The changing times of Moville pottery

Lowry carefully paints one of Moville pottery's famous mugs
Lowry carefully paints one of Moville pottery's famous mugs

For 35 years Moville Pottery has been a thriving busy tucked away in the seaside town. A proud promoter of Inishowen throughout the country and further afield, Moville Pottery has faced the good times and the bad, but still remains true to its roots while at the same time modernising and evolving throughout its three and a half decades in business.

Owner Lowry Wasson attended Art College in Belfast with “no notion” of becoming a potter, but when he first tried ceramics he admits he just “fell in love” with it. From there, Lowry perfected his skill working with Tilgman Keramic in Derry for almost three years alongside one of the world’s greatest ever throwers (twisting a ball of clay is placed in the center of a turntable, which the potter rotates).

Lowry who describes the pottery business as a “nice way to earn a living”, now has become a master in his own right and was once the faster thrower in Europe making a mammoth 80 mugs per hour.

In 1976, Lowry started his own pottery business in Derry and about six years later he moved down to Moville and has since, he, and his partner Brian McLaughlin who has been with the local company 19 years, have never looked back.

“There have been big changes since we first opened our door. When we started there wasn’t really any one else, it was a growing market and there was a few good years and at one stage we even had about six people employed. But overtime more and more potters started up and since bigger shopping centres have come in independent stores we always sold to have been pushed out. It has a detrimental effect on the whole industry in my opinion. The only good point is that we were one of the first to start up and we’re one of the last standing.”

Lowry believes the government and previous’ governments lack of investment and interest in the craft industry is short-sighted.

“All you hear is about the importance of tourism, well the craft industry in Ireland sells over 40% of their products to tourists. It is a major provider to the tourist market. We always get tourists coming into us, and importantly they are repeat visitors.”

Throughout the years, Moville Pottery have sold nationwide, and there famous mugs and products can be seen right across the globe, even one distinguished film star was the proud owner of their mugs.

“We used to have a small shop in Kilkenny that stocked our mugs. At that time there was a film being filmed there, and one day they got an order to make a number of personalised mugs. At that time we used to make blue designs for men and pink ones for women, we got a call to make a blue style one for Marlon…. We thought that was a strange name for a man, so when we found out more, we discovered it was Marlon Brando- so as far as we know he is the most famous person with one of our mugs.”

The two men believe the mugs are their most well known product, but insist the quantity is nothing in comparison to what it used to be ten years ago, and instead are focusing on new ways to evolve their beloved business.

“You go through stages, the mugs can be really popular then they can die out for a while so I think the mugs might need another bit of a rest. We’re concentrating on the home fragrance side of things by making shades for the Yankee Candles and burners. “We just thought we could produce a better quality product as an alternative to the mass produced shades in China. They’re used to stop the candles going black and enable it to burn down evenly instead of just down the middle. We have five new outlets throughout the country and we’ve had a terrific reaction from many more, but unfortunately given the state of the market nobody is in a position to be spending too much these days, in saying that we’re already getting orders for Christmas!”

As well as tourists and Hollywood superstars, the Moville Pottery, which sits in modern premises in the Moville Business Park in Glencrow, has relied heavily on local support in the past few years.

“We really appreciate the support we have received from locals, it has been fantastic. We are indebted to people in the area as they have really stood behind us. We always endeavour to have the best and up-to-date stock and nowadays with the Pilgrim products, handbags and Yankee Candles people have shown an interest, and it’s great.”

The two men’s close relationship with the Danish jewellery has also been a vital link for the success of their shop locally.

“When you think about the size of a company of Pilgrim and how the generous they have been has been unbelievable. They have sent over a range of amazing spot prizes for our 35th birthday on Saturday as well as loads of great goodie bags, I believe the value to about €2000 in total,” said Brian.

Now tomorrow at their premises in Glencrow, the birthday celebrations begin, and as a double celebration, Lowry will also be celebrating his 60th birthday!

“We have a great day lined up. We have bouncy castle, face painting, McGrory’s are coming to do a BBQ, I’ll be doing a pottery demonstration and people can have a go too, there is lots more, something for everyone. There will be the Pilgrim goodie bags for everyone and there is 20% off all the stock.”

The fun begins at 12pm and runs until 5pm.