Friday 17 August 2018

Couple fired up about each other

Cork ceramicist Charlie Mahon couldn't run his art and homewares business without his wife Ellie's input

Charlie and Ellie Mahon run a ceramics business together. Photo: David Conachy
Charlie and Ellie Mahon run a ceramics business together. Photo: David Conachy
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Lisdoonvarna is world famous for matchmaking, and the town in Co Clare certainly worked its magic charm on Ellie and Charlie Mahon. They got together there in November 1991, although not at the festival, mind you.

It was on a trip to see the Cliffs of Moher that Ellie's pal Tina asked if they could call into her old college buddy Charlie in Ennis, and all three went off into the town for coffee. They got on so well that the girls dragged Charlie up to Lisdoonvarna with them for the weekend, and that trip sealed the deal.

Charlie liked Ellie's "fine figure" and outgoing personality, while she was smitten with his eyes and his kindness. "Ellie is very ballsy," says Charlie, "while I tend to be a bit more shy and reserved." They had great fun hanging out together and Ellie found it fascinating that Charlie was a ceramicist and could create such wonderful work at his kiln from mere clay. They were also both interested in science fiction and fantasy, so had plenty to chat about.

Ellie was living in Cork so they conducted a long-distance relationship for two years. "When we were first going out, Charlie would leave Cork to head back to Ennis, and would then phone me with hints of surprises he'd left around the house or our half-acre garden," she recalls. "I'd nearly have a heart attack as my dad Ted was not too impressed that someone would go to all that trouble just to impress a girl."

They both applied for jobs in each other's counties, and Charlie got one first and moved to Cork to work with Stephen Pearce Pottery. Charlie and Ellie were married in 1998 in Glengariff on the Beara Peninsula, and they have one daughter Alannah, who is 15 and is the joy of their lives.

Alannah is mad into horses and has started showjumping with her horse Cailin. Ellie's late mum, Eileen O'Sullivan, was also very keen on showjumping, prior to her untimely death aged 51 from cancer. Ellie is also keen herself although she doesn't ride now, but is greatly enjoying the showjumping scene.

Now 51, Ellie, short for Elmarie, was born in Glencairn, Waterford, and she and her parents and brother Tim moved house 11 times before settling in Mayfield in Cork. She worked in her parents' business, Munster Knit and Sew, after completing a DIT course, and then spent three years living in New York. She held a variety of admin and community employment positions back in Ireland before embarking on her current part-time role with An Post.

Ellie, Charlie, Alannah and their rescue Kerry Blue dog, Barney, live in Cork's Little Island. Charlie has a workshop and studio at the back of the house, where he produces his gorgeous Charlie Mahon Pottery. He makes ceramic art and homewares, and has two colourful collections - The Mackerel Series, which is a fish-patterned collection, and The Jack and Jill Series, which has cartoon couples glazed on to platters, bowls and plates.

Now 54, Charlie was always artistic. His dad, CV Mahon, died aged 27 in a car crash when Charlie was six months old, and his late mum Marie remarried when he was seven. His family consists of his step-dad Aidan Deegan, journalist brother Gordon Deegan, sister Kate, who is a wedding planner, and sister Clodagh, who runs the flower shop his late mother established.

After studying art in Limerick and sculpture at Crawford College in Cork, Charlie went on a scholarship to study ceramics at the University of Mississippi. He worked with Irish Country Pottery before moving to Cork and his career has had dual strands of being a care support/rehab worker and a ceramicist. He decided to go out on his own in 2004 with a company he called Island Pottery, which did ceramic homewares and ceramic art, but had to wind down the homewares side when the downturn hit in 2008.

He went back into rehab work with Cheshire Homes, but resumed ceramics in 2016 when Millcove Gallery took some artworks from him. Then Cork Craft and Design asked for a domestic range for Christmas 2016, and Charlie Mahon Pottery was born. He also still works part-time at St Laurence Cheshire Home.

Ellie works in the admin side of the business with Charlie, and keeps him on the straight and narrow around orders and paperwork. They took part in Showcase - Ireland's Creative Expo in 2017 and describe it as the best thing they ever did around the business. It brought them to the attention of retailers all around the country and things have really taken off since. They are very much looking forward to taking part in the trade-only event next week, along with more than 450 other exhibitors.

They work very well together, although like any creative business run by a couple, things can get a bit intense at times. They love eating out and going to the cinema and enjoy having a social life and going away for weekends to places like the Montenotte Hotel in Cork. Charlie also enjoys sailing on lasers.

Charlie says Ellie's time-keeping drives him nuts, although she refutes that by saying that she is never late. "The thing that drives me mad about Charlie is his really careful driving and rugby," says Ellie. "Everything goes out the window at the mention of a Munster match. He still romances me to this day though, and while I can never remember our wedding anniversary or Valentine's Day, Charlie does."

Showcase - Ireland's Creative Expo runs at the RDS Dublin from January 21-24.

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