During our January closure, Mum sent me to the UK and Ireland for 3 weeks of pottery education. Of course, one of the must visit places for me was the Nicholas Mosse Pottery, in Bennett's Bridge, Ireland. Many of you will have seen their lovely pieces in our shop and we’re surprised how many customers have actually also visited the factory.
Before travelling to Kilkenny I stayed a few days in Dublin. Co-incidentally, this was the weekend of the “Showcase” trade show, featuring Irish designs and craft and I met Nick and co. there.
The Nicholas Mosse website, conveys the impression of a most welcoming and warm environment. This couldn't be more accurate - such a great bunch or people making and selling a fantastic product. Interestingly, having asked Nick about how much 'hands on' work he gets to do, he mentioned being up at midnight sticking on the lion heads (on the new soup tureens). So some things never change. Whether you have a business established for 40 years, or like us, a new one, sometimes there are just things that have to be done, regardless of the hour, and usually there is no one better to do it than yourself!
I had thought of hiring a car as transport prior to my trip but my age quickly put a stop to that idea - the young driver excess would have cost more per day than the car. Public transport from Kilkenny where I was staying, to the pottery in Bennett's Bridge is scarce at best, and not available at the time I was travelling. This left the option of walking (about 2 hours) or hiring a bicycle, which would usually rather please me, but it was 3 degrees and raining. I know from firsthand experience why everything in Ireland is so green and beautiful!
I arrived only just on time, having stopped twice to adjust the hire bike, and having under estimated how much further my route along the back roads would be compared to the main roads. A bit damp in body and spirit at this point, I was certainly glad of the warm welcome (literally and figuratively) at the pottery.
The pottery is most appropriately housed in a beautiful old flour mill, formerly owned by Nick’s family. I was shown around by Billy, the accountant at Nicholas Mosse Pottery, who was most knowledgeable about everything; be it history, the throwing of the pots or the decoration and firing.
My favourite part of the production line was watching Francis throwing the clay. The morning I was there, he was throwing the new soup tureens. It is enthralling to watch a highly skilled artisan at work. The rather humble Francis told me that he is still learning (which I'm sure is true, but doesn't mean he isn't a master of his craft) some forty years after he started his pottery throwing journey. The precision and speed at which pots were turned out was truly remarkable - I could have watched all day.
Here is a link to the Nicholas Mosse website http://nicholasmosse.com/how-its-made which will take you from the raw clay to the finished piece.
Another stop on the tour, that was of particular interest, was visiting Michael, who is in charge of designing the patterns that you see on each piece. While I was there, he was working on a commissioned piece which looked like a water colour painting, but on a piece of pottery, and it hadn’t even been glazed and fired yet. It would look stunning when finished. Also on the go were some of the prototypes for the new lawn patterns, which are a little different to the other pottery, but brilliantly compliment the rest of the range. (These are currently only in the larger pieces and we have a few pieces in stock. They also look lovely with our Polish Pottery.)
Using a lift to access the different floors of a building isn’t a particularly novel experience these days. It was pointed out to me though, that the lift here was a relatively recent addition, installed sometime in the last 15 or so years, and that the pottery used to transition between floors of the building on a forklift! Surely there can’t be too many scarier jobs than sending pottery up a floor or two on the front of a forklift!
Having set up our shop, in what we feel is a very homely and slightly rustic way, to suit our wares, I have often looked at other shops and their set up with a more critical eye than I previously would have. Here though, I walked in and immediately felt like I was back in The Cup&Mug (well not quite, but close).
Anyway, scones and tea called, which, being a true boy, was a matter that needed to be attended to.
This signalled the end of a fascinating and inspiring experience. (So much so, that I have enrolled in some pottery classes myself, but that might be the subject of another blog.) Then full of tea and scones, and once again warm and dry, it was time to venture back out into the rain on the bike. At this point I realised that I had been too busy taking everything in, and hadn’t taken a single photo as we were going. The first thought at this point was of course 'Mum's going to kill me', which wasn't far from the truth. Inspiration though will last a lot longer than photos and hopefully it means I might just have to go again.