On a sunny Sunday morning in late August, we arrived into the picturesque West Cork village of Durrus. Pinned to the doors of a closed local shop hung some twenty plastic carrier bags. On closer inspection, we realised each bag was marked with a customers name and contained their Sunday Newspaper. Not exactly astonishing, but surprising all the same, particularly to a couple of Dubs who can’t believe these bags haven’t been nicked.
West Cork is renowned for its strong sense of community. Durrus is situated on the Sheeps Head peninsula, and consists of a tiny main street lined with overflowing hanging baskets. The lure of a small community coupled with stunning scenery has enticed many to settle in pretty West Cork villages such as Durrus for decades now. Dublin native Helen Ennis is one such visitor who decided to make this quaint part of the country her home.
In 2000, Helen took over the running of Dunbeacon Pottery following many years apprenticing for potters all over Ireland. In the past 14 years, she has built a loyal customer base with her brand of hand made, functional ceramics.
Helen’s studio and showroom, which overlooks her beautifully maintained garden and out to the sea, is open to visitors six days a week. Over a cup of coffee, we discussed life in West Cork, Helen’s design and making process and best places to eat in the area! …….
Can you tell us a little about the making process?
Firstly, I process the clay, then, in order: throwing, turning, applying handles if necessary, bisc firing, glazing and finally glaze firing. The entire process can take up to 2 weeks to complete.
Do you have any new ranges and or products in the pipeline?
At the moment I am happy working on the ranges I currently produce, my customers obviously like them too as they are selling well. While I always have ideas for other ranges in the back of my mind for now I am happy to work at what I do. I am going to the States next week and am looking forward to visiting ceramics galleries as well as some studios too hopefully.
Being self employed has its challenges, what are the best and worst bits?
Being self employed is great in that I have control over each aspect of production, on the downside I am the only one to blame when any such aspect goes wrong!
How do you like to switch off from the pottery business?
For down time from the pottery there is plenty of walking to do in the area. But mostly I enjoy spending time with friends. The wealth of friendships that I have built up in west Cork is integral to living in this area for me. Recently, we have been doing a shared gardening group where we go to to a friends garden as a group and get some bigger jobs done, its a good social opportunity as well as getting some garden chores done!
I also enjoy going for a drink in Levis' pub Ballydehob, there will often be some kind of session on there at the weekend
Finally, West Cork is renowned for artisan food production, where are your favourite foodie spots in the area?
For food I like The Stuffed Olive and Organico in Bantry, Good Things Cafe in Durrus usually has interesting locally sourced delicious food. For the best (and probably biggest!) scones in west Cork I will go to Jims Coffe Shop in Glengarriff. Picnic supplies will come from Mannings in Ballylickey or a local farmers market.