Belleek Pottery turns to urns as it fires up funeral business
It is already a regular fixture on wedding gift lists, but now Belleek Pottery is aiming to mark another of life's milestones - the funeral.
The Co Fermanagh porcelain company has found a new niche in the US market, with a first-time commission for an Irish-style funeral urn.
New York-based funeral supplies company Shiva Shade has already dispatched around 200 of the custom items supplied by Belleek Pottery.
Head of design Fergus Cleary (64) said he believed the new urns will appeal to those of Irish American descent.
"We have a customer in the US who specialises in providing urns for the undertaking business," he said.
"He wanted to create a bespoke Irish-themed burial urn for the US.
"We got some ideas of what they wanted, and they selected one with Celtic themes.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
"It's not an area we had thought about as a potential market before. Probably in the last 20-30 years, this has become a more and more popular form.
"Certainly, in this country, more and more people are being cremated.
"That must be true in the US as well as space for burial in cities becomes more limited."
He added: "We're always looking for potential business so this could certainly become a great opportunity for us."
The hand-crafted process begins by casting a mould which is then cast in liquid clay, known as slip.
Once this is dry it will be fired to a temperature of 1,200°C.
"It's then checked to see that it's perfect then it gets glazed which gives it its shiny surface. That will then be fired to 1,000°C and any decoration will be added," said Fergus.
In this case, the design will include two platinum lines with a shamrock underneath.
From start to finish, the elaborate process demands that each product must pass through 16 pairs of hands to make sure it meets the required standards.
"It's probably one of our most unusual projects to date. It's always interesting to do something new."
Based in the village of Belleek on the banks of the River Erne, Belleek Pottery was established in 1857.
It is home to Ireland's oldest working fine china pottery which now produces around 100,000 pieces a year.