Belfast telegraph Feature Many people don’t understand how pottery is made, says Co Derry ceramicist


The Blackheath Pottery is just one of many studios taking part across the island enabling peopled to get involved with craft makers



Aine Toner
August Craft Month is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Craft NI and in partnership with Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and Cork Craft & Design.

During the month, over 300 events will be taking place throughout the island, enabling people to get involved while supporting makers.

The open studios taking place across Northern Ireland will provide the public rare opportunities to watch craft makers at work and learn more about their processes.

One company reasonably new to Craft Month is The Blackheath Pottery in Blackhill, close to Coleraine.

This will be Babs Belshaw’s second year of involvement. Specialising in porcelain tableware, her work is synonymous with scenic coastlines, and she’s based in a converted Georgian courtyard. It also provides a home for a café, working pottery and a recently added gallery.

The pottery is located within a converted courtyard

“I run quite a lot of classes as well and it’s amazing, people do find, oh, this is actually a lot harder than it looks,” says Babs, who graduated in Ceramics from Cardiff School of Art and Design and the DCCOI Ceramics Skills Course in Kilkenny.

“Lots of people want to know where it comes from and support locals. You can see me making the mugs; we’ve a big glass wall in the middle of our café into my studio. You do find people sit watching and ask, ‘Oh, what are you doing now?’ It’s really just a bit of education as well so people understand how pottery is made because not many people do.”

Receiving something that’s been made by hand can lead to consumer treasuring these special pieces.

“Homeware especially is now becoming a bit like a fast fashion. People feel ‘oh, that’ll do,’ redecorate, buy all new, that sort of thing,” says Babs.

“But when people do put more investment into it and buy something really unique and beautiful, they treasure it as well. Yes, it’s a wee bit more expensive than maybe Ikea but it’s really beautiful.

“I’m really conscious especially making something like a bowl or plates that are being used. I will make a few prototypes, bring them in the house and use them and get all my family to use them. If something’s not quite right — if the gravy not sit in the plate right or whatever — if it doesn’t work out, I’ll tweak it until it’s really perfect.


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