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David and Sally Shaw-Smith made HANDS, a unique, multi-award winning series of thirty-seven documentries on Irish crafts for Irish television (RTÉ). Capturing the final years of traditional rural and urban life in Ireland, during the seventies and eighties. They travelled the length and breadth of the country recording these personal and revealing films. As much about the life of the individuals, as the crafts they practised.

Within sight and sound of the wild Atlantic Ocean, a spinning wheel turns rhythmically in time to the high lonely cry of the sandpiper, echoing the history of a craft which may go back 3000 years into Ireland’s past. David and Sally Shaw-Smith documented more than forty different traditional Irish crafts, from the weaving of crioses (colourful woollen belts) and the making of pampooties (moccasin-type shoes) on the Aran Islands, to the creation of items as varied as harps and candles, curraghs, drystone walls and Irish lace.

Imbued by a sense of urgency to record crafts in their natural surroundings before they disappeared completely, David and his wife Sally, under contract to RTÉ, travelled the length and breadth of Ireland and it’s islands to assemble this important collection of 37 films on traditional Irish crafts and lifestyles, where the emphasis is on the skills of human hands rather than on machines.

The films not only record the various craft processes in great detail, but also create a unique archive of life in Ireland at the end of the 20th century. David’s skilled camera work and direction, accompanied by Sally’s creativity, and with help from an array of talented editors, technicians and sensitive narrators, combined to produce this outstanding series of documentaries.

The filmmaker, David Shaw-Smith, grew up in Dublin, Ireland. From an early age, he was inspired by traditional practices and the natural world. He learnt his craft, initially working in television, joining the recently formed RTÉ Irish state broadcasting organisation in the early 1960’s. After this, he went on to work for the renowned wildlife filmmaker Gerrit Van Gelderen, from whom he learnt his camera craft. With this experience under his belt and a clear vision, he went out independently to make numerous films, many of which are included in this series.


Unless otherwise stated the contents of this web site are © Sally Shaw-Smith