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Stroke of genius

Designer Aaron Kearney talks to Holly Carr about how the lip design on his plates proved to be a little miracle for stroke victims

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Aaron Kearney.

Aaron Kearney.

One of the sets from Aaron's range

One of the sets from Aaron's range

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Aaron Kearney.

An Irish tableware range has become a powerful tool for stroke survivors who have lost power in their arms.

Aaron Kearney from Holywood, Co Down, will showcase his bespoke sets - which have an integrated straight edge that can also act like a knife, at Gifted, the contemporary craft and design fair in the RDS this weekend.

The functional set was initially borne from his student days in London when he noticed that he and his three flatmates were all chasing their last few bites around their standard circular plates.

However, it was in 2011, when living in South Africa, that his initial pasta dish was designed and the stylish range expanded over the years due to constant feedback.

“As students, we didn’t do a lot of sitting at the table and using cutlery so the last few bites were usually chased around the standard plate with a fork,” said Aaron.

“I lived with three other students, and our landlord presented us with four plates and four forks, but no knives to speak of.

“We would typically make pastas or curries, foods that didn’t need cutting! But after a while I noticed that when we got to the last few bites, we would all do the same thing – either lifting the plates up to meet us, or use our hands to get the food on to the fork.

“Obviously, we could have gotten knives, but as students we had other things on our minds. The thought stuck with me though, and because I studied product design I felt as though I had the skillset to take the concept of a re-designed plate and bring it to life.”

The range of ceramic dishes, which feature a high straight lip which can be used to push food onto a fork, runs in four sizes, from an 11cm side plate up to a 33cm dinner plate, and comes in a wide range of finishes to suit all sorts of interiors.

“What started as an observation has happily evolved into a great support for people with reduced mobility, and while that was not my intention in the initial design, it is amazing to see my work used in that context,” said Aaron.

“The first person to spot the application was a friend of a restaurant owner who used our plates for service in South Africa.

“His wife had lost 80% of the mobility in her arm, and he immediately recognised the use that she would get from the design.

“I later met her and was bowled over by her reaction – it was very genuine and emotional. She told me that using these pieces allowed her to eat in company and feel respected and included.

“While there are a huge range of objects that provide additional support to those with reduced mobility while they eat, what she loved about this range is how they were beautiful as well as functional, which made her feel more at ease while she dined with friends and family.

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“It is feedback that I have heard repeated over time, and it makes me so happy to know that my designs are of genuine benefit to people.

“On top of this application, the dishes are also perfect for serving food such as nachos, centrepiece dishes or finger-food, where diners might benefit from the design when serving themselves.

“I took this to heart and designed a wooden serving platter that includes space for three of the side-dish sized platters, which is branded using a brand I wrought myself.

“A lot of care goes into making these pieces, and what I love is how the range has developed over time due to feedback from customers.

“The pieces stack together beautifully, and it is important to me that the elements work in the home they are going to, so I made sure that a wide range of colours, both bold and subtle, are available to mix and match.” The collection is available from Giftedfromireland.com - anytime.

  • Tickets are be available at the door for Gifted.in the RDS today if you want to check out an array of present ideas.

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