The 70 files in this series document the premises that were acquired by the KDW over the period from 1963 to 1988. The documentation is in the form of slides, negatives, photographic prints, transparencies and typed documents. The premises depicted in this series include: pre- and post-restoration images of the 18th Century Ormond Castle stables which became the home for the KDW in 1965, and photographs of the individual workshops with designers at work; pre- and post-restoration images of the two Georgian houses known as Butler House which were primarily used for accommodating designers participating in the Designer Development programme; and the shop interiors and exteriors for the Kilkenny shops located in Kilkenny, Dublin and London.
When the decision was made to establish the Kilkenny Design Workshops in the early 1960s, it was agreed that 'the new organisation should have an identity of its own, not over-shadowed by existing state agencies in Dublin. The concept of a community where designers and craftsmen would interact, share resources and pool ideas, similarly seemed to suggest a location away from the city'. (Crafts Council of Ireland, 2005) Kilkenny was deemed a suitable location given that it was roughly equidistant from Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and that it was already steeped in culture with a medieval Castle and two cathedrals. The 18th Century stables, carriage houses, stores and harness rooms located directly across from Ormond Castle were well preserved and featured distinctive characteristics such as a clock tower, blind arches which were later opened up to become shop windows, a long semi-circular building that was called the Crescent and walled gardens. The architect Niall Montgomery was employed to restore the stable buildings into suitable facilities for the KDW and his work was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland. Later, the restoration work was given a National Heritage Award. Photographs in this series depict some plans and models of the location, as well as photographs of the exterior, interior and aerial views of the stables pre-restoration, during restoration, and finally as the completely restored workshops with designers busy at work.
This series features an extensive collection of photographs illustrating each one of the KDW's departments populated by designers working. It is recommended that researchers should explore this series alongside other product based series in the collection, in order to achieve greater context and alternative perspectives of the individual departments. Files in this series depict the following departments and their respective designers: woodturning; candle-making; textiles; industrial design and furniture department, which includes views of the technical section and three dimensional design studio; ceramics; precious metals; graphic design studios; and finally the model-making workshop.
The restoration of Butler House is extensively recorded in this series. The two Georgian houses located at the rear of the KDW grounds, referred to as Butler House, were purchased in 1973 to accommodate design graduates who participated in the Designer Development programmes, and for visiting delegates and designers. KDW took out a £75,000 loan for the development of Butler House and it took almost four years to adequately restore the property. It was officially opened in the autumn of 1977 by the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, Mr. Desmond O' Malley T.D. Files in this series depict artist impressions as well as photographs of the pre- and post-restoration of the 1,500 sq. metre premises and the 8,000 sq. metre gardens. Some files are organised in relation to the previous occupiers of flats within the Georgian houses, such as Miss Gahn's flat, Lady Bellew's flat and Mrs. Carson's flat. For researchers interested in architectural and design history or home interiors, this series includes photographs of many architectural details such as ceiling stucco and plasterwork, as well as photographs of the ladies flats prior to restoration with original furnishings and decorations intact. Post-restoration photographs showcase the newly designed student bedrooms which featured KDW textiles and furnishings, and other rooms such as the canteen, the cinema and projector facilities, and the Higbee Suite which included a bedroom, living room and self-contained kitchen. This suite was sponsored by Higbee Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was involved in student exchange programmes with the KDW.
Finally, this series documents the exterior and interior displays of the three Kilkenny Design shops which were located in Kilkenny, Dublin and London. Although retailing was not part of the original concept for the Workshops, the sale of prototypes in the first shop on the KDW grounds in 1966 was seen as a way of 'influencing consumers, providing leverage with manufacturers and not insignificantly, of generating income for the Workshops'. (Addis & Marchant, 1985) The shops were a useful method of demonstrating a product's saleability before they were sold on a royalty basis to a manufacturer. The success of the Kilkenny shop encouraged the KDW to establish a larger shop, this time in the capital. In 1976, a larger and more ambitious shop opened in Nassau Street, Dublin, which also incorporated an exhibition centre and a large mezzanine restaurant. The ethos of all Kilkenny Design shops was to not only to sell KDW designs but also to promote the best of Irish independent designers and craftsmen. In particular, the Dublin shop became a showcase for Irish products and was used as such by CTT (Irish Export Board), who brought visiting dignitaries and buyers to see Irish made goods. Photographs related to the shops in this series are divided into different categories, some show the general interior layouts, others focus on the ceramic and glass products on sale in the shop, or the furniture and lighting products for example. Views of the restaurant with customers dining are featured in the series, and an exhibition entitled 'Kilkenny Silver 1966 – 1976' is captured in the exhibition part of the Nassau Street premises.
On the 1st December 1986, 'Kilkenny' officially opened in the CTT's Ireland House on London's Bond Street. The London shop was seen as a means of increasing revenue as the grant aid to the Workshops declined, however it quickly began to experience financial difficulty as the recession of the mid 1980s increased. The Bond Street shop had a relatively short lifespan and closed its doors in May 1988 having accumulated losses of £1.1 million (Sterling). The Dublin shop was sold later that year to Freya Hayes of Blarney Woollen Mills, and the Kilkenny based shop was sold to Kathleen Moran, though both decided to keep the word 'Kilkenny' in the name of their shops since it was such a well-known and established brand in Ireland. The vision and direction of the London shop is evident from some photographic material in this series, suggesting that they were targeting the higher end of the market. Many files document fashion shoots which showcased the type of clothing that was on sale in the shop. A 'country house or country estate' theme is evident, with men wearing long waxed shooting coats alongside their hunting dogs, or women wearing tweed coats and long tweed skirts in sumptuously rich interiors. Some photographs show the interior of the shop, however product shots were taken in studios rather than in the shop environment, and were in turn used as press releases. Many photos are accompanied by a press release giving prices and in some case the designers of the products, examples include; hand-thrown sculpted porcelain pieces by Sarah Ryan, and Irish yew hand-turned twig pots by Liam O'Neill.