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UPTURNED boats in the harbours of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is a common scene, symbolising the thousands of nautical miles put down by sailors along our coast. It’s a familiar sight that is often absorbed by the powerful spectacle of a coastal vista; however one County Clare designer has made it the centre-point of her beautiful living room creations.

Laura Vaughan, proprietor of Laura Vaughan Design Studio & Gift Shop, carries a range of lampshades, cushions and napkins named after various coastal locations including Ballyvaughan, Liscannor, Kilkee, which inform the customer where the product design has been born. Laura tells The Clare Echo of the wild scenes that have inspired her work since opening her shop on O’Connell Street in 2017.

“There’s a range of my fabrics named after different locations on the Wild Atlantic Way. I love the underside of boats so if you see an upturned boat in a harbour it will have layers and layers of paintwork,” the Ennis woman explains. Laura photographs the paintwork, which she digitally manufactures into a beautiful design for fabric printing, which is then used to craft her unique creations.

Over lockdown, Laura’s creative juices were also inspired when the shop front of a neighbouring premises, formerly Brandon’s Bar & Music Venue, which was being power washed as part of a renovation project. “The building has been sold but when they were renovating it, they power washed the front of the building and there were layers and layers of paint so I photographed that and converted them into a digital file and I developed three prints based on the front of Brandon’s. I have them on the window of my shop and they were really popular over the last couple of months because so many people had such an affinity with Brandon’s, and the nostalgia of it.”

Laura’s background is in interior architecture and design, and she worked on commercial projects across the UK and Ireland for a number of years before the opportunity to set up her own studio and gift shop arose in 2017. Laura notes how grateful she is to have inherited the premises from her parents Ann and Paddy, who previously owned a children’s clothes boutique and estate agents respectively at the corner of O’Connell Street.

Since opening, her shop “has thrived” while she continues to take on selected commercial projects, most recently on the Wild Beans Café in Kinvara. Laura also runs popular evening design workshops which have taken a backseat due to the pandemic.

From her shop, Laura sells her own work along with a range of other Irish design and craft makers, “which compliments my own designs”. These include Laura’s brother, Clare landscape photographer Dara Vaughan; jewellery by Rowena Sheen (Ennistymon) and Lorna Langenkamp’s Wild Atlantic Silver; Sorrell Reilly lino prints; Lani Gregory Art; ceramics by both Aoife Slattery and Siobhan Dyar; greeting cards made in Barfield by Craftbyk8, and Wild Atlantic Candles made by Ann and Don Ryan in Kilrush.

Laura has also made the move online with the development of an e-commerce shop during the pandemic with help from LEO Clare, “from whom I’ve received support and mentoring which enabled me to do that”. And while she admits that while there’s a great appetite among people to support local producers and create a “circular economy”, the last two years has brought its own challenges. Laura felt a huge dent on tourist trade, with just two Americans visiting her shop during the six months she was able to open.

She adds, “People’s shopping habits have also completely changed. People are so used to being at home that they’re definitely not going into shops like they did in the past, that’s been the biggest thing. The reality is that if they don’t [shop local] you’re not going to have really nice independent shops and that’s what is really special about Ennis. Since I’ve been open, the amount of people that come to Ennis from all over just to shop because it has such a nice variety of independent shops; you don’t have that in Galway or Limerick. If we lose that trade, the heart and the character of the town is gone.”

Looking forward, Laura is excited about developing and producing more of her own range and she remains optimistic for the future, particularly in the context of doing business in Ennis which she believes “has established itself as such a popular shopping and weekend break destination which all local business can benefit from and continue to develop and avail of”. 

She praises initiatives such as Ennis Chamber’s #Everybodylovesennis campaign, adding “Ennis has the opportunity to market itself as a gateway town to the Burren and the rest of Clare, this is really exciting for the town and for local business.”

Laura Vaughan Design Studio is closed for January but you can visit the online store at https://lauravaughan.ie/

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