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Ireland’s First Pottery Économusée Opens at Breeogue Pottery, Sligo!

Ireland’s first pottery Économusée was opened yesterday, Thursday, 15th May at Breeogue Pottery, Knocknahur, Co. Sligo by Deirdre Kennedy of Sligo LEADER Partnership Co. Ltd. An Économusée is an artisan business that opens its doors to the public to provide a learning and interpretive experience for visitors.

The concept was developed in Québec, Canada, over twenty years ago where rural artisan businesses that are supported to develop a tourism aspect to their operations are called Économusée. These Économusées form a tourism-based network, or trail, which assists the businesses to expand sales, sustain employment and offer an enhanced visitor experience.

Breeogue Pottery Économusée is a studio and gallery which displays the work of Gráinne Mac Loughlin and Tom Callery. The late 18th century barn is the perfect setting for their sculptural ceramics and stoneware pottery. The Économusée provides a wonderful opportunity to meet with two uniquely talented craft makers who use very different methods within one medium. Tom works from sketches and photographs of river banks, bogs and landscapes; he then incises these images onto clay forms, and then uses an ancient Japanese glazing technique called “raku” which produces an array of rich iridescent colours and hues. By contrast, most of Grainne’s work is wheel-thrown enjoying the form and detail produced by this process. She also works in porcelain enhancing its purity with glazes that in the firing process melt and fuse together, creating new patterns and subtle colours inspired by a fascination and excitement with the wonderful part of the world she lives in.

Breeogue Pottery is also one of the ’50 hidden secrets’ of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500 km coastal driving route stretching from Donegal to Cork, which is the key attraction being promoted by Fáilte Ireland to encourage tourists to visit the Western Seaboard. Breeogue Pottery is also a member of the Made in Sligo initiative which is a network of gifted and quality assessed craft workers who are based in Co. Sligo. Tom and Gráinne are both members of Ceramics Ireland which aims to foster creativity, passion and excellence, raising the standard, quality and profile of all ceramic activity in Ireland.

An Économusée is an important heritage tourism attraction and contributes to the sustainability of rural areas through the creation of direct employment and by providing an attraction that disperses tourists to rural regions. Speaking at the opening, Grainne Mac Laughlin of Breeogue Pottery said that the establishment of Co Sligo’s first Économusée at our gallery is a welcome contribution to the development of heritage tourism in the North West and provides another activity to attract tourists along the Wild Atlantic Way. The Économusée model and concept complements other networks of which we are a member of such as the Made in Sligo initiative.

Ireland’s involvement with the Économusée concept arose from an invitation to Teagasc to become a partner in an EU Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) funded-project to bring the successful Économusée concept and business model to selected rural areas in Europe. Involving partners in 7 countries, the project called CRAFT INTERNATIONAL has already established a network of 22 Économusées through the NPP area with a target of 93 Économusées internationally by the end of 2014. Breeogue Pottery is only the fourth of its kind in Ireland, with the other three located at the Celtic Roots Studio in Ballinahown, Athlone, Co. Westmeath; the Connemara Smokehouse in Aillebrack, Ballyconneely, Co. Galway and St. Tola’s Goat Cheese, in Inagh Co. Clare. There are also 3 Économusées in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Kevin Heanue who is leading the project for Teagasc said: “The future of much economic activity in rural areas depends on small business producing high value added products based on local knowledge, skills and resources and also the production of sophisticated tourism services, such as heritage tourism. Against this background, the Économusée concept is an innovative model of enterprise support that assists artisan producers diversify their business into the heritage tourism market by providing them with a 6 step template to help them structure the visitor experience. There are opportunities for other quality producers to join this heritage tourism network in the future”.