Thomas Diem would know. From his studio in Athlone, County Westmeath, Thomas gives classes at Diem Pottery from the basics to the finer points of the craft.
According to the man himself, the courses are as much about meeting people as they are about creating: “During courses, we would always talk freely while working – be it about the work in hand or just general chat. I try to keep things quite informal, which helps everyone feel less self-conscious and allows them to express themselves more and in turn to produce better results.”
Craft courses, though, are not confined to bustling towns like the riverside Athlone. Dip into the deepest, most rural part of Ireland, and you’ll find them there, too.
It doesn’t get more rural than the townland of Drummin. Sweeping mountains, dry stone walls and cosy farms make this part of Mayo the perfect image of pastoral Ireland. And the swathe of green surrounding the stone cottage of Derryaun Craft is a good place to start looking for creative inspiration.
Proprietor and artist Suzie Sullivan is a bit of a renaissance woman. Her list of skills ranges from felt making to dyeing, jewellery making to weaving and spinning to wire work. Through Derryaun Crafts, she shares those talents with the world.
Impressive locations seem to be a theme of craft courses in Ireland. With rare exception, crafty folk have set up in some of the island’s loveliest spots. Take Pretty Crafty for one. The cute-as-a-button studio and shop doesn’t just enjoy the leafy surrounds of Downhill Forest, County Derry-Londonderry, it’s also a stone’s throw from the picture-perfect Mussenden Temple. Oh, and possibly the northern coast’s finest beach at Downhill.
Mask making, stone painting, model boat building – they’re all yours to master there.
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The dramatic locations continue with painting courses on Achill Island and the Burren. Kinsale Pottery & Arts Centre on the coast south of Cork city includes glass fusing and stained glass making in its repertoire; and then you’ve got photography courses, such as ShutterSheep Photo Safaris & Workshops on Antrim’s magnificent coastline.
At times, craft courses in Ireland get cosy, too. Under the thatched roofs of Ballydougan Pottery on the planes of Armagh creative spirit has flowed for decades. A sojourn there is spent throwing pots, lounging over long lunches in the restaurant and late-night card games in one of the cottages.
You’re on holiday after all. Who said it had to be hard work...?