I changed my job and it changed my Life

I was born in 1973 in Cork, located on the South coast of Ireland. When you combine the lack of technology in the 1970s and 80s with the wet climate that gives Ireland its lush landscape you have a perfect environment for a child’s fertile imagination to grow ...................indoors.

 

I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have had my childhood in that era and thankful to have been born into a creative household, My older brother and sister had set the stage for me with their painting and drawing talents and I would think nothing of spending long hours of those rainy days with my head buried in a sketchbook.

While I finished school, I never excelled academically due to my undiagnosed dyslexia. However, I did go on to DLCAD after completing foundation courses in Graphics and Art and Design in City North College and Scoil Stiofain Naofa, here in Cork. By 1996 I had completed my degree in Design Communications at Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design, then returned to Cork for one more year (just for good measure) studying Multimedia in St. John's College before starting a career as a graphic designer and illustrator.

In 2009 the wheels started to come off the entire Country and, as you know, many lost their jobs. I was amongst them. My love for graphics had already begun to wane before the crash and I found myself drawn to more tangible media. In my spare time I loved carving little figures into sticks of chalk with a scalpel, finding it very therapeutic. I also had the learning bug: In 2009 I did two night-courses in woodwork, in 2010 I took a course in wood carving, in 2011 I went back and studied Math and English and the following year I completed an 8 week night-course in ceramics at the Crawford Art College in Cork.

#04002m Detail from my Sea Urchin Inspired Pot

#04002m Detail from my Sea Urchin Inspired Pot

Good Fortune smiled upon me that same year in a chance meeting at Christmas with an old childhood friend who, as luck would have it, was a Potter. He was finishing up a teaching position in Cork and suggested the possibility that I might take it over. An opportunity like this would never present itself again and I grabbed it with both hands. Of course I wasn’t ready and I didn’t have the necessary qualifications but the centre running the course I would be teaching at was all about giving people a chance in life where others wouldn’t. After completing a “train the trainer” course I put together an eight-week course in “ceramic carved tile making for beginners”. I was now an official registered ETB Tutor and ready as Id ever be to begin my teaching career with my 2 students, one 18 years old the other in her 80’s. Daunting as it was, I had a great experience and teaching them was a huge learning curve. One student even went on to sell the ceramics he produced in class!

By day I was working in a tedious job that made me nauseous just thinking about it but, as a consequence of many conversations with my potter friend, I realized that a happy, fulfilled life doing what I loved was possible and attainable with the right attitude. As a result, although it took a while, (and with the blessing of my wife) I saved enough money to buy a kiln and cover all my major bills and expenditure for a year, before I gleefully handed in my notice. I had now given myself this time to figure out how to make my dream job and lifestyle work. That same week I bought a book by Barbra winters called “How to Make a Living Without a Job”. This was to be the first of many self help books to come.

I knew it would be hard work and long hours so I put my head down and began...

The first year was the most difficult as I tried to find my way and develop my own style. I began with carved tiles with a graphic twist, which was an extension of what I had gravitated toward in woodcarving. After this I progressed into sculptural figurative pieces. At the end of my year I was selling in a few galleries and had joined the Society of Cork Potters, an idea I had earlier dismissed as I wasn’t technically a potter, only to discover that all types of ceramic artists are welcomed. When I first joined it gave me solace to know that others were pursuing similar lifestyles and succeeding and I set about visiting many of the members in their studios, probably driving them crazy with my many, many questions. Each one had unique style, techniques and ways of doing things and I absorbed what I could and transferred what worked for my own journey.

At present on my journey as a ceramist I have returned to the rock pools that once held such a fascination for me as a child and reignite my curiosity in what lies beneath the surface. Now I devour them with the hungry eyes of a ceramist, feasting on textures and colours that only nature can provide. My observations of the inhabitants and fauna of these ever changing tidal pools and of the deep and far reaching oceans has brought me to the realization that the possibilities, through observation, to progress my work is overwhelming and, like all tasks that at first seem impossible, one has to just begin.

Although mainly self taught, over the last few years I have been delving into different techniques, fusing them seamlessly together; hand building, slip casting, throwing and many different surface-texturing techniques to name a few encompass my work at present. Because of its diversity and complexity, I take great pleasure in searching the shoreline as well as the Internet for examples in nature, not to reproduce but for inspiration. For example, the contrast of using glazed and unglazed velvet washed ceramic, side-by-side on my vessels; reflects the symbiotic relationship of a shell and the flesh within. I also began exploring the possibilities of using slip for producing detailed textures often utilizing common household items (that otherwise might have been discarded) for impressions and also for application. Once you start looking beyond an object's original purpose you find a never-ending supply of amazing tools.

The quote “God is in the details” by Ludwig Mies Vander Rohe, expresses that detail matters and I try to honor this in my work. Never has it been more relevant to shine a light on the importance of detail than in the times we now live in, where true craftsmen are becoming a dying breed. Consumer gratification is the new drug and the era of heirlooms is fast disappearing. I believe we are a lesser society for their absence. Never will you find the thumbprint of a maker in a mass-produced product and it is this lack of the human touch, the original, that is turning our homes into sterile, homogenous environments.

I believe that a ceramist should spend their life honing their abilities and skills, pushing boundaries in texture and form and in so doing, documenting their progression through their work in the pursuit of mastering their craft in the time that they are given. As I get older I’m becoming drawn to the ideas of reincarnation and reinvention, as the impossibility of exploring all of the different facets of ceramics in one lifetime becomes more apparent to me as I spend my days joyfully lost in the process.