Meet The Maker: Sarah McKenna of Sarah McKenna Ceramics

Meet The Maker: Sarah McKenna of Sarah McKenna Ceramics

Sarah McKenna has been developing her unique handmade Irish pottery at Bridge Street Studios since 1999. Before returning to Dundalk she studied Ceramics at Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art & Design, the University of Dundee, Scotland where she gained a Bachelor of Ceramic Design.

Sarah’s work has always been engaged in the process and the early studio work was concerned with smoke firing and raku firing sculptural vessel forms.

In 2006 Sarah started producing a range of quirky customisable ceramics giftware which is the beginning of what you can purchase today.

She is a mother of two boys and wife to a hairy musician. In her “spare time” she is a Scout Leader.

What do you do? Tell us about your craft

I am a potter based in Ireland. My work is all about linking memories, sentiment and nostalgia to transform an everyday object into a special gift. So I impress text into the clay pieces - inspiring quotes, poetry and sentimental lyrics to tug on the heartstrings and make people smile.

Each piece is hand-built by me in my 250-year-old studio space in Dundalk, Co Louth, Ireland.

The design of each piece is carefully considered to provide a beautiful gift to have and cherish in your home. If you are looking for something extra special you can have your own text imprinted into the clay for that extra bit of thoughtfulness.

A handmade piece of Sarah McKenna Ceramics is a gift which will be cherished now and as an heirloom in the future

What did you do before?

I am one of the unusual ones; from the moment I laid my hands on clay, I studied ceramics in Duncan of Jordonstone in Dundee. When I returned to Ireland, in 1999, a spot became available in Bridge Street Studios, a group studio set up in 1995 by 4 ceramic artists. So, I jumped at the opportunity. 

How did you get the idea for this product? Or how did it come about?

When I am designing, I like to make things I would like to use in my own life, like the impressed plates I made to fit in my hand or the cheeseboard, which is designed to be big enough to load up with goodies but still light enough to be passed around the table. 

I always think of the taste test done with identical chocolate brownies, the first in a paper bag, the 2nd on a napkin, the third on a chipped plate and so on until no 5 is placed on a beautiful ornate plate dusted with icing sugar. It all sounds too obvious, but how do they actually win a taste test!

I want my pieces to enhance daily dining – so we can feel yes, today is a good day, I am using the good china.

What is the most challenging part of your craft?

Having discernment, knowing when to add and when to take away. My design ideas can be pretty busy in my head. I have to filter and distil that down to what is essential to make the piece work. Of course, as an independent trader, I need to have a go at all the jobs. But even then, I need discernment to know when I need help.

What do you love about this craft?

I love making; I try to make sure I touch clay every day. However, that can be a challenge because there are so many more tasks other than making. 

The making and creating itself is sometimes enough for me. I do like to make things for myself. If no one else wants it, that can be ok. Especially since I just get to make more things. When I make something, and people love it and use it all the time, that brings the bonus fulfilment!

Have you won any awards for your product? If so, what was it, when and what was it for?

Some really cool stuff has happened, my work has been selected to gift to Presidents and Taoiseach’s, and I have won some lovely awards. Still, the real pride I have in my career comes from the responses from my customers, the real joy that giving or receiving a piece that has meaning and memories attached. My goal is to create pieces that remind you of joy – so when you use a piece, it reminds you of the person who gifted it to you and reminded you of the fun and joy you have with them. Then, if you buy the piece for yourself even better, we need to be reminded even more of the love and joy we have in ourselves!

How can people order/buy your product?

From my website Sarahmckenna.ie or from shops and galleries listed on my website.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting out?

Don’t doubt that you are actually quite good at what you do and will get better and better. 

Focus, in my twenties and thirties, I really tried to do lots of things at the same time as time goes by. So, I now know my goal and focus on that.

How long have you been featured in The Designerie?

For several years! 

What area of The Designerie are you featured in?

The Shop.

What do you love about The Designerie?

The range and variety.

How would you describe The Designerie to someone who didn't know about it?

Beautiful shop filled with high-quality handmade goods.

You can follow Sarah on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or to see more of her products go to www.sarahmckenna.ie