Belfast Telegraph

Top ceramicist to create exclusive wares for US firm

By Audrey Watson

A Belfast ceramicist has been commissioned to design an exclusive range of tableware for a US-based global retailer, it can be revealed.

Derek Wilson (38) was approached last year by Crate and Barrel, the American homeware giant which has 170 stores worldwide, to design a 'full dinner service' including teapots and cups.

Based at Portview Trade Centre in east Belfast, Derek's work is on sale in the UK, Europe, Switzerland and Japan, as well as craft shops in Northern Ireland.

Working with the firm, which was started in Chicago in 1952 by husband and wife team Gordon and Carole Segal, has given him his first opportunity to crack the notoriously tough American market.

"Crate and Barrel contacted me last year and asked me to design a full dinner service," he said.

"It will be an exclusive range with my name attached to it.

"The company saw my work online and got in touch. It's a great opportunity and the first time my work will be mass-produced.

"In the past, I've made everything myself, but this time the process involved making prototypes at the wheel, creating computerised drawings and going through various production stages.

"We are now at the last stage of samples before going into production and the range will be released next spring."

Mr Wilson, who studied at Belfast College of Art and then and completed Craft NI's Making It business development programme, is one of the most sought after ceramicists in Europe and as well as designing another tableware range, is hoping to employ another ceramicist within the next year.

During his time on the Making It programme, he was based at Ulster University's Belfast campus, where he now teaches and holds workshops to encourage the next generation of young ceramicists.

He was one of the designers chosen to show his work at the Year of Irish Design 2015's prestigious Liminal Exhibition in Milan, New York and Eindhoven, and his creations will feature prominently in the Making It 10 exhibition which launches August Craft Month at the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown.

He also features in a film by Tourism Ireland, promoting creative businesses in the province.

"People seem really interested in what's happening here at the moment," he said. "In the past, anybody who was creative left Northern Ireland, so there was a lost generation of makers.

"There wasn't much of a history of ceramics in Northern Ireland, but the last couple of years have seen a noticeable change.

"When I finished the Making It programme, all the stockists were in London and Europe.

"There was no interest here, nowhere to stock my work, but in the last couple of years, there are more stores, like Maven on the Lisburn Road which is showcasing contemporary craft," the ceramicist added.

"It's lovely that artists are now staying in Northern Ireland. They are exhibiting and selling here. There is so much more happening and so many opportunities available now."

Belfast Telegraph