Design/life: Siobhain Steele, Ceramicist

Artist Siobhain Steele shows her mettle with ceramics, says Aileen Lee.

Design/life: Siobhain Steele, Ceramicist

What’s your background?

My background is in nursing, but a number of years ago, I got the opportunity to return to college.

I discovered that ceramics was my passion. I went to Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa, Cork, initially, then onto Crawford College of Art and Design. I did a Degree in Ceramic Design, and graduated in 2013.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I like to be out in my studio at 8/8.30am. My commute is short — 10 steps across the yard, which is fantastic.

Every day is different. It could vary from making new work; firing; glazing; preparing orders; or working at Cork Craft and Design Outlet at Douglas Mills.

I supply many stockists around the country, so at this time of the year, I would be preparing orders. Commissions come in all the time, so I am working on them as well.

Tell us about a recent project or design you have worked on?

Mai Manning and I have put together a design called ‘Message in a Bottle’ for the younger age group, ranging from ‘On the Day You Were Born’ and ‘On Your First Day in Big School’ to ‘On your First Holy Communion’ and ‘On your Confirmation’.

It comes with a scroll, and the idea is that you write your keepsake and they have it forever.

Message in a Bottle is a proud partner of the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF) Crumlin, so our little bottles are not only a lovely sentimental keepsake, they are also doing some good along the way. The Crumlin Hospital is fantastic.

Another project I am working on is with Cork International Choral Festival, creating their awards for this year. I am delighted with the opportunity.

What’s your design style?

It’s a fusion of clean lines and simplicity with a nostalgic twist. My colour range complements contemporary and traditional interiors.

What/Who inspires your work?

I’m living in a beautiful part of the country, and I am very much inspired by my surroundings.

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

I wouldn’t follow any specific trends, but I am always looking around. I love design shows. I visited Maison & Objet in September. It wasn’t as ‘wow’ as I thought it was going to be.

Things are becoming very ‘samey’ all over the world. I think with the internet, everyone has access to everything. Things are almost being diluted.

What I was looking at was what the locals are doing, the artisan people rather than the mass-produced stuff, so that was quite interesting.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I have a beautiful collection of ceramic pieces from my travels, each piece telling its own story.

My treasure really though is escaping to the garden. That’s where I go and chill. That to me is heaven.

Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

In college, I loved the work of Austrian-born ceramic artist Lucy Rie.

I also love the work of Sara Flynn, who graduated from the Crawford and is now a prized international ceramic artist. She’s from Cork and a wonderful artist.

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

I had the opportunity to work with Galway company Cloon Keen Atelier — we created a bespoke candle holder for Create in 2015.

I made the holder and Cloon Keen Atelier made an aromatic poured candle, which was absolutely gorgeous. I love working in collaboration with people. I have new projects coming online now — that’s always lovely to do.

Have you any design tips?

Simplicity — less is more. We hear it all the time, but often don’t do it. Work with a simple palette and then you can add your wow piece, the piece that will stand out.

This is a quote I was commissioned to write on my ‘Message On a Bottle’ range for the National Gallery of Ireland last year, to coincide with a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition.

I think it is appropriate for this question: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication’ —Leonardo da Vinci.

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