60 Seconds With

“Trust is earned in teaspoons and lost in spadefuls” – 60 Seconds With James McConville, Managing Director of Cork Craft & Design

By Business & Finance
04 June 2024
Pictured: James McConville, Managing Director of Cork Craft & Design

James McConville is the Managing Director of Cork Crafts and Design. Cork Crafts and Design is a company dedicated to the proliferation of unique and exceptional Irish craft. Steeped in Irish tradition and design, Cork Crafts and Design seeks to bring the tapestry of Irish art to the forefront.

What was your first job?

I started working as a paper boy at 11 years old, then worked in factories on production lines and in retail from about the age of 16 years old. I kicked off my career as a teacher at 24 years old, teaching science in Further and Higher Education in Northern Ireland. I then moved into customer service roles and moved up the ladder there before recently joining Cork Craft & Design, a leading multi-disciplinary makers’ network as Managing Director.

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

I worked remotely in the corporate IT sector for seven years and, while I grew my career and learnt a tremendous amount, I missed in-person connection in my working day. I knew I wanted to be part of an organization that served as a support for its community. This led me to Cork Craft & Design. It strives to be a supportive network every day, a place where makers and artists are encouraged and facilitated in interacting with one another.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Helping Cork Craft & Design build on their existing audience and customer base by rejuvenating their online touchpoints. We will [soon] be launching our new e-commerce site … Each maker and designer executes meticulous craftmanship over each piece they produce. These pieces, which have been handcrafted with care, are things that will be enjoyed for years to come. With the new site, we will be able to showcase this amazing work to customers across Ireland in a whole new light.

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

No, because it led me to where I am now. There is no point in having regrets. They don’t serve you. I do a lot of self-reflection and then pivot towards any changes I think I should be making. In taking up this role with Cork Craft & Design, I want to become more embedded in the work of our makers because it is my responsibility to represent these members’ interests on a national level through engagement with local authorities and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.​ This is not a task I take lightly. I also want to become a student once again. I am currently looking into opportunities to join a pottery class!

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Success is continuously listening, learning, evolving, and adapting.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Trust is earned in teaspoons and lost in spadefuls — don’t break your promises.

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

It’s important to foster a safe space for members to network, connect and collaborate frequently. There are numerous genres of artists creating products within Cork Craft & Design and understanding the best method of communication that works for the individual makers is vital to ensure the continuous nurturing of crafts, especially those that have been in Ireland for hundreds of years. Team building opportunities between the members — both creative business-focused and exhibition-only — are also vital to setting and aligning on the common goal.

How do you handle adversity?

Open and honest dialogue – as Brené Brown says “clear is kind.”

How do you relax?

Getting out into nature as often as possible – either a hike in the mountains or a trip to the beach!

What is your favorite (non-business) book?

Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends by Marie Heaney, which is a collection of retold Irish myths and legends.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

2024 marks 15 years of Cork Craft & Design. That makes me incredibly proud. We even run one of the biggest craft festivals in the country every August, Cork Craft Month, which has over 80 events and attracted nearly 20,000 people last year.

Building on this success, I am looking to the future. My aspirations include showcasing the incredible talent of our local makers on a global stage, by highlighting the 15-year legacy of exceptional craftsmanship to an international audience. Secondly, our success is deeply intertwined with the diverse mix of makers themselves who come from various educational, cultural and skill-set backgrounds. I want to ensure that people who might be considering joining the network know that we foster a thriving, supportive community of Cork-based creators, where collaboration, innovation, and mutual growth are paramount. These aspirations are fueled by our model as a social enterprise. I believe in the power of our business to drive positive social change in our community.

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