Award winners announced at the opening of ceramics graduate exhibition, Cré

Posted 19.07.16

Award winners announced in National Craft Gallery

­­                                                                                                                                            Work by Martha Opher

An exhibition of works by the 2016 graduates of the renowned Ceramics Skills & Design Course run by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) opened at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny on the evening of Friday, 15th July, and will run until 1st August. Cré, an Irish word meaning ‘earthen’ or ‘made of clay’, was officially launched by Dr. Audrey Whitty, Keeper of the Art and Industrial Division, National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History.

At the opening, Aisling McElwain from Monaghan was awarded ‘Student of the Course’, while Martha Opher’s work was selected for the CEO Purchase Prize from DCCoI. Four new awards were presented this year as part of a collaboration with Kilkenny Group, which will see the four chosen graduates have their work showcased in the windows of Kilkenny’s flagship store on Nassau Street in Dublin. The graduates selected were Andrew Ilsley, Claire Murdock, Bridget Timoney and Marta Ozog. This award was presented by Melissa O’Gorman from Kilkenny Group.

Cré showcases the innovation and diversity in ceramic design and techniques of ten of Ireland’s newest makers, with the contemporary work in each graduate’s signature style reflecting their individual technical ability and design aesthetic. The exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to admire and acquire the creative and individual work by these emerging craftspeople.

Cré includes large-scale spherical moon jars by Claire Murdock; delicate, cut-rim, pastel coloured bowls by Kate McGuane; thrown and modelled sculptural heads, evocative of spiritual traditions, by Éva Kaszás; fine functional porcelain tableware, sensitively decorated with blues and turquoises, by Marta Ozog and smoke fired ceramic musical instruments including Udu drums by Andrew Ilsley.

Also featured in the exhibition are Babs Belshaw’s porcelain bowls and narrow necked bottles enhanced by spectacular large-scale crystal glazes; a selection of functional porcelain tableware finely decorated with original illustrations and bold coloured interiors by Martha Opher; Aisling McElwain’s classic forms, glazed with a jade green celadon and embellished with 19ct gold lustre; Bridget Timoney’s sculptural and highly textured vessels and Fiona Shannon’s functional dishes, designed and made for the serving of food, glazed with visually rich crystalline interiors contrasted against strong, dark exteriors. Details of all featured artists can be viewed at

The graduates have recently completed DCCoI’s intensive two-year, full-time programme at the picturesque Island Mill in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. The skills-based course, which is accredited through Maynooth University, is designed to equip graduates with the practical knowledge to develop careers in the ceramics industry. It sets out to give students a common set of skills, knowledge and understanding from which they develop their own individual work and progress their technical competence.

Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, said: “Developing a successful and fulfilling career in the craft and design industry requires both skill and business acumen, and our intensive two-year programme is designed to equip students with both. The course has now evolved to include a residency programme and continues to strengthen its links with industry. Building on the experience and success of DCCoI’s skills-based courses in both ceramics and jewellery, our vision is to develop centres of excellence in other key disciplines to ensure industry needs are met through specialised training and access to state of the art facilities, leading to an emerging workforce with the experience and expertise necessary for the ongoing development of craft and design in Ireland.”

Gus Mabelson, DCCoI’s Ceramics Skills & Design Course Manager, said: “The skills the students have acquired through many hours of hard work and the creative use of those skills form the foundation of all the work in the exhibition. The day to day engagement with the material, in this case clay, is essential to the acquisition of those skills. Learning through ‘doing’ and then doing it again is at the core of the course curriculum. They have gained self-confidence, professional pride and a sense of identity through the objects they design and make”.

DCCoI’s Ceramics Skills & Design Course has developed an excellent reputation both nationally and internationally. Applications were received from across Europe for the next two-year programme which commences in September 2016 and all 12 places have now been filled.

John Tynan, Head of Education, Training and Development at the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland said: “Our programme complements other Higher Education provision. The combination of environment, expertise in training and open access to industry standard facilities and the relevance of the formally accredited curriculum to the ceramics industry makes this intensive two-year course unique within the ceramics landscape in Ireland. The collective result is the emergence of a group of highly skilled ceramicists every two years. The 2016 graduates who are all very positive and mature in outlook now have the competence and confidence to pursue careers in the creative economy. We look forward to continuing to support them through DCCoI programmes as they establish themselves as makers and wish them every success in their future endeavours.”

A number of this year’s graduates will progress to further training or travel to gain additional experience abroad while others plan to develop their own studios. A Meet the Makers Late Date event will take place at the gallery on Thursday 21st July at 6.30pm where the graduates will present their work and explain the process and inspiration for their selected pieces.

Cré will be at the National Craft Gallery, Castle Yard, Kilkenny, until 1st August 2016.

For further details visit

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Notes to Editor

The 10 graduates of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Ceramics Skills & Design Course each took up the course at different stages of their career and have since found their own style within the expressive world of ceramics. The graduates are:

  • Aisling McElwain
  • Andrew Ilsley
  • Babs Belshaw
  • Bridget Timoney
  • Claire Murdock
  • Éva Kaszás
  • Fiona Shannon
  • Kate McGuane
  • Marta Ozog
  • Martha Opher

About the National Craft Gallery:
Established by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in 2000, the National Craft Gallery is Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design. It exhibits Irish and international designers, artists and makers who push boundaries in their engagement with the making process. Its mission is to inspire appreciation, creativity and innovation and it plays a critical role in building understanding of craft and material culture in Ireland.

About the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland:
The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI), which is headquartered in Kilkenny, is the main champion of the craft and design industry in Ireland, fostering its growth and commercial strength, communicating its unique identity and stimulating quality design, innovation and competitiveness. DCCoI’s activities are funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI currently has 64 member organisations and over 3,200 registered clients.

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