The Ceramics Ireland International Festival 2018

Grennan Mill, Thomastown, Kilkenny

The 2018 festival featured demonstrations and slide presentations from Isobel Egan and Mark Campden – Ireland, Susan O’Byrne – Ireland / UK and Nan Smith and Ben Carter and Darien Arikoski-Johnson – USA. 

Click on the image below for more information on each makers

The Lecture Programme will include Nuala Creed – Ireland / USA, Emily Free Wilson – USA, Wilhelm Siemen – Director of Porzellanikon – Germany and Chloe Dowds – Ireland.

Ben Carter 

Susan O'Byrne

Nan Smith

Mark Campden

Darien Arikoski-Johnson

Isobel Egan

We were delighted to include an exhibition of Edgar Campden’s beautifully decorated ceramics to mark his 20th Anniversary for the Festival weekend.

Twentieth Anniversary Commemorative Exhibition 1938-1998

Edgar Campden, artist and craftsman, worked in England and Ireland in a career that spanned over 40 years. This is a unique and rare opportunity to see a collection of work from this supremely talented individual.


Isobel Egan - Ireland

While I have always been inspired by architecture and its multi-dimensional portrayal of form, the inspiration for my work is in fact multifaceted and includes architecture, space, memory and emotion. I work exclusively with porcelain as the intrinsic characteristics of the material, its translucence and delicate paper-like quality enable me to fully realise my concepts.

My work represents a relationship with space and how it shapes us, both physically and emotionally. It also investigates the interrelationships between us and the buildings we inhabit. The structures I make connect these ideas and in doing so, they reflect on the human condition. I aim to pique the viewer’s curiosity, inviting them to look beyond the surface where they may discover intimate spaces that are, at first glance, hidden from view. The fundamental basis of my work is drawn from my life journey; ultimately it encompasses my personal interactions, experiences and observations.


The animal as metaphor occupies an extraordinary role in the imagination, and has colourfully populated myth, children’s stories and cultural tradition throughout history. Sharing our emotion but not our reason, the animal can be used as a vehicle to distil, reflect and embody aspects of our own humanity. Susan specialises in the making of narrative animal forms and has developed a unique set of making processes which aim to articulate human sensitivity.

The techniques she now utilises in her ceramic process combine a childhood obsession with making in papier-mâché and a continuing interest in domestic craft, line drawing, print and collage. Larger works begin with a high-temperature wire armature. This becomes a three-dimensional line drawing onto which sheets of thinly cast paper clay are applied to create a form, before the surface is collaged with a veneer of highly detailed printed paper porcelain. Most recent work has seen a development of the surface pattern to reference historic domestic needlepoint. This has involved the designing and production of laser-cut stencils that are used to create intricate, lace like patterns on the surface of the animal body.

Susan O'Byrne - Ireland/UK


Breathing Life into the Sculpted Human Head

What causes presence in the sculpted human form? Critical of sculptors of his time Michelangelo said many wasted the marble they carved. Rodin made sure the viewers knew his sculptures were not life casts. Each created resonant sculptures that projected energy as well as anatomical correctness.

Nan Smith will demonstrate how she sculpts the human head while discussing what she believes causes resonance and life in a figure sculpture. Nan will demonstrate how to create perceptual tools through mold-making to aid in the creation of a sculpted head. She will begin with life casting using plaster and alginate to create 3 dimensional models. The demonstration will continue with armature construction, and sculpting through solid building techniques. Rendering an expressive and anatomically believable human form, creating likeness, personality and expression will be discussed. Areas that are often forgotten in realizing a highly articulated human form will be disclosed during her demonstration.

Nan Smith - USA


Ben Carter - USA

My research focuses heavily on Silk Road traditions where Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures where influenced by Chinese porcelain that was being traded throughout the region from 900 AD onward. These pots have a playful energy that comes from copying objects that represent wealth and status. As a kid, I saw old fabric go through a similar process as it was repurposed into vibrant quilts that were both practical and highly decorative.

By blending floral motifs used in Appalachian quilting with the decorative language of historical ceramics, I work to create new hybrid patterns that enliven the surfaces of teapots, pitchers, and dinnerware. The forms are made from a rich terra cotta clay, which is covered in white slip before being carved and decorated with translucent glazes. Much like the Silk Road potters I attempt to elevate the status of my earthenware, giving it value through multiple layers of intense decoration.


Darien Arikoski-Johnson - USA

Known for incorporating the “glitch” aesthetic into the ceramic vernacular, A-Johnson’s work addresses thoughts of memory, technological integration, mark making, and perceptual consciousness. While his original draw to the ceramic medium was the physical nature in which it is manipulated, during Graduate school at Arizona State University, He found clay to be a relevant medium to explore the relationship of illusion and form, thought and physicality. A-Johnson has continued the exploration of these ideas and processes through multiple relocations, including time spent as a visiting artist at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, and an Assistant Professor at Buffalo State College. He most recently transitioned from being a full time studio artist in Copenhagen, Denmark to join Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA as an Assistant Professor.


Mark Campden - Ireland

Mark Campden has had a relationship with clay since he was a small boy, growing up in a household full of ceramics and ceramic activities. His work is distinctive for the skill of his brushwork decoration, rich in imagery inspired by those formative years surrounded by ceramics and the constant observation of life in the natural world.

Working in the majolica technique, his pieces are thrown or hand built in earthenware clay and covered with a tin glaze. The surface then becomes his canvas for meticulous decoration. Each detail in Mark’s work is hand painted using traditional in glaze painting techniques.

Since 2012 Mark has been making reduced pigment lustreware, an ancient Arabic technique using metal compounds in a clay paste pigment painted onto an already glaze-fired surface. Pots then require precise temperature and a reduced atmosphere in a specially built wood kiln. This new direction is as rewarding as it is challenging.

Have a look at this video from our 2014 festival: