Cré Pottery, Skibbereen have gone mobile to share the calming effects of clay with all of West Cork
By Aisling Meath
POTTERY is described as the new yoga with recent studies all pointing towards its powers of relaxation.
And now Cré pottery in Skbbereen are helping to spread that joy by going mobile since the purchase of a new van means they can offer the experience to the wider West Cork community.
Sophie Miall one of the owners of the pottery explains: ‘We were approached by teachers and community groups to ask if we could cater for many more people than we can accommodate at the studio. Our absolute maximum at any one time is 50 – and that’s if nobody breathes!
‘So last year we bought a small potter’s wheel that was more portable than our big commercial ones and now we have the vehicle with extra space to transport it and are delighted that we can finally offer a mobile pottery service to community groups, private parties and events.’
Cré Pottery in Skibbereen is also West Cork’s first ever ‘Paint your own Pottery’ studio where as well as learning the craft you can also choose from a selection of pre-made pieces which you can paint whatever way you like.
The brainchild of Sophie and Suzanne O’Connor, the pottery will be celebrating its second anniversary this Saturday, April 6th. To mark the occasion they will be hosting ‘paint a mug for charity’ - an all day event in support of Marymount Hospice in Cork and CoAction Skibbereen.
Marymount is both the oldest and busiest hospice in the country.
Mary Morrish fundraising officer for the charity explained: ‘We are the specialist palliative care centre for Cork and Kerry and serve a catchment area of 600,000.
‘People are often surprised to hear that we are not state funded so therefore we rely heavily on fundraising to raise at least €3.5 million in order to continue offering our services.
‘We currently support the care of 3,000 people and their families. We would like to thank Suzanne and Sophie for organising this event,’ she said.
Getting a new business off the ground is never easy and as well as all the usual challenges involved, Suzanne and Sophie had a lot to overcome while setting up their new venture.
Suzanne’s foster mother Toni Mc Dermott was very ill during the process, and sadly passed away before the pottery was a year old. Toni was very well known and loved in the area, and among her many achievements was being one of the people that was instrumental in setting up the Leap Scarecrow Festival.
‘Toni was amazingly supportive of us when we were setting up the business,’ recalls Suzanne. ‘Unfortunately she died from cancer only a few months after we had opened and never got to celebrate our first birthday with us.
‘She spent a month in Marymount Hospice and received such amazing care and support there that it was an obvious choice for us that they would be our fundraiser beneficiary.
‘Despite the snow storm that hit at last year’s event we still managed to raise over €1,800 and we are hoping to build on that again this year,’ she said.
Since Cré opened it has proven to be a hugely popular addition to the town of Skibbereen; not only for local people but also for many tourists.
Pottery classes are available for those who would like to experience ‘throwing’ a pot or two, and Suzanne and Sophie are always on hand to help. The pots are fired in the kiln at Cré and then their creators can decorate them in their style of choice.
‘We have been amazed that people travel from as far as East Cork to come for wheel lessons and paint your own pottery; and quite often people come from even further afield so we do regular runs to the post office shipping things off when they come out of the kilns,’ said Suzanne. ‘We have also had people from Dublin, the UK, Canada and the USA dropping in.’
One person who really enjoys getting her hands in the clay is Pat Hughes of Ilen River Playschool who is a regular visitor to the studio. She also brings the preschool children there and they absolutely love the experience.
There is something at Cré for everybody, from people who bring in their babies to have their handprints done in clay, children, teenagers dropping in after school and there is also some grown up fun.
Suzanne said: ‘Bring your own Bottle nights provide an opportunity for adults to come and paint without being interrupted.’ Between herself and Sophie they have five school going children and understand how parents need that all-important time out to have the occasional adult conversation.
‘Children have no inhibitions when it comes to painting, they choose a colour and start, grown ups need a bit more encouragement,’ she laughs. ‘Everyone is always thrilled with his or her creations and inevitably they make new friends over the sessions,’ she said.
Trish Nyhan from Drinagh who has been there many times said: ‘I’m one of 11 and we have come over to Skibbereen as a family for get togethers and had great nights painting our mugs and plates and afterwards went out for a meal in the town - it’s a lovely thing to enjoy as a family and makes a great alternative night out!’ she said.
Trish’s observations on the relaxing benefits of painting and making pottery has now been backed up by scientific studies pointing out that moulding clay with your hands both calms the mind and reconnects the body with the earth.
Even celebrities such as Brad Pitt enjoy getting their hands dirty while moulding the clay.
Cré pottery has also had its share of famous visitors to the studio in Skibbereen.
‘We’ve have quite a few famous people popping in to use the studio,’ said Sophie.
‘Sorcha Furlong aka Orla from Fair City was visiting Skibbereen last summer and came with a group of friends. Morning Ireland’s Brian Dobson stopped in for a coffee one evening. We even had a famous actress from a big hit American legal drama show come to paint with her family, but we were phoned ahead and asked to be really discreet so we won’t be naming names,’ laughed Sophie.