On the edge of lower Lough Erne, a the northwest Ireland border, is the home of Belleek Pottery, where world famous china is still hand made, much the same way it was in the 1850s.
The beginnings of the company make for an interesting story. The founder, John Caldwell Bloomfield, whitewashed his cottage along the Erne River using a white powder that he found on the property.
People passing by commented on the extraordinary glow, texture and shine of the finish, so Bloomfield investigated the contents further by having the ingredients examined. It turned out that they made up a perfect recipe for porcelain. He joined with business partners Robert Armstrong and David Mc Birney to produce earthenware and porcelain products.
The porcelain products created at Belleek were extraordinary and perfect in quality, and the Belleek name soon developed a reputation in aristocratic circles. The delicate beauty of Belleek china is still recognized by eggshell-thin porcelain and its trademark designs – seashells, basket weaves, and marine life. The company is currently owned by Dr. George Moore, an Irish-American businessman.
Tours of the only location Belleek Pottery has ever known are available. You will see the factory, showroom where gifts are also sold, museum, and café. You can speak with the craftsmen and watch them as they make dishes, figurines, vases and baskets using an extraordinary process. They beat air out of a mixture of glass and clay with wooden paddles and mold it into the various products. Generations have worked here, and the tools of the trade are often handed down.
The basket ware is probably the most widely known product line, created from a delicate lattice of meshed clay strings. All items are hand painted and visitors can observe this intricate process. More information about the products and the pottery is available at the Visitor’s Centre.