The Old Butchers Studios
Textiles and brassers down Benburb Street.
Words by Jane Gleeson | Portraits by Rudy de Souza
We popped in to meet designers Jennifer Slattery and Jamie Lewis preparing for their Christmas pop-up in their shared studio.
The pair crossed paths whilst sharing a studio in the Malthouse Design Centre, eventually joining forces again when the Malthouse closed it’s doors last year, to form The Old Butchers Studios on Benburb Street, a street with a big character and a long history.
Benburb Street has a long association with ladies of the night
For starters, Benburb Street has a long association with ladies of the night going back to the 1800’s. It’s book ended at one end by The National Museum at Collin’s Barracks and the excellent Dice Bar at the other.
It is half a kilometre of derelict buildings and rows of long-closed shops mingling with long standing pubs, Celtic Tiger apartment blocks, Bargaintown and a handful of new restaurants like Wuff and Fish Shop.
In the early 1900’s, the city council started building social housing to replace the tenements on the street. They built what were functional buildings at the time but can now be appreciated as the ornate Victorian buildings they are, each with heaps of character.
Each block had shop spaces at the ground floor, one of which was Martin & Joyce Butcher’s. Closed down since the 90’s, Jennifer, who lives in the area, always thought the beautiful old corner shop had potential even if it was well off the beaten track and when the opportunity came up she went for it.
Pictures by David Jazay from his photo series 'Dublin Before The Tiger'
Soon afterwards, Jamie took up vacancy in the old TJ Downing’s grocery shop next door and so began the renovations. It’s obvious that a huge amount of effort has been put in by Jamie and Jennifer to restore the premises to what it is today. You can see that the pair have pooled their creative expertise to up-cycle abandoned shutters and spools re-using them to display their work.
German photographer David Jazay did a brilliant photo series of the area in the mid 80’s and you can find his photos hanging in both Jennifer’s textile studio and Jamie’s studio, now called The Wool Felt Shop, showing the buildings in their past life.
He hadn’t visited for more than 30 years and was shocked to see a picture of his Dad
One day when a customer called in reminiscing upon his childhood in the area, he spotted his dad - the Butcher William Gallagher - in one of the pictures hanging on the wall in Jennifer’s studio. He hadn’t visited Stoneybatter for more than 30 years and was shocked to see a picture of his Dad hanging proudly on the wall.
The word ‘community' seems to fair a lot when Stoneybatter and Smithfield are mentioned, and both Jennifer and Jamie said that this is a hugely important aspect of living and working in the area. You really do get that sense of camaraderie by talking to both designers and from spending a day in the area. Not to mention spotting all of it’s familiar inhabitants like the man who sells instruments on Arbour Hill road on a Saturday or the locals chatting to one another outside Harry Matthews pub nearby.
The Old Butcher Studios are located at 72 - 74 Benburb Street, Dublin 1.
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