Karla Finnegan pictured in Flying Fig Studio in Birr.

Offaly-inspired gifts and homewares up for national award

Birr business one of four local enterprises shortlisted for Irish Made Awards next month

A design studio in Birr which specialises in creating personalised gifts has been shortlisted in the Irish Made Awards, celebrating the best home-grown products countrywide.

Flying Fig Studio design, illustrate and hand-make a range of gifts and homewares, many of which are inspired by Birr and Offaly.

Owner Karla Finnegan from Birr personally designs and produces all the products herself, such as the Birr landmarks mug, Tullamore landmarks mug, and mushroom mug which is hand printed with illustrations of fungi found at Birr Castle and the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

Reacting to being shortlisted in the Home category in the Irish Made Awards in the Irish Country Magazine, Karla said that she was “absolutely gobsmacked”.

“I just couldn't believe it at all. I am in there among businesses that I've known of for years and been a fan of and it's just really surreal to see my business name that I've built up from literally nothing.”

Three other Offaly businesses were also announced as finalists in the Irish Made Awards. BiaSol in Tullamore and Wild Irish Foragers in Shinrone were shortlisted in the Food category, while Feigherys Farm in Kilcormac was named in the Drink category.

Karla Finnegan takes inspiration from her surroundings and on walks around Birr Castle and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. She said that there are lots of “amazing birds” around Birr Castle. “I've got a bird mug ready to go now. I'm working on an Irish wildlife one as well with just lots of illustrations of nice Irish wildlife."

The Birr Landmarks mug features a selection of stunning illustrated landmarks including Emmet Square, the Great Telescope, John's Hall and Birr Castle.

Karla also has some mushroom inspired products such as a mug and tote bag. She enjoys designing products that her friends will like or creating a design around a theme that she is interested in. The Offaly native created a camping mug recently and as a result a customer contacted her to enquiry if she made farming mugs in the same style so Karla then decided to design a mug around this theme.

She is working on listing several new products on her website at the moment. “I've been working on more non-personalised products recently. I'm just working on photographing them and getting listings created and updating the website and everything at the moment.”

“When I first started out, my main thing was personalised gifts so I made, everything made to order. Because it's all printed here and made here by me as well, I don't hold big quantities of stock.”

Karla added that a lot of hard work goes into everything she does and that it's really nice to get the recognition. I'm the designer maker, printer, engineer, fixer, cleaner. I do everything myself.

“It's easy as well to get a bit of like imposter syndrome, sometimes, when you're kind of starting out and you're by yourself and don't have people to bounce ideas off of.

Karla said that she started the business a number of years ago when she was living in the UK but moved home to Birr last year. She previously worked in finance as a designer, creating brochures and advertisements but said she felt “very limited by the brand”. Karla then decided to start her own business so she had more freedom in her designing.

She aims to be as eco-friendly as possible so all of the packaging she uses is plastic free and she also makes a donation to the World Land Trust every year which plants trees on behalf of Flying Fig Studio.

For more information visit flyingfigstudio.com website.

Another Offaly finalist, BiaSol upcycles brewers spent grain, a by-product of craft beer, into functional grains and baking mixes. These products are high in protein and fibre, full of calcium and B-Vitamins, iron, and zinc, and are locally made in Tullamore. Wild Irish Forager’s & Preservers is a small family-run business deeply rooted in the heart of Ireland where they forage from the woodlands, meadows, hedgerows and boglands. They produce syrups, shrubs and preserves.

The Irish Made Awards finalists are all companies and brands producing and making products in Ireland. Public voting for finalists across the fourteen categories is now live on the Irish Country Magazine website. The overall winner will receive a €20,000 prize to boost the business courtesy of Irish Country Magazine and sponsors Guaranteed Irish and Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.

The full list of 116 finalists can be found inside the new September|October issue of Irish Country Magazine and online at irishcountrymagazine.ie/vote-2/

The winners will be announced at the Irish Made Awards ceremony, hosted by broadcaster and co-host of Ireland AM, Muireann O’Connell, in the Kilashee Hotel and Spa in Kildare on Thursday, October 5.