Craig Brock with his interpretation of the Sligo/Tuam chair.

Unique chairs by emerging Mayo designers go on display at National Museum of Ireland

Works by two emerging furniture designers from Mayo have been selected for display at the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) as part of the exhibition Our Irish Chair: Tradition Revisited.

Craig Brock from Cloghans, Ballina, and Micheál Kilcoyne from Castlebar are currently studying on the B.Sc. in Furniture Design and Manufacture programme at ATU Connemara, Letterfrack, Co. Galway (formerly GMIT - Letterfrack).

They each designed and crafted their own interpretation of a three-legged chair that was chosen by a panel of adjudicators from the National Museum of Ireland, ATU Connemara and the Office of Public Works.

The chairs are now on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, from now until March 2023.

The work came about through a partnership initiative between the National Museum of Ireland and ATU Connemara which challenged furniture design students to respond to examples of chairs in the national collections and design a piece of furniture for the modern home. The students were inspired by a particular Irish chair type known as the Tuam or Sligo chair.

Craig Brock's unique take on the Sligo/Tuam chair uses curvature to enhance comfort for the user and takes into account the lumber and thoracic spine support needed to fit the body's natural form. Micheál Kilcoyne's chair pays close homage to the original Sligo/Tuam chair in its traditional jointing techniques and construction but is styled in a contemporary manner to suit the modern household.

The National Museum of Ireland recently hosted a special event at Turlough Park to celebrate the significant contribution of ATU Connemara to the exhibition, which was originally launched during difficult circumstances when strict Covid-19 public health restrictions were in place.

Speaking at the event, Paul Leamy, head of centre for ATU Connemara, National Centre for Excellence in Furniture Design and Technology, said: “We were delighted to work with the National Museum of Ireland on this exciting project. Our students were challenged to respond to a stimulating design brief. The final chair designs are impressive contemporary interpretations of the original Tuam/Sligo chairs, but yet are thoughtful in paying respect to the masters of the past.”

Clodagh Doyle, keeper of the Irish Folklife Collection at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, said: “It is inspiring to see how these emerging designers applied such creativity, skill and commitment to their individual works. I think that speaks immediately to the visitor when considering these beautiful pieces of furniture. It is especially engaging to see how these modern interpretations are so striking and vibrant yet still manage to evoke a sense of a timeless and enduring design passed down through the generations by dedicated craftspeople.”

Our Irish Chair: Tradition Revisited is on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, until March 2023. Admission is free. Visit for further information.

Micheál Kilcoyne examines the detail in his chair, constructed in the Sligo/Tuam style.