Additional Craft Information:
For anybody looking for pottery, Ireland is a good place to search. Although a small country, it has developed an enviable craft base over the last 100 years and now boasts scores of potters spread throughout the countryside. The beautiful Irish landscape must inspire the weavers, the painters and especially the potters, for they are an abundant resource and worth seeking out in their workshops and studios.
DIY Craft Essential #1: Washi tape
DIY Craft Essential #2: Needle nose pliers
It was not always thus: until the twentieth century, Ireland's pottery was based on either very rough coarse ware or very luxurious fine ware. One could describe the coarseware as brown earthenware, occasionally decorated with trailed slip decoration. These pots were usually made locally, and provided containers for dairy and brewing work. Metal pots were used in fireplaces to cook in, and baskets (which many people could make for themselves) were used to serve. The use of fancier whiteware began when the industrial revolution was well established and the 'pretty' rustic spongeware motifs could be produced cheaply enough for Irish country dwellers to afford. Two forms of decoration on pottery were prominent during the latter half of the nineteenth century: willow ware (the blue on white, Chinese landscape inspired design) and spongeware, a fast and inexpensive way to put colour on plain white bowls and mugs. These could be found in almost any little cottage in Ireland and took pride of place on the family dresser. And their popularity was endless, certainly continuing until the earth twentieth century and beyond.
DIY Craft Essential #3: X-acto knife
DIY Craft Essential #4: Spray paint
Spongeware certainly added colour and gaiety to any room, and the number of motifs found on the old sponged pottery is endless. In Ireland, the symbol of the shamrock was often used as a symbol of national pride, much as the thistle for Scotland and the rose for England were incorporated into household effects during this period. But the shamrock was not the only favoured surface decoration: cows, flowers, sheep, interlocking borders, leaves, and all sorts of little motifs were applied onto the whiteware. After glazing and refiring, these designs were permanent and the colours are as bright today as a hundred years ago.
The ceramic arts as we know them today began slowly in Ireland, roughly around 1930-40, but they gathered such momentum that there are scores of excellent potteries throughout the land. Ireland even boasts an excellent third level pottery school, attracting people from all over Europe. And the Irish public seems to enjoy the individuality and craftsmanship that goes into handmade pottery. Many different styles can be found, from simple solid glazes to sculptural forms, and even spongeware continues to be made today. There are pots made to embrace a global culture and there are pots that enjoy earlier Irish traditions, but no matter what style is utilized, Irish pottery is made in abundance and with great skill. Old and new ceramic traditions are moving forward all the time.