From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

Four years ago, ceramicist Orla O'Regan was wearing a hard hat and a high-vis vest while working on construction sites in programme management.

Then, following the birth of her son Jonah, her experience of post natal depression led her to ditch the steel toe capped boots and return to her true love of art and design in order to achieve balance in her life.

Four years on, having recovered from post natal depression, Orla has embraced her love of poetry and song lyrics in the creation of an evocative and emotive range of framed ceramic art pieces which aim to inspire and stir the senses.

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

How would you describe the style of your products?

I would describe them as minimalist and raw. Porcelain is my ceramic of choice - traditionally been perceived as pristine, smooth and glazed.

My art however, defies this traditional observation, whereby a rugged porcelain landscape is the canvas for each work of art.

Rough to the touch, these pieces reflect a rawness which is sometimes difficult to appreciate. I view it as "perfection within imperfection".

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

Can you describe your method?

Firstly, I prepare raw porcelain clay and roll it out flat. Each letter is imprinted onto the clay by hand and left to dry before it is bisque fired in the kiln to 1,290 degrees celsius.

The whole process of firing takes approximately 24 hours from turn on to cool down when the kiln door can be opened. Black underglaze is then applied within the imprinted lettering and the tile is then fired for a second time making it strong enough to withstand all elements.

The piece is then ready to be framed.

I aim to stir the senses through meaningful words, forever immortalised in porcelain

From where do you draw inspiration for the quotes used in your Words in Porcelain collection?

I have always been a lover of words. As a young person I loved poetry and listening to song lyrics - where others might have listened to the beat of a song I was always drawn to the lyrics.

Words are immensely personal to those who consume them and my offering is an emotive one. I aim to stir the senses through meaningful words, forever immortalised in porcelain.

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

You previously worked in the construction industry - can you tell us about your change of career?

I am only new to the creative world as a full-time artist. Five years ago I went to work in a hard hat, a high-vis vest and steel capped boots on construction sites.

The biggest turning point in my career to date, happened four years ago after I had my little boy, Jonah. I suffered from post natal depression and this led me to turn my entire world upside down. I had to prioritise my entire being. I decided not to return to the construction industry and for two years, when Jonah was very little, I focused my energies into my art.

Doing this helped so much in my recovery and provided me with flexibility in raising and looking after my wonderful little boy.

When I was able to make a choice as to what career path I would take, I decided to assume life as a full-time artist and have not looked back since. I regret none of it.

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

Are there any other Irish ceramicists or designers whose work you find inspirational?

I simply adore the delicate and intricate works of two Irish ceramic artists - Nuala O'Donovan and Isobel Egan. They both create very delicate, and very different, porcelain sculptures.

Isobel creates fine porcelain box structures, which are minuscule environments that explore issues of fragility, personal space and memory.

Nuala creates intricate porcelain sculptures, which are inspired by nature and in particular, the irregularities that manifest themselves in everything from shells to flowers.

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

What is the most challenging aspect about running a small creative business?

The most challenging aspect is that you have to be a "Jack-of-all-trades". Besides being an artist, you have to assume roles of project manager, marketing, sales, accountant and so on.

Luckily, my educational background has provided me with the skills to balance all of this. I studied Business and Marketing at the University of Limerick and I have a Masters degree in Strategic Planning from Edinburgh University.

Still, trying to juggle everything can be challenging. And life as an artist does not allow for the typical nine-to-five working day.

Photo of From construction to craft: Designer Orla O'Regan's visual ceramic art

What do you love most about being a designer and craftsperson?

I have to pinch myself each day knowing that I work at what I love.

Being an artist has provided me with a flexibility in life that you simply cannot buy.

I love knowing that people who buy my work have the same appreciation and love for my work as I do. They are seeking out emotive pieces that mean something to themselves or to those they are buying a piece for as a gift.

That Orla O Visual Art is now a recognised brand is such a positive validation of my work.

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