Saturday 1 October 2016

Solid stuff

Amanda Kavanagh

Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30

Amanda Kavanagh
Amanda Kavanagh
Both rustic and modern, these planters are hand-built and glazed by Danu Ceramics. The burnt orange halo is the result of the glaze bringing out the iron in the raw clay at a high temperature.
Tea-pot €80: Drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape John Ryan reflects Co Sligos colours and wildlife in teapots mugs jugs and more. oriainpottery.com
Wine cooler, €65: With beautiful white glazing and a quality leather handle, Danish designer Niels Kjeldsen’s Glacier collection is minimal and textural. articledublin.com
Green platter, €85: Decorated with flowing brush work, it’s not surprising that this piece is a best-seller for the Dingle-based potter. louismulcahy.com
Platters, €8.50, €14.95, €17.95: A selection of extra small, small and large Jars Ceramics stoneware to mix and match. articledublin.com

Sturdy pottery has always held its place on Irish kitchen tables and it's not difficult to see why. Dense and hardy, clay ceramics can take a few knocks and typically live a long life. From pared-back, functional items to decorative stoneware, it's also as versatile as it is durable.

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John Adams, owner of Article, in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, credits increased the interest in ceramics to its simple functionality. "I think maybe the popularity of stoneware is a recognition of the quality, of how resistant to chipping and generally hard-wearing it is," he begins. "Maybe it's connected to the movement away from the disposable to things that are slightly more expensive, but are made to last."

John recommends mix and matching stoneware, depending on the occasion. "You can dress up stoneware with linen and fine glassware to create quite a formal setting or use it very casually, mixed with other things, like decorative Pols Potten bowls or with marble serving boards. The trick to styling it formally is to use two or maybe three tonal colours together, then casually to use lots of mixed colours."

His own home is host to Jars Céramistes tableware, which have been made by a family-run company in the South of France since 1857. Its collection is comprised of irregular rounded shapes, created by hand and fired to very high temperatures.

Closer to home, Ireland is bursting with creative craftspeople doing diverse work with stoneware. Ruth Power, of Danu Ceramics, says she's noticed a shift. "We are increasingly seeing the creation of handmade stoneware objects that expose the raw, unglazed clay as part of the overall design," she says.

"My favourites are the pieces that are partially dipped in a glaze that contrasts beautifully in both colour and texture with the organic, natural clay body. This leaves a finish that is both clean and rustic, contemporary and organic, with evidence of being made by human hands."

The tactile element is key for many. "I love that there is a growing focus on exposing the raw materials from which an object was made, a characteristic that is not seen in standard, industrially produced ceramics," Ruth says. "I feel that this connects the user to the object and processes more. Stoneware is beautiful - the iron speckles, burnt oranges, golden browns and sophisticated greys, why hide it?"

Why indeed.

Amanda Kavanagh is the editor of Image Interiors & Living magazine

Sunday Independent

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