We chatted with Michael Holden, who is now our head decorator, about what it has been like working here at Nicholas Mosse Pottery for over 35 years.
"I started work in Nicholas Mosse Pottery on the 31st of July 1979.
I was taken on initially for the summer holidays - to date it has been a long summer!
At that time the pottery was producing salt glaze ware, a beautiful brown speckled stoneware body decorated with a cut rubber stamp dipped into ink and applied to the ware by hand. The decoration was a bird, flower and leaf.
My very first task at the pottery was packing eggcups for an order that had to go to Ballymaloe in Cork – nerve wracking!
A couple of weeks into the job, Nicholas Mosse was commissioned to make a limited edition chalice and bowl for the visit of Pope John Paul II. It was to commemorate his mass in Phoenix Park, Dublin on 29th September 1979. I was given the task of embossing Pope John Paul II Ireland 1979 into the leather hard clay before it dried – again more nerves!
Nick and Susan changed from stoneware to spongeware in the mid 1980’s. While it was a very exciting time – this method of decorating took a bit of getting used to. It was a big change from the old rubber stamp method.
From this period to the present day I have been involved in the production process over the years, and today as head decorator in the pottery my job is to supervise the production through decoration, glazing and firing. Our gas kilns slowly bring the ware up to top temperature at 60 degrees per hour, this is critical and needs to be monitored throughout the firing, so we had to install a system that allows us the check the progress of the firing after work from at home – we can now use a mobile phone. I still get butterflies each morning before opening the kiln, how did the week’s production turn out? Are there many seconds? What were the causes? You are always learning in this business.
It is great to see a pattern born from a sketch or idea from Susan and working with her to see it through the final layout.
Over the years there have been many exciting projects, one in particularly was meeting Sybil Connolly for a range she designed with Nick and Susan for Tiffany’s in New York.
More recently a customer called to the pottery with a photo of his grandparents’ house and wondered could we paint it onto a platter as he wanted to give it to them as a Christmas present. Susan cut out a new set of sponges for this platter and gave me some tips on how I might go about painting it like you would a watercolor. The results were good and I started to paint a few more platters and we have completed some special commissions.
It gives me great pride to see these platters on display in the shop.
There is never a dull moment working at the pottery, there is always a new challenge and it’s great to be involved in something that keeps you motivated."