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Louis Mulcahy Pottery Workshop (Co.Kerry)

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Address: Clogher / Ballyferriter / Dingle / Co. Kerry / Ireland / Tel: +353 (0) 66 9156229

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      13.01.2010 12:09
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      pop round if you are in the area

      Our short Dingle trip nears its end and we have to drive back to Shannon to catch our return plane. It's raining again, and in the morning before we set off, we only have a time for a visit to Louis Mulcahy's Pottery Workshop (Potadoireacht na Caoloige), located within sight of the Ceann Sibeal B&B where we spend the night.

      Louis Mulcahy has been making pottery for over 40 years, and is probably the best know Irish potter. He moved his workshop from Dublin to Dingle in 1975 and dedicated himself to producing "aesthetically and technically best pottery possible". In 2004 he became the first Irish craftsman ever to receive an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland and his workshop, now employing a substantial number of local people, but still making all the items on site and to Mulcahy's designs, is a notable local employer and an attraction of sorts in its own right.

      In addition to an extensive shop, the site provides a tour of the pottery workshops - you can see the craftspeople throwing, glazing and painting the pottery. The tour is free, and also for free you can also try your hand at making pottery yourself - first, watch a demonstration by one of the potters, and then sit behind the potter's wheel yourself and try to throw a pot! It's certainly not as easy as it seems, as anybody who tried can attest to. The potter who conducted our demonstration was also extremely helpful with any questions regarding the craft in general or Louis Mulcahy's pottery in particular. You can take your raw pot with you for 2 Euro, or have it fired for 15 Euro.

      The shop sells all Mulcahy's products at workshop prices (apparently 15% lower than elsewhere), and some smaller (or larger, if you are feeling rich) objects would make great gifts or good keepsakes of the trip, certainly better than a lot of souvenir tat encountered in typical gift shops.

      The style is robust and rather earthy without being crude: many of the vase shapes recall classic antique amphorae, and the wares are highly glazed. The dominant colours are navy blues, russet reads and ochre/brown earthy tones, some lines have painted decorations, some are unpatterned.

      I wasn't particularly taken by Mulcahy's tableware, it seemed a little bit too rustic for my taste - I like modern, clean-lined pieces for my food and I like bone china, or at least porcelain, not earthenware.

      On the other hand, I really liked some of the vases (posy jars in particular) and large urns, especially the enclosed forms with narrow necks; and I simply loved the lamp bases (the only non-pottery product that the workshop makes are lampshades for those bases). I thought the conical table and standard lamps, in the russet-red glaze, with gradually darkening, shaded ring patterning, were particularly beautiful. I couldn't afford to buy a large one at almost 600 Euros or even the small one at 147 Euro, but one day, who knows.

      For a gift or a souvenir, a small posy jar at about 20 Euro or a medium one at around 30 is probably the most sensible option (and they are among the best shapes, too). I am still pining for that lamp...

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