Small NI Businesses in Lockdown: The Makers Edition with Rachel Leary
Updated: Nov 1
About Rachel Leary Ceramics
Rachel Leary is an award winning ceramicist who makes functional and decorative ceramic artworks from her home studio in the countryside of Co.Tyrone. Since graduating from her Masters in Ceramics in 2015 it has been a dream of Rachel's to start her own business and make a career out of making.
Much of Rachel's work is inspired by her love of nature and countryside surroundings. Through aesthetics of form, textures and design Rachel aims to create artwork that evokes memories of the countryside and it's hidden treasures and oddities. In addition to making Rachel also teaches art at venues in her local community where she gives others the opportunity to design, create and decorate something wonderful.
Cancellation of Craft Fairs
Like many other makers, craft fairs and workshops were Rachel's primary source of income until they were forced to cancel as a result of lockdown restrictions. In response to this Rachel diversified her product offering by focusing on the rainbow theme in her work - a symbol of hope and positivity that was widely adopted during lockdown.
Adapting to Lockdown
With no craft fairs or workshops to attend Rachel focused more of her time and energy into improving her online offering. Rachel's main online platforms are her website and Etsy page and during lockdown she worked hard to create and add new collections to sell through these channels.
Rachel has however stressed the difficulty of relying on online sales especially in a saturated market as it relies a lot on social media updates. The time spent on photographing her work to advertise on these platforms can often feel like time away from the actual making and creative process.
Adding New Collections
Rachel's 'Dribble' collection is incredibly unique and was interestingly inspired by an oozing fungus that Rachel spotted on one of her walks in the countryside a few years ago. The Dribble Collection is made from porcelain and Egyptian faience and all products are fully watertight making them great functional pieces.
Following the Dribble collection Rachel later launched the Watercolour Collection which was inspired by her love for drawing and the art of botanical painting. The collection includes these colourful oil/vinegar bottles, bottle vases, trinket bowls and mugs which are glazed and finished with Rachel's hand painted watercolour paintings of flowers or leaves.
Rachel's most recent collection was her new style of porcelain tea bowls which she sells in sets of three with four different colours to choose from. This collection displays beautifully how the glazes can react in the kiln and make each bowl unique but still perfect as a set.
As a result of her small business launching in November 2019, Rachel was not eligible to receive any Government support that was made available to small business owners during lockdown. She did however recently receive financial support from the Freelands Art Foundation which was a huge relief to Rachel and a big help in keeping her small business afloat in the short term.
Looking to the future of the business, Rachel feels uncertain as her business is relatively young and recovery will prove difficult due to setbacks that were brought about during lockdown. In the meantime Rachel will continue to do what she loves and she is excited for the reopening of workshops and craft fairs in particular as she loves nothing more than meeting and selling to her customers face to face.
Visit Rachel Leary's website below where you can also find links to her Etsy, Instagram and Facebook accounts.