Sunday, September 27, 2020

Where to find the best pottery in Ireland

I love pottery.  I rarely pass up a craft show, potter’s workshop, or artisan’s gallery without adding to my collection. 

So it’s no surprise that I purchased a piece from Louis Mulcahy Pottery in DinglePeninsula in Ireland. What is surprising is that I agreed to the steep shipping charge back to the U.S. for the oversized platter that I chose. But since shipping was almost the same, I added a pair of Mulcahy’s signature red candlesticks, both of which are on display now in my home.

Louis Mulcahy has been potting for more than forty years. After winning first prize for pottery in the National Crafts Competition in 1975, he decided to move his workshop from Dublin to Dingle. He and his wife Lisbeth, a weaver, sold their house and invested their savings in a risky venture because he wanted to produce the best pottery possible.

The last of the big potteries making all pieces exclusively in Ireland, Louis Mulcahy designs and makes each individual piece. For multiples, such as tableware and lamp bases, he designs and tests the prototypes before handing production over to assistants.  Most pieces take two to three weeks from start to finish.

His studio, workshop, and retail shop in Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula produces and stocks an extensive range of exquisite porcelain and fine ceramic giftware and tableware, all made on-site. Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 pieces (200-300 different works) are produced there each year. Using four or five special glazes, his work has gained worldwide recognition for its durability and lively finishing touches. The stoneware and porcelain pieces are dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe.

The pottery business is also home to an Open Room where everyone is welcome to try their hand at throwing a pot free of charge and under the eye of an experienced potter. It’s an educational experience that illustrates the skill and training required to master the craft. Learning to throw pots takes about three years, but it’s a lifetime commitment, says Mulcahy’s son-in-law, who also works as a potter at the studio.

Visitors are welcome to stop and browse and to refresh themselves at the Cafe upstairs, which  serves fresh local food, home-baked cakes, and coffees. After watching a demonstration, shopping for favorite pieces, and observing a guest try the potter’s wheel, we had a delicious lunch at the café of tomato soup, ham and cheese panini, and fresh lemonade. 

In an amazing bit of serendipity, we ran into a couple we knew from our Texas town at the shop, and they invited us to visit their Ireland home. If the sunny day wasn’t already glorious, that ensured our “craickin” day was just perfect.

The Visitors Center is open now, and online orders are also accepted.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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