Sustainability award winners offer a piece of history with new ‘Liberties’ collection

Old beams and discarded copper are not materials you would normally associate when making lamps, yet these are exactly the type of items Eoin Shanley is looking out for.

Eoin Shanley along with his wife Yvonne McGarry set up the award-winning business, Copperfish Lighting Company, in 2016 and makes lighting and lamps from all sorts of materials. One of their latest collections is titled ‘Liberties’ because Shanley uses old beams reclaimed from the Dublin area and copper pipes that are inspired by the old breweries and distilleries.

Eoin Shanley in his workshop. Credit: Steve Humphries

Copperfish was established in 2016 but the idea came a few years earlier when Shanley and McGarry restored a 200–year-old cottage in Leitrim using the same materials as it was built with in the 1980s.

“We restored it as it was built, with mud floors, mud walls etc, and tried to use what was on site to build with, as would have happened when the house was built originally”, Shanley said.

Shanley made the lighting for the cottage from the old beams and left over copper and people began to show interest.

“People started asking me to make one for them, and Industry & Co on Drury Street started to stock them. That was the beginning of Copperfish,” he said.

Copperfish unveiled their new ‘Liberties’ collection at the Local Enterprise Showcase 2023 in the RDS in Dublin. The collection contains a floor lamp, wall light, table lamp and wall sconce.

The floor lamp, made with old, Liberties beams. Credit: Steve Humphries

The base of the lamps is reclaimed from old oak beams from a building in the Liberties. “We managed to get hold of a few beams that were salvaged from the Francis Street area during the building works in the late 90s, around the time they were building Vicar Street, and developing that area,” Shanley said.

“We’re all about the timber and the story, and when I got my hands on those beautiful old Liberties beams, it was all there.”

Eoin Shanley and Yvonne McGarry work out of a two-storey commercial unit in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, with the upper floor turned into a showroom and the bottom floor as a workshop. The manufacturing of the lighting is done in the workshop. The process is long but incredibly detailed and impressive.

“We never make one piece from start to finish on its own. We source the timber and dry it, which can take forever. We then start to cut it into slightly less enormous sections on our 100-year-old table saw as we found modern machinery just doesn’t cut the really old timber half as well,” Shanley stated.

After the timber is cut by the table saw it has to be cut many more times. The lamps then must be shaped, planed, sanded, oiled, drilled, wired, tested and finally packed.

“There are no shortcuts in a handmade product,” Shanley said. “It takes as long as it takes, and the only guarantee we found is that it always takes longer than we think.”

Shanley and Yvonne’s McGarry Copperfish Lighting was awarded the prestigious Sustainability Award at Showcase this year and they were “honoured” to receive it.

“Sustainability is at the core of what we do and always has been, long before anyone was talking about it. This whole business evolved from the restoration of that cottage, built primarily from the materials it was built with in the 1800s. We work to that ethos,” Shanley concluded.

Eoin Shanley and Yvonne McGarry source their own 10-year bulbs, guarantee all their pieces for 10 years and also provide a repair service so as Shanley says, “A Copperfish piece is for life.”

Liberties collection

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