Cré Kilkenny


Aisling McElwain

The setting for the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Ceramics Skills & Design Course could hardly be more idyllic: an old mill sensitively repurposed, on the banks of the River Nore. The two-year course, accredited through National University of Maynooth, is an intensive skills-based programme. It also remains one of the few places in Ireland where students can undergo the hard graft of repetition training. This, according to the course director Gus Mabelson, is what it takes to become a proficient maker. ‘Anyone who is a good thrower has to know their material, and that underpins the first year of the programme still.’ Along with skill in working with clay, and the practical experience of firing a range of kilns, marketing and promotion is also part of the curriculum. ‘Marketing can be part of the creative process, even though we would all sooner be making, or unpacking the kiln. Without it you’re not going to survive as a professional maker, and that’s what this course is all about,’ Mabelson commented. Cré, an exhibition of works by the course’s ten most recent graduates will run at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny, from 15 July to 1 August. The title of the exhibition comes from an Irish word meaning ‘earthen’ or ‘made of clay’ and will feature contemporary ceramics from makers including Aisling McElwain, bowls and vases with crystalline glaze from Babs Belshaw, and smoke fired lidded forms by Andrew Ilsley. Many previous graduates of the course have gone on to develop an international track record, including Derek Wilson, Adam Bewick and Karen Morgan.