anniversary. Image via
HIGH FASHION: With the beautiful old Dublin Airport terminal building in the background, air stewards model the cabin crew look though the years to mark Aer Lingus' 75th anniversary in 2011.
Image by Aer Lingus and via Airlines and Destinations
TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME: This nostalgia fest video features the highlights of Aer Lingus's 75-year history (JKF and Pope John Paul II are among the passengers), with lots of shots of those two 747s here! It's a bit like watching that old ESB 'Coming Home for Christmas' ad.

Here are some of my favourite old Aer Lingus posters (very few have modern reproductions, so you'll have to fork out for an original copy in many cases):

SKY'S THE LIMIT: This reprint of a New York-bound Aer Lingus poster is available from for €18.99.

TURBO-CHARGE: This poster is on the Onslows Posters website which is unfortunately down for maintenance at the moment so I don't have any further details. Image: Onslows Posters

POSTCARD PERFECT: Ireland looks particularly stunning in this poster, also from Onslows Posters.

LOTS OF LEG ROOM: This is one my all-time favourite adverts. An original poster (circa 1958) by John Banbridge costs £780 from  Image via 
PRETTY CITY: Dublin's quays like you've never seen them before (I love the smoke coming from all the chimneys). This 1956 poster by Dutch artist Guus Melai did not meet with approval, according to archive research carried out by the Arts Council. Interesting read.

THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN CALLING: Step aside, stewardesses! This handsome captain makes an appearance on a vintage poster sold in 2009 by Christie's.
STEP THIS WAY, SIR: Ease of travel is the message here, perhaps aimed at travellers coming from the UK, or the US.  Poster also from Onslows Posters.

MOUNTAIN AER: This original 1950 Aer Lingus poster by Negus Sharland advertising its routes to Zurich is for sale for approx €285 from

GATEWAY TO THE WORLD: This 1950 poster appears to show two Viscounts waiting at the original terminal building at Dublin Airport. Image via

There are lots more vintage Aer Lingus posters which I hope to share in another post soon!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Apartment living: Hot properties above the shop in Dublin city centre

Some years, I read a newspaper interview with an older lady who was the only person who had a home on O'Connell Street. The sole resident of the country's most famous main street, she lived among the department stores and fast food outlets, watching the world and its mother go by from her flat. I don't know if she is still there, but I think it's a shame that so few people live in the heart of Dublin's city centre.

BREW LEASE OF LIFE: A three-bedroom apartment on lively East Essex Street in Temple Bar, Dublin 2, costs €1,700 to rent per month.  A decent cup of coffee is also conveniently close with the Joy of Chai downstairs. Image via

When I walk down the likes of Exchequer Street, Drury Street and Fade Street, I often look above shop level to the huge windows and high ceilings of the upper floors and think of how lovely it would be if people (okay, me!) lived there.

There seem to be quite a few commercial properties on streets such as these up for rent. I don't know how complex the re-zoning of commercial to residential is, but I think that Dublin City Council did at one stage have a 'living above the shop'-type scheme.

Again, I'm not well-versed on planning issues, but it seems to me that Dublin's urban sprawl would have been considerably lessened had we followed the example of other European capitals such as Paris and Brussels, where living in the heart of the city centre is the norm.

Most of the buildings in Dublin city centre date from a time where living above the shop was the norm and the buildings were designed with this purpose in mind. Indeed, my dad and his 10 siblings all grew up above their family's butcher shop in Co. Tyrone. But like many buildings of its kind throughout the country, the floors above the shop are now used as commercial premises, rather than as family homes.

TOP CHOP SHOP: This is my father's family's butcher shop in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, where my dad grew up with his 10 siblings. It's a fine looking building. I like the carved stone sign and the stained glass beneath it, along with the dramatic corbles. The rooms above the shop are now used to house a beauty salon. Thanks to my cousin Paul for sending me this image via Google Maps.

There are some options, both for purchasers and renters (for whom parking and pet ownership isn't an issue), in Dublin's historic city centre. Here's a selection:

FIT FOR A PRINCE/PRINCESS: A two-bedroom apartment at 18 The Royal Exchange, Parliament Street, Dublin 2,  is for sale at €220,000. Image via

DAME AND FORTUNE: The city is on your door-step with this one-bedroom apartment on Dame Street renting for €850 monthly. Opposite pop-up restaurant Crackbird's current location. Image via 

BREAK THE BANK: Also on Dame Street, a whooping €1.5 million is all you need to acquire a beautiful five-storey over basement building (above and below) at number 37, which I think may once have been a bank judging by the dramatic shop-front. Directly across from the Central Bank. Its conversion to a residential property could be subject to planning permission. Images via

FADE TO GREY: The location of RTÉ's recent *reality* show, this two-bedroom penthouse apartment in this stunning turreted Victorian building on the corner of Fade Street at is yours to rent for  €1,750 a month. One of the best locations in the city. Image via

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara

Seo roinnt griangrafanna a thóg mé agus Eoghan nuair a bhí muid ar an gCeathrú Rua, Conamara, le déanaí. Is as an Cheathrú Rua mo mháthair agus tá teach mo mhúintire i lár an sráidbhaile, buailte ar an gCistin!

Here are some photographs Eoghan and I took when we were in An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara (I refuse to use the anglicised 'Connemara'), recently. My mother is from An Cheathrú Rua and we have a family house in the village, conveniently close to An Chistin (the lovely local pub)!

An Cheathrú Rua (or anglicised as 'Carraroe', but only the Irish name is officially recognised) is in south Conamara and hasn't been spoilt by mass tourism. On a peninsula, it has some great little beaches. It is the location for one of NUIG's outlying faculties and many adults come to learn Gaeilge here, along with teenagers. The area will be well-known to many from all corners of Ireland as the place where they went to the Gaeltacht during the summers of secondary school. 

Capaillíní Chonamara (Caladh Thaidhg)

Trá an Dóilín (a rare coral strand)

Trá na Reilige (The Graveyard Beach)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Look book: Colour-co-ordinated shelves

My dad used to work in the National Library and I'm sure he won't be too impressed when he sees how I have categorised the books in my living room. 

Not by author, genre or publishing house (as one of my friends has done!), but by colour. When Eoghan's parents enquired was there anything in particular we might like for Christmas, he joked: "Maybe some more grey books, we don't have many of those."

SHELF LIFE: A selection of our books sit on white Lack wall shelves from IKEA.

Forget the Dewey classification model preferred by libraries, displaying books by colour has a pleasing effect. I began with the shades of white, beige and yellow before orange turned to red. Purple gave way to blue and greens, then grey made its way to black. Luckily, my favourite author David Lodge's books come in every shade, helping to provide markers.

It is quite pedantic and took a good two hours, but I think the effect is quite striking (just don't expect me to locate a particular book in a hurry). When using floating wall shelves, it's probably best to stick to books of roughly the same height. The majority of our bulky books live upstairs in a Billy bookcase from IKEA and on our beside lockers, which meant I could pick and choose which ones would be placed on the Lack floating shelves, also from IKEA. 

Random point: I was surprised by how many books have a spine in a different colour to the rest of the cover! 

READER'S RECOMMENDATION: This photo of a Georgian flat in Bristol (spotted on the Living Etc forum) inspired me to try colour-coordinating. It provides a focal point in a room otherwise dominated by more neutral tones. Check out the apartment's stunning before and after! Image: kbspitfire on Flickr

Should you choose to colour-block (and be slagged by friends when they come to visit), here are my recommendations:

1. Kill the clutter
I had attempted colourr co-ordinating before on the shelves to either side of the fireplace, but they were too narrow (and cluttered with photo frames and other decorative objects) for it to be effective.

BEFORE: The colour blocking was lost among the clutter on these shelves, which I've since had removed during my before and after living room makeover.

2. Go wide if you can
Colour co-ordinating works best on wide shelving, particularly when the storage spans the length of a wall or where shelves are arranged in a grid-like pattern, as seen in the image below:

GREAT SNAKES:  Apartment Therapy shared this photograph of Eccentric Scholar's book collection. He explained: "I aligned my books in honor of the Rainbow Snake of Australian mythology. (Hence, the colors move in a zig-zag pattern, from top left to top right, then right to left, and so on)." Image: Eccentric Scholar on Flickr

3. Tall and narrow also turns heads
Graduating colour and height can also work very well, particularly on a narrow book case.

BEDTIME STORY: The graduated heights create interest in this arrangement and includes space for books of the same series on the bottom shelf. Love the little white rabbit too! Image: ashleyg on Flickr

4. Stack 'em high
Stacking books on top of each other according to colour fills out the gap normally left above books, allowing space for other items.

FILLER PIECE: Packing some sections with books allows for 'feature boxes' in this bookcase on a houseboat (the house tour is well worth checking out) on the Thames. Image via DesignSponge
TITLE WINNER: This image (via The Inspiration Blog) shows how to colour co-ordinate using limited shelf space space by stacking. I'd like to have a flick through some of these books, particularly the Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface by Lars Muller 

5. Don't be afraid of the dark
Although white shelves provide the perfect back-drop to colour co-ordinating, it is also very striking on wooden and black shelving.

LIBRARY'S FINE: The arrangement of books by colour has transformed these dark wooden shelves. More importantly, there's a gorgeous pug in this photograph! Image via The Inspiration Blog which is packed full of examples of colour-co-ordinated books!

6. No shelves? No worries
You can also get the look by simply piling books according to colour and never be accused of being messy ever again!

PAGE TURNER: Create your own mini skyscrapers with colour-coded books. I like how they graduate in height also.  Image via HomeShoppingSpy

7. Apply to other media
Colour-blocking can extend to other collections, such as films, records and other media.

CINEMA CLUB: DVDs are arranged by colour on the top shelves of this bookcase. Be warned though, most have either black or white spines, which doesn't make for great colour-blocking. Image via The Inspiration Blog
COVER STARS: A collection of comics and kids' books are put centre stage by displaying them face forwards. Image: Craft and Creativity on Flickr via LilSugar