Hands - Ireland's Traditional Crafts and Lifestyles

I was delighted recently to obtain a copy of the fantastic box set ‘Hands’.  It is one series that I have been talking about for years and was always on the look out for.  If anyone hasn’t seen this series on RTÉ then you are in for a treat.  It is a collection of 37 documentaries produced by Sally and David Shaw-Smith for RTÉ  – “A series of fascinating documentaries on traditional Irish crafts and lifestyles, where the emphasis is on the skills of human hands rather than on machines”.

A full list of the crafts covered are:

  • Wool Spinning
  • Irish Lace
  • Donegal Weavers
  • Donegal Carpets
  • English Silk
  • Irish Patchwork
  • Irish Embroidery
  • Woolen Mill
  • Tailor
  • Carriage Building
  • Cavan Cabinet Makers
  • Cavan Cooper
  • Dublin’s Viking Longship
  • Hurl Making
  • Shannon One Design
  • Chairmaker John Surlis
  • Harp Making
  • Irish Spinning Wheel Making
  • Carlies Bridge Potteries
  • Belleek Potteries
  • Pipeworks
  • A Dublin Silversmith
  • Powers of the Metal
  • Stone
  • Dublins Workhorses
  • Shoemaking
  • A Dublin Bookbinder
  • Currachs
  • The saddler
  • Rushwork
  • Wexford Thatcher
  • Basket Making
  • Fermanagh County
  • A Dublin Candlemaker
  • Lightshouse Crafts
  • Stoneground
  • Of Bees & Bee Skeps

In my opinion this footage is a national treasure, many of the crafts and skills showcased have been lost to the sands of time.  This footage remains as a testament to artisan craft, quality and tradition in a world obsessed with cost and convenience.   

The core footage is skillfully shot and blended with portraits of the people and unspoiled countryside from a time long gone.   Lilting, traditional Irish music weaves its way through the scenes and the enchanting stories of these people are beautifully narrated.

The series is not available on general public release just yet however the Shaw-Smiths have put together a box set themselves and it is available for purchase directly from them (see contact details at the end of the article)    

I will be reviewing some of these documentaries over the next few weeks as there are many lessons to be learned from them for enthusiastic ‘cottageologists’.  I have to say a big thank you to Sally Shaw-Smith for her time and for allowing me to showcase this series here!

The first article to be posted next week will be on the Wexford Thatcher!


Sally Shaw-Smith
Co. Mayo,

Phone:  +353 [0]94 93 60370  
You can also buy the series from by clicking here

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x