EMER O’Sullivan is a ceramic artist originally from Donegal having recently moved to Dublin. She works with white earthenware clay and makes functional pieces such as vases, jugs, table ware, cake stands and soap dishes to name a few. Emer studied Contemporary Crafts at Manchester Metropolitan University graduating in 2000 with a first class honours degree. Her degree show was an exhibition of hand built paper clay ceramics and screen printed textiles inspired by her grandmother’s kitchen and the interiors of old Irish cottages such as papered walls, lace curtains, miscellaneous crockery hanging from dressers. Since graduating from college Emer’s work has evolved but some of her original ideas are still evident such as the impressions of lace on the clay.
For a couple of years she experimented with brighter colours but she reverted back to the original creamy white glaze and oxides of turquoise and pink hues. “I think it is the colours and glazes in my work that make it stand out from other contemporary Irish ceramics, plus the fact that they are hand built as opposed to being made on a potter’s wheel,” she said. “This is something that is remarked upon regularly at the craft fairs that Emer exhibits at. She draws onto the clay; mainly flowers, foliage and tea cups, hence a lot of her pieces tend to be limited edition pieces as she is always introducing new designs. “For me it is important to introduce new products every year. It motivates me and if I want repeat custom it’s vital” said Emer. For the last five years or so, Emer been making pieces that are commissioned or bought as wedding gifts. Examples are sets of tea cups with a milk jug, sugar bowl & spoon set, large fruit bowls and the ‘wedding pitcher’. “I love sourcing really pretty boxes for them as they set off the pieces and they make for such a personal gift, really pretty but functional too,” she said. Emer is a member of the ‘Donegal Designer Makers’ and loves being a part of the group. “It keeps me connected with the other makers and we organize exhibitions together. I sell my work in our shop in Ardara as well as Mourne Antiques in Letterkenny.” The biggest craft fair that Emer takes part in is ‘The National Crafts & Design Fair’ which takes place in December every year. As well as running her own business Emer is on the panel for ‘CRAFTed’, an art educational programme run in primary schools organised by the Crafts and Design Council of Ireland. “I really enjoy working with children and the programme enables them and their teachers to explore materials and methods of working that aren’t always accessible in schools due to restriction of funding and knowledge of more specialized crafts. I completed one such programme in Letterkenny Educate Together in 2012,” she said.
IN THE STUDIO…
Emer works from her log cabin studio at the back of our garden in Dublin. “I have a son Tom who’ll be turning two soon and I feel very fortunate that I can work part time whilst looking after him. I don’t have him in the studio with me though as he’d destroy the place! “I have cut down on the amount of fairs I do, focusing instead on making stock and new work. I don’t have much time for hobbies as I love being in my studio when I have some free time.”
“My favourite contemporary artist is a ceramist called Jane Muir. She’s based in London and I love her quirky figures and heads with flowers stuck on top of them. I exhibited at Chelsea Crafts Fair in 2003 and it was fantastic to meet her there,” said Emer. “I also love Gustav Klimt’s paintings and loved seeing his work in Prague on a college trip and in the MOMA in NYC a few years ago. “I also saw an exhibition of his work in huge caves in Provence last summer …his works were projected onto the gigantic walls, ceilings and grounds of the caves which kept changing to the sound of classical music. It was a really special experience.”
Contact Emer O’Sullivan
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, join her on ‘Emer O’ Sullivan Ceramics’, her website is www.emerosullivanceramics.com or www.donegaldesignermakers.com.