Aileen Lee in conversation with ceramicist Hedi O'Neill.
What’s your background?
I grew up in Dublin and spent my summers — and as much spare time as possible — in Camp, in Co Kerry, so I have strong Kerry connections.
I travelled a lot after leaving school and ended up spending seven years living in Wales, first teaching paragliding.
Tragically, our best friend was killed in a paragliding accident, which made me reconsider what I was doing.
I had friends who were potters, so I spent five years learning from them, and self-learning, while my son was little. I loved it — it was a hobby that turned into a business.
I then came back to Ireland, to Kerry, and have my own business, Dingle Pottery, for 23 years now.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
I have a workshop at home and the shop is in the town, on Green Street. Most of my time is spent making and decorating pieces in the workshop.
Days usually include preparing clay, painting, glazing, stacking and emptying kilns, and restocking the shop.
In the summer, I work two days selling in the shop and often go back to the workshop in the evenings when it’s bright until 10pm.
I work all year round, but I work extra hard in summer because the pottery sells quickly.
I try to get a swim in most days as I’m close to Ventry, my favourite beach.
I am in the shop on Mondays and Tuesdays which is when I also box up and ship pottery to customers. It’s always nice to get feedback from people when they come in.
I share the shop with Kelly Marie McElligott, who makes jewellery — she sells my pottery for me the rest of the week. She makes her jewellery there, so it works for the both of us.
Tell us about a favourite project you have worked on?
Once a year, one of my best friends comes over from Wales. She’s an amazing artist and we do a collaboration of work together. Her name is Alice Perceval. Her father was a famous Australian artist.
We had an exhibition together for Féile na Bealtaine. Alice is an inspiration to me. When she’s here we work hard together, and it’s an organic process between us. I make the pots and decorate them and then she adds her designs.
What’s your design style?
It’s a very free organic style. There’s no set pattern to it, and no two pots are the same. They are colourful unique pieces.
What/who inspires you?
My original inspiration came from a UK potter called John Pollex. His work is amazing. I bought one of his jugs in a shop in Wales and I thought: “That style is what I want to do.”
About four years ago, we became friends on social media. To cut a long story short, he came to stay with me in Dingle for a couple weeks.
It was like I got a masterclass for those weeks. I learned a lot from him and I’m very grateful for that.
And, of course, Dingle inspires me — it’s such an amazing place to live. It’s so beautiful.
What’s your most treasured possession?
It would be my great-great-grandmother’s ring that my mum left to me when she passed away nearly two years ago now.
Your style inspiration?
Howard Hodgkin, the English artist — he would be an inspiration like John Pollex has been.
Your dream project?
My friend Alice and I have talked about doing an exhibition in Australia, where she is from originally.
It would be a dream project to work towards that exhibition together.
Have you any design tips?
Be free in your style. Don’t think about it too much.