Design/life: Mary Neeson, Ceramic artist and designer

Mary Neeson’s style is minimalist – she likes simple design with clean lines.

What’s your background?

I was born in Kerry and studied Ceramic Design in Crawford College of Art and Design. That has led me to where I am today — living and working in Killarney. 

I have a workshop and gallery at the edge of Killarney National Park called The Blue Pool.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I am an early riser and a typical work day for me always starts with a coffee — otherwise work does not start! I try to get the admin work, such as responding to emails, online sales, enquiries, out of the way as early as possible. 

This is my least favourite aspect of my job, but once this is done I can move onto the creative stuff.

A robin arrives for a meal at one of Mary Neeson’s birdfeeders.
A robin arrives for a meal at one of Mary Neeson’s birdfeeders.

Some days I can get stuck into the creative process and produce lots of pieces, other days are not so productive, but if I am not actually making, I am usually thinking about what to make next.

The gallery usually closes at 6pm, but I often work late in the studio and get totally lost in what I am doing, especially in the lead up to Christmas, which is the busiest time of year for me.

Tell us about a recent design/ favourite design you have worked on?

My porcelain birdfeeders are probably one of my favourite designs and one that I continue to get enjoyment from — I love watching birds feeding from the two I have hanging on my apple trees in the back garden. 

It is great to see these being used and enjoyed both by people and birds. Many people are amazed that they are functional as well as decorative.

What’s your design style?

My style is minimalist – I like simple design with clean lines. I don’t tend to like designs which are over complicated or too fussy. I am a big believer in the saying that “less is more”.

What/Who inspires your work?

My sources of inspiration are constantly evolving but I am often inspired by nature, textiles, people, colours and by the clay itself.

I am living and working at the edge of Killarney National Park, which is an endless source of inspiration for me. 

If I have a creative block, I often take a break for about an hour and go for a walk or head to Muckross for a quick cycle. 

Mary Neeson’s porcelain bird - feeders are one of her favourite designs.
Mary Neeson’s porcelain bird - feeders are one of her favourite designs.

It is often at times like this that I get my best inspiration. I almost have to ‘switch off’ and stop thinking about a project in order to get inspiration for it.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?

I don’t really follow trends — I like high-end design with high-quality materials.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I am generally not a very materialistic person — my work tools and my kiln are probably my most treasured possessions because without them I would not be able to create. 

I also have a collection of ceramic pots from various designers whose work I admire. I have been building this collection since I first became interested in ceramics. 

I believe that some have quite a value but I would find it difficult to part with them.

Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

One style inspiration for me is Elle Decoration magazine. I have always enjoyed reading it and love the features in it, with stunning photography. 

I am buying it for years and was absolutely delighted to have my work featured in it last December .

What would be a dream project/design for you to work on?

To be honest, working on my own has always been my dream. I am a big believer in living in the present and I feel at the moment that I am living the dream. 

Mary Neeson porcelain pots.
Mary Neeson porcelain pots.

I take on private commissions from time to time and enjoy the variety of work and unique focus that these opportunities bring, but generally when I design something I do it for myself. 

I don’t have a specific dream project in mind but am constantly trying to come up with new ideas. I guess I’m just enjoying where I am at the moment.

Have you any design tips for us?

The hardest thing I found as a ceramic designer is learning to listen to my own voice and not be influenced by fads or popular trends. 

Don’t get caught up in the trends — love and explore what you do. 

When you love something, you lose yourself in it and that’s usually when the magic happens. Truly expressing yourself will probably get you further to your goal than following trends ever will.

You can see more of Mary Neeson’s work via her website and via her social media sites Twitter @mneesonceramics; and Facebook:


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