Pioneering ceramicist’s work for sale in large lots at Donegal

A pair of Frederic Vodrey drip decorated Dublin Studio Pottery vases at Matthews auction in Donegal tomorrow (500-700).

Des O’Sullivan highlights the sale of work by John ffrench, craftsman and founder of Arklow Studio Pottery.

No less than ten pieces by John ffrench (1928-2010)— the great pioneer of contemporary ceramics in Ireland — come up at a house auction at Lifford, Co Donegal at 2 pm tomorrow. 

John ffrench studied in Italy for four years and returned to set up the Ring Studio in Kilkenny with Peter Brennan in 1956. 

He began to create sculptural, experimental pots inspired by the Cubism of Picasso and Braque and the colours and shapes of Miro and Matisse, unlike any previously seen in this country. 

Much of the imagery of birds and swirls came from Castle ffrench, his childhood home in Galway.

In the 1950s mass produced work was standard in Ireland. The country had virtually no craft pottery tradition. 

John ffrench, who was of Irish-Italian parentage, founded the Arklow Studio Pottery and was closely involved with Kilkenny studios and exhibited at the Waddington Gallery in Dublin. His work is included in the permanent collection at the Crawford Gallery.

The ten pieces to be sold tomorrow are from the collection of Albert and Eva Johnson of Lifford, Co. Donegal. 

They are reasonably estimated, though of specialist interest and are part of a house sale of over 500 lots in a marquee at 2 pm. 

The auction will include about 25 pieces of Irish ceramics, as well as a good selection of antique furniture, art and collectibles including a pair of Irish silver Celtic Revival bowls. 

The auction is on view from 11 am to 5 pm today and from 10 am tomorrow. The catalogue is online at 


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