Brian Hackett – Master Craftsman

I met Brian Hackett quite by chance during one of my journeys around Ireland. My research into what were to become BallyBoy Design’s signature capes and shoulder wraps, took me to tweed makers and crafts people across Ireland as I sought to refine my ideas. During one of my journeys, I found myself in the west of Ireland for a couple of days, staying in Doolin on the coast of County Clare. I had memories of a really good craft shop there which I wanted to visit as part of my research, before continuing on up through Galway to Clifden and Connemara.

I found that the craft centre had long since closed and instead, Brian Hackett, a jewellery maker and artist, now occupied the premises, using one half as a showroom and the other half as his workshop. I have long had a fondness for simple but beautifully designed and made silver jewellery and Brian turned out to be an expert in this area and the quality of his work exceptional. I was surprised and thrilled to see amongst his collection some penannular brooches.

I had been researching old Irish dress and the role of the cloak pin, also known as a penannular brooch, in securing a cape or shoulder wrap intrigued me. One of Brian’s penannular brooch designs was modeled on an ancient brooch that had been found buried near Doolin and in the course of our conversation, he took me deep into the history of Celtic jewellery in Ireland and how it influenced his designs. I told him about my plan to design and produce the perfect Irish cape and before long we had agreed that Brian would work with me to design a range of jewellery to complement it. Thus a chance meeting and a chance conversation led to the gorgeous collection of silver jewellery that BallBoy Design offers today. My particular favourites are the Garnett Twist bracelet and the Rainbow brooch.

To work with Brian is both a joy and an education. To see this gentle and softly spoken craftsman take a raw piece of silver and work it into a fabulous piece of jewellery of lasting beauty, creating part of the heritage of tomorrow, is to see a true artist at work. Who knows, maybe in centuries time, a piece of Brian’s jewellery will be unearthed somewhere in Ireland and become the inspiration for a future generation of Irish jewellery makers, I would like to think so.

Siobhán Quinn