Pottery Provides Ambition and Artistic Fulfillment for Delia

Delia O’Donoghue with a selection of her work from the Knocknagoshel based Delia O’Donoghue Ceramics workshop. Photograph: John Reidy

Finding herself out of a job when the most recent recession hit its depths, Delia O’Donoghue thought it’s 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.

Good at Maths

“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.

“Throughout that time I was still drawn to art and crafts and attempted various projects as pastimes.

The knitters and crochet people of the world need not worry though as my attempts generally resulted in lopsided garments that were ridiculously oversized.

Jewellery and Figurines

“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.

Prep Course in KCFE

“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.

Finds from the Skelligs

“I had visited them on several occasions as my friend and Castleisland native, Maggie Prendiville works as a tour guide there.

“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.

Using What’s Available

“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.

“There isn’t an abundance of paddy fields in Ireland so I decided to try using the husks of oats instead.

Initial Tests

After some initial testing, I realised it was indeed possible to make a glaze from the oat husks.

I contacted Kevin Scully in The Merry Mill in Vicarstown in Co. Laois 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 and, as an aside, their porridge is the nicest I’ve ever had.

Gas Blow Torch

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.

Multi Purpose Pieces

“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.

In the gallery above is a selection of Delia’s work and the photographs are by Maggie Prendiville on Skellig and from the workshop by Bláthnaid O’Toole.

Delia O’Donoghue Ceramics can be contacted on: 086 159 47 88.

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