Additional Craft Information:
Way on the edge of history and far from the all encompassing Roman empire, Ireland remained a contained and simple culture until the advent of Christian monasticism in the early Medieval period. It would have shared its tool making ability with much of neolithic and later period peoples living in what we see as Europe today. Remnants of ancient round earthenware vessels have been found by archaeologists, but it is not until the Celtic tribes took over that we see a truer picture of what may be termed Irish design. And although the Celts preferred wood and stone for their more important cultural statements, their roots in Indo European culture transformed eventually into the swirling, animalistic designs we associate with Irish design today.
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DIY Craft Essential #2: Needle nose pliers
But in their daily, vernacular existence, the Irish were blessed with clay sources in sufficient amounts and in sufficient locales to enable them to develop a 'coarse' pottery which served them well for hundreds of years. Bowls, jugs and dairy implements went hand in hand with their rural lifestyle; the truest and most useful objects of Irish pottery were functional, brown, coarse earthenware pots, sometimes embossed, often glazed with clear or green glazes and made very locally in small batches.
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DIY Craft Essential #4: Spray paint
A liquid form of clay called slip was often applied to a pot to add a bit of decoration and this technique evolved over time in Ireland. Very handsome pots were produced in the north of the country (Coalisland ware), but varying types of coarse ware can be found throughout the island. These wares were made and used through the 19th century, a mainstay of rural life.
It wasn't until the 17th century that Ireland found that production of fancier, 'fine' ceramics was a good possible source of income and export revenue, and these early 'luxury' potteries were backed by Anglo capital and wherewithal. Belleek Pottery is a good example of an industry set up to assist the indigenous population using local (Parian) clay, local labour, and much local 'Irish' inspiration in design: it exists to this day and is probably the most famous Irish Pottery. Interestingly, Josiah Wedgwood used Irish clay from Tipperary for his famous creamware; Ireland provided raw materials as well as finished goods. Glass and silver designs also rose to some prominence during the 18th and early 19th century, but decline inevitably followed in all three types of manufacturing as social and political upheavals took their toll.
At the start of the 20th century, a revolution took place not only in the sphere of national sovereignty, but also in Ireland's pride and sense of self. Mostly manifest in literature and drama, visual arts and crafts also expanded and rural crafts were recognized for their truth and beauty and formed a solid base for Irish design evolution. Pottery development came after weaving and woodwork/furniture, but it did finally emerge mid century, and flourished towards the end of the millenium. For the most part, Irish pottery has been produced for use, for the home, for easy and daily enjoyment. Today, as in the past.