Export Profile – Showcase 2017: Ellen Cunningham (Cula Ceramics)

Export Profile – Showcase 2017: Ellen Cunningham (Cula Ceramics)
With less than a week to go to Showcase 2017, Craft NI is continuing to shine a spotlight on the makers attending with us for our group stand. Next up in this new series of profiles sees Ellen Cunningham (Cula Ceramics) tell us about her work, process, and more.


Hi Ellen! Tell us a little bit about yourself - how did you get into making?

As a child I always loved art and out of the blue I got the opportunity to take it up again for therapeutic reasons around seven years ago. I discovered ceramics during the first year of my diploma and I have continued developing my love for clay for the past seven years and I decided to create a business that I enjoy and it fits around my health and family.

After completing my degree I moved into an art pod at Project 24 in Bangor where I got a great opportunity to develop my work further. My time there was instrumental in helping me to decide if I was going to make a career in ceramics.

I gave up teaching ICT at SERC and setup a Studio for other artists to work from which is called Studio E. I create my work from Studio E at present which is based on the edge of Strangford Lough.

I am heavily influenced by the abundance of nature surrounding my studio from the woodland to the seashore. My intention is to bring the finer details of nature into my work using textures and colour to enhance the beauty of nature.

Can you tell us a bit about your making process?

I create a wide range of products which can involve unique commissions to meet the needs of my client to designing giftware for retail suppliers. I currently have three ranges which include Woodland, Seashore and Celtic.

My making processes are wide and varied. I enjoy creating unusual textures from objects I either find within nature or create myself. I like to use printing techniques such as lino relief.

My designs are created with simplicity kept in mind. I want my work to invite you to touch and feel the textures of nature and enjoy the colours and tones of nature. I use stains and underglazes to enhance the beautiful textures of nature.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I get a chance I like to relax and spend quality time with my family and our dog. I enjoy the simple things in life such as walking on the beach and strolling in the forest. I collect a lot of nature’s little treasures which I use in my pieces. I enjoy taking photographs whilst enjoying nature walks and get all of the family involved and encourage them to enjoy nature .

For 35 years I have been teaching Irish dancing to children within my community. We are festival dancers so our style is very contemporary and stylish. I enjoy teaching and love helping others to develop skills they were unaware they had. I enjoy playing music which usually happens mostly during our holiday breaks.

Travelling with my family is very important we especially enjoy travelling in and around Europe.

Where can people currently see or buy your work?

At the moment my work is currently for sale at the Giant’s Causeway Tourist Shop and I also have stock at Ards Tourist Information Shop in Newtownards. I recently got selected to sell my work for the next six months at Stormont Buildings Visitors Shop.

I also sell my work every other Sunday at the award winning St George’s Market in Belfast.

Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Do you have any big plans for 2017?

I am very excited for 2017. I intend to develop and design new work for current and new retailers. I would like to export my work further afield. I have organised to do a few combination exhibitions to bring print and ceramics together with other local artists. Shortly I will be discussing with Mount Stewart to have my work placed in their visitor shop by spring 2017.

My big plan for 2017 would be to have a solo exhibition. I am currently working with a local artist to bring silver and clay together and I hope to present new designs in an exhibition to show this development which is very exciting.

I have recently returned from the RDS Craft and Design Fair in Dublin which was a great success and I will be following up contacts to sell my work with retailers in the south of Ireland.

Find out more about Ellen, as well as her work and details on where to buy it, on the Craft NI Directory.

To read more about the Craft NI Export Development Programme, click here.