My Career: We are celebrating the fourth anniversary of our studio

Ceramicist and owner at Cre Pottery Studio, West Cork Sophie Miall features in our My Career
My Career: We are celebrating the fourth anniversary of our studio

Sophie Miall and Suzanne O'Connor of Cre Pottery Studio

Name: Sophie Miall

Age: 39

Lives: Skibbereen, West Cork

Job title: Ceramicist and business owner at Cre Pottery Studio

Salary bracket: €0-20,000

Education background: I have always loved pottery and was lucky enough to have pottery lessons from a young age. Throughout school I always gravitated towards ceramics and on leaving school I studied Art and Design in Horsham near Brighton. From there I went on to do a Ceramics degree in Cardiff, Wales.

Hobbies: Reading, watching period dramas on Netflix and spending time with my family —usually outside with the chickens or walking the dogs on the beach.

Describe your job in five words: Colourful, messy, creative, challenging and fun.

Describe yourself in five words: Creative, chatty, fun, happy and hard-working.

Personality needed for this kind of work? Anyone in this line of work needs to be friendly and welcoming. We have people from all walks of life coming into the pottery, maybe just for a take away coffee or for a one to one pottery lesson. An ability to talk to people and make a connection is definitely an advantage. You need to be able to adapt. If this last year has shown us anything, it is the need to be able to think on your feet and outside the box.

How long are you doing this job? Four years this March, We opened the pottery on St Patrick’s weekend!

How did you get this job? The best jobs are the ones you create yourself. The day after I graduated, (and a week after I passed my driver’s test!) I drove onto the ferry at Swansea — bound for Cork. I headed west in my tiny Corsa loaded to the roof with clay and various pots, to Castletownshend in West Cork. My family had a holiday home there and I set up my first pottery in an annex at the side of the house. My pottery wheel was a stone’s throw from the water and had the most amazing sea view. I spent my time making large bowls and doing children’s hand impressions into clay.

Sophie Miall of Cre Pottery Studio.
Sophie Miall of Cre Pottery Studio.

As fun as this was, and the view was truly amazing, life was getting in the way. The need for a ‘proper’ job to enable myself and my husband get our own house meant that pottery was pushed to the side and life changed.

Finally in our new home, I set up a workshop in our front room. Still with a view, but this time it was the Fastnet in the far distance. Unfortunately, there was never much time for pottery with a new baby and a full time job. My wheel ended up in the playroom covered in toys and my kiln in the hall covered in coats. On one occasion I had thrown six large salad bowls and left them to dry. On returning to them later that evening I found a small finger had been pushed into the soft clay of every single one. All ruined. I resigned myself to the fact that this was not the time.

Fast forward 10 years; farming, face painting, childminding, waitressing and four children later I was getting itchy feet. 

A plan was hatched over late night ‘coffee’ and much enthusiasm with my friend Suzanne to create ‘something’. What that something was we were not quite sure but it would involve paint and clay and soon Cre Pottery was born.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Yes, my ceramic degree has been invaluable. Both Suzanne and myself had experience teaching and working with children. We did a barista course with Mahers Coffee in Cork — so we know our flat whites from our lattes!

Describe a day at work: I am lucky that my work life can work around my family life. In the early days this was not the case at all. We were working full on for seven days a week. Now the work/life balance is much better.

Life is a bit different now but usually I drop the children to school and then head to the pottery. I turn on the coffee machine and set about emptying kilns and maybe filling up the shelves from the day before. My first regular coffee customers usually appear ahead of our usual opening times to grab the best seats and we are able to catch up and chat before the first customers come through the door to paint pottery or take a class.

I usually work through lunch time and and most days can leave in time to collect the children from school and head home for the afternoon. This is when I update our social media and answer any messages from customers. Some evenings I head back into the pottery to teach an evening class, which I love.

How many hours do you work a week? 40-50.

What do you wear to work? I wear layers! If the door is open all day, it can get chilly but if the kiln is hot, we are roasting. I seem to accumulate a large number of scarves and cardigans on my peg as something gets left behind every day. An apron is also essential.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: 4. At the height of the summer it can be stressful because we are busy but only really in the moment. Life is generally very relaxed and I am getting better at not taking on high pressure commissions as I have pin- pointed these as being the greatest source of stress.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work with Suzanne. We had worked together for many years as party entertainers, often at very large events. There is nothing quite like the pressure of 200 children — and their parents — queueing for face painting to test your working relationship. She is the calm one!

Best bits: I can work my time at the pottery around my family. My kids can also come to work with me and sit at a table doing homework or painting samples, they paint a lot of pottery! 

I also love having my pottery wheel and a bag of clay always there at my fingertips. It was such a long time coming but I really do love my job and feel very lucky.

Worst bits: Anything to do with paperwork or anything needing to be done on the computer. Thank goodness for Suzanne!

Advice to those who want your job? Go for it! To combine your own creative space whilst facilitating others can be very rewarding. There are lots of fantastic courses designed to help people wanting to set up their own Paint Your Own Pottery and for anyone with an artistic background it can be brilliant.

Any other comments? The restrictions at the moment have stopped us from opening our doors but we now have a huge range of pottery painting kits for everyone to paint at home. All of our kits come with brushes and instructions. Our website is now fully up and running —thanks to Suzanne! We have lots of kids Pottery Painting Kits with racing cars and animals, etc, to paint at home (with paint that dries at home) and have new Pen Art Kits with pottery and washable markers for a no stress, no mess option.

Finally, we do of course still have all of our mugs, bowls, teapots, etc, that can be painted with our specialist glazes and be returned to us to be fired in the kiln and then they come back to you all shiny and fully functional — even dishwasher proof!

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