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Small NI Businesses in Lockdown: The Makers Edition with Claire Ceramics

About Claire Ceramics

Claire McCullough is a highly skilled potter who makes unique hand thrown porcelain pieces from her home studio in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland. With a love and passion for clay Claire always knew she wanted to make the craft her full time job. She launched her small business Claire Ceramics three years ago and has never looked back.

Having recently graduated with a First Class Honors in Ceramics, Claire continues to build on the friendships and support network she developed during this time along with her audience. She finds real pleasure in sharing her work and the creative process with others and makes the most of Instagram for showcasing new collections and providing an insight into the life of a potter.

"I’m a potter because I truly love the craft and want to share my work and the process with others."

Adapting to Lockdown

Supplier Troubles

The announcement of lockdown had a huge impact on the running of Claire's small business particularly in terms of accessing supplies. While some supplies such as clay were still available the restrictions meant that collection of these weren't possible. The longer shipping process put greater time constraints on the business not to mention the added business costs.

As a result Claire was forced to increase her prices to ensure she earned enough profit to keep her business afloat. In response to the supplies that were unavailable which included certain glaze products, Claire had to adapt and redesign her work in order to still produce high quality pieces.

Online Presence

Lockdown did have it's positives including more studio time which allowed Claire to direct her focus towards improving both her online offering and also her efficiency in the studio. Claire had been meaning to work on her online presence for a while but it was lockdown that really gave her that final push to bring it together as people had no other way of keeping up to date with her work. Claire's main online platforms are her website and Instagram and during lockdown she worked hard to add new collections that she could promote and sell through these channels.

Adding New Collections

The pandemic and the impact of lockdown inspired Claire's work and during this time she actually launched a collection called 'Lockdown'. As she states on her website, Lockdown is a series of porcelain vessels designed to really capture the range of emotions felt during this global experience. Each pot within the collection represents a different experience and includes; Lockdown, Isolation, Uncertainty, The Positive and Get Creative. Just as people were separated during lockdown, these vessels are separated by the experience they each represent and yet they remain connected by Covid-19.

Claire's most recent collection is called 'To the Sea' and consists of a range of functional porcelain pieces that are bold in colour and designed to portray the contrast of joy and harshness associated with the coast. Her use of blues, yellows and greys aim to create playful chaotic surfaces on natural flowing forms. The collection proved to be a great success with the mugs selling out on the same day as the shop update.

Claire Ceramics in Paris

In September, one of Claire's vases from her Mourne collection was chosen to be exhibited at 1000 Vases, an event that was held in Paris which aimed to shine a light on unique pieces made by independent makers from over 35 countries. This was a great achievement for Claire and an opportunity to promote her work outside of Northern Ireland.

In-Store Collections

Claire recently announced the exciting news that a selection of her pieces from her Mourne collection are now being stocked in MADE in Mourne, a store and creative working space based in Kilkeel that celebrates local talent. Her new mug collection 'Unique' is also being stocked in the Belfast art and design shop which is also called 'UNIQUE' and is home to work created by nearly 200 past and present Ulster University students.

Graduate in Residence Programme

Claire accepted the offer to return to Ulster University through their Graduate in Residence Program and is really looking forward to working alongside fellow crafters again, holding workshops and the opportunity to gain experience in teaching her craft to ceramic students.

Looking Ahead

Claire feels that the public have shown great support and have really gotten behind small business during this tough time. This along with the opportunities and connections that Claire has made over the year has given her a sense of hope and positivity for the success of her small business.

One of her concerns surrounds the potential impact that the economy will have on sales due to ceramics and pottery not being considered as essential items. She worries that if unemployment rises people may find themselves with less disposable income making them less able to treat themselves to luxury pottery items.

In the meantime Claire is working on her next collection with her new dog Wubbzy by her side. She hopes that in the near future she will be able to run her own pottery classes so that more people can fall in love with the craft.

Visit Claire's website below where you can also find links to her Instagram and Facebook.

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