Worldwide Shipping

Your cart

Your cart is empty

TOUR: Fermoyle Pottery

TOUR: Fermoyle Pottery

We visit the home, studio, and gallery of Kerry-based potters Alexis and Stephen who founded Fermoyle Pottery in 2018. We recently collaborated with Fermoyle Pottery to produce the Superfolk Wall Hanging Vase and drop by to see some of the vases in production.

 

A display of recent pottery at Fermoyle Pottery

As I get closer to the studio, a small white and brown terrier dog greets me on the road. He runs ahead of me excitedly, looking back as he scampers. I understand what he is telling me … come, come follow me … it’s this way.

 

 

It is late September and I am making the great voyage to west Kerry. It is a five hour drive from our home in Mayo.

I arrive late at night and check into a B&B outside the small seaside town of Ballinskelligs, on the southwestern tip of the Iveragh Peninsula, Kerry. The next morning, following the obligatory full Irish breakfast served up by the “Bean an Ti”, I set google maps to my destination dropped pin and embark on the final twenty-minute leg of my long journey. I am in Kerry to visit Fermoyle Pottery.

Fermoyle Pottery was founded by the husband & wife team Stephen O'Connell & Alexis Bowman in 2018. They specialize in making ceramic tableware for chefs and high-end restaurants. Their first big commission was for Aimsir, the restaurant in the Cliff at Lyons in Co Kildare, which opened in 2019.

Today their work can be found on the tables of restaurants in Ireland, Singapore, London, Paris, Greece & Holland. 

It is a glorious September morning, with some lingering dampness in the air as I make my way to the home gallery, studio & garden of Fermoyle Pottery.  As I get closer to the house, a small white and brown terrier dog greets me on the road. He runs ahead of me excitedly, looking back as he scampers. I understand what he is telling me … come, come follow me … it’s this way.

As I pull into the driveway Google maps gleefully announces “You have arrived at your destination”.

Next out to welcome me is Stephen, who emerges from the back vegetable garden and greets me warmly.

Though Stephen, Alexis, and I have been conversing over and back on zoom and via email for some months now, this is our first time meeting in real life. As I step out of the van I notice immediately that they have the same car as our family. They have three children, they live and work together and run their craft and design business from a remote, rural location in the west of Ireland. We have, it seems, a lot in common. I have an immediate sense of familiarity. Stephen inquires about my journey from Mayo and leads me to the studio. 

Moments later Alexis joins us. Originally from Sydney, she has a soft Australian accent. She offers and makes coffee for us all. She has a degree in fine art and design from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney but has been living in Ireland for over 15 years.

Stephen, on the other hand, is a Ballinskelligs native. He started his apprenticeship with clay as a teenager in Kerry. From pottery, he moved into running the Cill Rialaig print studio at the Kerry Arts Centre where he met Alexis.

Together they founded Fermoyle Pottery, named after the townland where they live and work, situated between the towns of Ballinskelligs and Waterville. This connection to their locality is followed through in their glazes which are made using local materials, including the ashes collected from wood fires, as well the powdered slate dust collected from the quarries on nearby Valentia Island.

In a recent interview Stephen noted  “Once you get outside the normal thinking in pottery, where it must be shiny and smooth, then you can have some fun,”

 

Alexis in the garden in September, saving seeds

 

Stephen at the potters wheel working on the wall hanging vase.

 

“This connection to their locality is followed through in their glazes which are made using local materials, including the ashes collected from wood fires, as well the powdered slate dust collected from the quarries on nearby Valentia Island..”

 

 

 

“Once you get outside the normal thinking in pottery, where it must be shiny and smooth, then you can have some fun.”

 

Test and prototypes of the wall hanging vase at Fermoyle Pottery

 

“There is an evident openness to experiment, and willing to collaborate, in the work that Alexis and Stephen do at Fermoyle Pottery. And this is exactly what has brought me here today.

 

There is an evident openness to experiment, and willing to collaborate, in the work that Alexis and Stephen do at Fermoyle Pottery. And this is exactly what has brought me here today. The first collaboration that we have embarked on toether is a piece that we at Superfolk have sought to bring back into production. Today I have come to see and document some of these pieces in production.

The story of the wall-hanging vase in an usual one. Some months back we had come upon a wall hanging vase by the English studio potter Chris Aston. When we contacted Chris and asked him if he would be interested in producing the vase again for Superfolk he told us that it is over forty years since Chris he had produced the vase and that he has recently retired. He would, however, be willing to work with us to communicate with another maker on how best to bring this vase back into production. 

What followed was a series of over and back chats, emails and phone calls between ourselves and Chris and, later-on, between Chris and Stephen and Alexis.They talk in shared technical potter language that begins to swim over my head. Lockdowns come and go. Chris is exceptionally generous with his time and expertise. Stephen and Alexis prototype a wood ash glaze and a turf ash glaze eventually settling on the option of turf ash. 

The final vase is slightly smaller than the original but like the original it is fully vitrified and thus suitable for both indoors and  outdoor use.

 

The finished Superfolk Wall Hanging Vase

The finished Superfolk Wall Hanging Vase

The base of the wall hanging vase on the potters wheel

Adding the Superfolk stamp to the wall hanging vase

 

“What followed was a series of over and back chats, emails and phone calls between ourselves and Chris and, later-on, between Chris and Stephen and Alexis.They talk in shared technical potter language that begins to swim over my head.”

 

Wall hanging vases prior to glazing

 

Once Stephen has led me through the stages and steps of production involved in producing the vase we sit and chat some more about another project we hope to collaborate together on. Then we talk about some projects that they are working on - as they are continuously building, adapting, and adding to their homestead. I share with them a little about our own, ongoing, home renovation project. I tell them that I have recently realised that the slate on our (under renovation) home in Mayo is most likely 100 years old and from the quarry at Valentia Island (a 20 min drive from where we are sitting). We take a tour of their garden, peep inside their polytunnel, talk about balancing work life and raising children, and the ups and downs of running your own business.

 

Peering inside the polytunnel at Fermoyle Pottery

 

As it comes time for me to leave Stephen hands me a gift - two handless mugs with a dark black glaze - the glaze, he tells me, is made from the dust of the slate quarry at Valentia Island - the very same quarry that we had just discussed. It feels like  the perfect gift for our new home.  We make plans to continue to follow up on details of our next project and I start my long journey north to Mayo, inspired and invigorated to see will come next.

Previous post
Next post