Wheels turn as Kinsale Pottery marks 20 years 

Adrian Wistreich tells Colette Sheridan why working on pottery has been the perfect way to spend lockdown
Wheels turn as Kinsale Pottery marks 20 years 
Adrian Wistreich, left, teaching at his pottery in Kinsale.

Celebrating twenty years, Kinsale Pottery, founded by former businessman, Adrian Wistreich, has been reaching out to the public in these restricted times. 

During lockdown, Wistreich launched The Great Kinsale Pottery Lockdown Challenge. 

It involved preparing and sending out boxes of materials and making teaching videos so that participants around the country could make ceramic pieces at home.

Lockdown, for Wistreich  has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. "I spent the first few weeks making things for myself and for the garden and then I came up with the challenge idea which is a take on the UK reality TV programme, The Great Pottery Throw Down. 

"I set four challenges. They're still running, involving 35 participants, who are amateur potters and have so far made 140 pieces. There are prizes of pottery class vouchers for the winners in the adult, teenager and children categories."

While Wistreich prefers face-to-face teaching of pottery than teaching at a distance, he has surveyed 150 students and established that about half of them are interested in doing distance projects. 

During lockdown, he had time to reflect on how many of us had been leading our lives.

"I believe that we were running at a speed that was too fast. All the businesses that I know of were chasing one thing - and that was volume. They wanted growth and busyness. They were measuring themselves based on the output of what they did and how much they were turning over. 

"But I think we need to look more at the outcomes of what we do. What I mean by that is what is the impact of the way we behave on the way we live? How do we feel afterwards? 

I discovered that my students come to Kinsale Pottery to relax, reduce their stress and to feel better. That's all part of the creative experience. 

"That's what I'm aiming for now. Covid-19 has forced us all to look at what we're doing and to change our lives."

Wistreich knows all about consciously changing his own life, having quit the rat-race in London after more than twenty years of corporate life. 

He worked as a publisher and research consultant. His career included running the music charts in the UK for three years. He also ran his own company. 

"For seven years, I had forty staff and I spent a lot of time worrying about paying their salaries. It was stressful. When I came to Ireland, I just wanted to be an artist. I was burnt out and it took me a while to recover."

Having completed a diploma in ceramics and design at Hackney College of Art in London, Wistreich set himself up making and teaching pottery in Kinsale. 

He says he had very high expectations "in terms of getting things done. But teaching is not about that. It took me a long time to stop bullying my students into producing lots of pieces."

Wistreich, who is a market analyst consultant on a part-time basis, still seems quite driven. But his drive nowadays is about exploring his creativity. In 2016, he completed the Masters in creative writing at UCC. 

"I was 58at the time. I decided to treat myself to an enjoyable year. I absolutely loved the course. I was tutored by Mary Morrissy who is one of my teaching heroes."

Subsequently, Wistreich went on to write four novels, two of which are self-published. The most recent one, entitled It's Good for You, is a sci-fi thriller that is set in 2047 and is about the misuse of personal health care data. 

(Wistreich won a short story competition organised by Fish publishing in 2004 which gave him the confidence to write.) He has the urge to create, all the time.

 "I focus on different things at different times. That way, I can use my energy in business, creative writing and pottery. 

What I love about pottery is not the making of it but the teaching. I love communicating. All art is a form of communication. It's all about the impact on the receiver."

This polymath has another novel coming out soon. Entitled Joe, it's based on his family but is mainly fictional. 

He has already written a novel, entitled Miriam, about his Jewish grandmother who was living in Poland around the Second World War when it was occupied by the Nazis and the Soviets. 

- Adrian Wistreich features in a new book, Cork Potters: 40 Years, 1980-2020, edited by Etain Hickey and Catherine Ryan, which will be launched on August 7 at the Lavit Gallery on the 40th anniversary of Cork Potters' Exhibition as part of Cork Craft Month.

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up