I watched a little magic being performed, no sleight of hand, no razzle dazzle, no abracadabra, no mirrors nor deception but it was magic to me nonetheless. I watched a man, a master of his craft, throw a large clay pot. To him it was every-day and routine but to me it was magical, an act of turning the base into something beautiful.
It had been too many years since we visited Kiltrea Pottery, one of a cluster of potteries outside Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, and deservedly famous for the quality and beauty of its products. My first visit to the Enniscorthy potteries had been to Paddy Murphy’s Carley Bridge Pottery with a busload of schoolchildren in my care at the time. It was a miserable wet day and out planned walk around the nearby historic Boolavogue Hill was out of the question so I chanced my arm and called into Paddy and asked if he would mind some children coming in to see him. He not only made us welcome but put on a show for us and we were all engrossed by what this man could do with these lumps of clay. Paddy had featured in David Shaw-Smith’s book, “Hands” and had also appeared in the television programme which followed. I recall him explaining that in his apprenticeship he had spent a whole year throwing two-inch pots and it was only after that time that he was considered competent to progress to bigger pots – three-inch pots! So, this magic is born of practice, experience and hard work.
On our visit to Kiltrea we watched one of the biggest pots of their range being made, a pot so big that it had to be made in two parts, the base and the upper section being thrown separately and joined the following day when the clay had dried a little and was firm enough to take the great weight without collapsing. The base, the smaller part, required between five and ten kilograms of clay yet it was formed with a gentleness of touch that made the process seem effortless, even magical.
Post Scriptum: I’ve just had a visit to the Kiltrea Pottery Facebook page and found a video of Stephen finishing these big post – it is really impressive: