Many people in Ireland don't know about Arklow Pottery. Nor do they know how or why we have collected hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of it over the years. We have a wide an always changing selection of Arklow Pottery available in our Clare Street shop... until we run out!
First of all, something about Arklow Pottery. This manufacturuing company was founded in 1934, initally employing 200 people, growing to close to 500, and producing up to 25,000 items per week. Much of it was exported around the globe, and in Ireland a set of Arklow pottery was often a prize possession. Arklow Pottery produced dinnerware for top hotels and other institutions around the country. Design kept up with international trends, and it even created its own art pottery within the main factory, Arklow Studio Pottery. They engaged the ceramic artist John ffrench to run this, and work from this period is now highly regarded and very collectable. As an entity, Arklow Pottery is an unusual business in Ireland. Unlike England, or even Northern Ireland, there was very little industry in Ireland. It was overwhelmingly an agricultural economy. Arklow Pottery was an exception: progressive in design and export driven. With increasing competition from the Far East, Arklow Pottery closed in 1998, following a turbulent two decades.
Regarding our collection, it started innocently enough. A weekly walk to the bank from Monkstown to Dun Laoghaire brings you past a series of charity shops. Already with a beautiful early dinner service from Arklow in our possession, a quick peek in each shop on the way past was always a distracting detour. As the years passed, more and more pieces of Arklow joined the dinner service that Anthea had bought for me (Tig Mays) as a birthday present. There's a great thrill in finding one or two small things in a huge jumble of clutter. It becomes an addiction, and with practice, the eye can scan over hundreds of items and spot the one or two pieces of Arklow Pottery hidden in their midst.
As the years passed, more and more of this came to the Howbert & Mays family home. I was the hunter gatherer and Anthea was the increasingly perplexed person who had to share her home with so much pottery. Lovely as it is, we had more of it that we could ever use or store. A shed filled up with it, on shelves and in boxes, as well as cupboards all over the house. We used as much of it as we possibly could, but there is only so much crockery one family can use.
So now we're finally parting with most of it. Hopefully, it will find its way into other homes and be used and enjoyed on a day-to-day basis. As we sell out of one series we can move on to another. It's so much nicer to drink a cup of tea or coffee from a decent bit of pottery. The fact that it was made in Ireland, when so little else was, makes each piece a small part of our cultural and industrial heritage.
Lastly, don't wash Arklow Pottery in the dishwasher. The beautiful gold leaf will not survive multiple cycles. Wash by hand in hot soapy water.