Pottery providing ambition and artistic fulfilment for Delia


John Reidy's Castleisland

Finding herself out of a job when the most recent recession hit its depths, Delia O'Donoghue thought it time she went after one of her long-held ambitions of training in a branch of the arts.

The Cullen, North Cork native and Castleisland resident was busily raising her two children and keeping down an office job until the economy took that remarkable nose-dive of a decade ago.

"I've always had an interest in arts and crafts, and studied art to leaving cert in Milllstreet Community School," said Delia, who has adopted Knocknagoshel village as the location for her workshop. "I was also good at maths and felt I had a better chance of earning a living through my mathematical ability than my artistic one, so studied business and book keeping and worked in those fields for going on 20 years.

"I began to make jewellery and figurines from polymer clay and, as time went by, I got better at it and loved being able to manipulate and sculpt the clay into whatever I wanted.

"When the recession fully kicked in and I went from full-time office hours to part-time and then none, I decided that this would be as good a time as any to try my hand at getting formal training in arts and crafts.

"I started by doing a portfolio preparation course in Kerry College of Further Education and then went on to study in Limerick School of Art and Design, receiving my degree in ceramics and design in June 2018.

"Throughout my time in college, my themes tended to be around nature and the Kerry landscape, and my final year was no different as I chose to base my project and subsequent pieces around the Skellig Islands. George Bernard Shaw referred to Skellig Michael as the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world in a letter he penned in 1910, and that still holds true today in my opinion.

"As I researched the literature and archaeological finds from the Skelligs, the one thing that I kept coming back to was the monks' ability to use their limited resources to survive on this impossible rock.

"I decided to incorporate this mentality into my work, using what I could around me to glaze and decorate my pieces.

"I researched pottery glazes and found that in Japan and China rice husk ash was used in the making of the glaze as it has a really high silica content, and this is the glass former in most glazes. After some initial testing, I realised it was indeed possible to make a glaze from oat husks. I contacted Kevin Scully in The Merry Mill in Vicarstown, and he has been kindly providing me with oat hulls from his organically grown oats for the past year.

"I honestly could not have done this without their support; as an aside, their porridge is the nicest I've ever had.

"I burn the husks in an incinerator bin with a gas blow torch; this is fairly labour intensive and takes a lot longer than you'd imagine. Then I sieve the ash several times, put it through a coffee grinder and combine it with other ingredients, including clay I dug up on my grandmother's farm in North Cork to make a glaze for my wheel-thrown pottery.

"My pieces are generally functional and have a multi purpose where possible. For example, lids for pots also act as plates.

"The designs and shapes including the concentric circles on the pottery were influenced by the Skelligs and archaeological finds there," Delia concluded.

Delia's pieces start from €15 upwards. And, while she has her own distinctive style of work, she will gladly accommodate anyone who has a design in mind for a once-off piece for a gift or special occasion presentation.

Delia O'Donoghue Ceramics can be contacted on (086) 159 4788.