In the main reception area a large bell hangs graciously on the wall; a bell that is well over 100 years old and was first used in the Pottery to call the Pottery staff back to work after tea and dinner breaks. The bell is used to this day but now to call together groups of our guests to join us on a magical trip to unravel the manufacturing process of our products.
The guided tour takes approximately 30 minutes and covers all of the production areas thereby offering our guests the possibility of meeting with and chatting with our craftspeople; something that we encourage.
Because the tour route was designed into the new refurbishment programme of the Pottery over the last seven years all of the viewing areas are on level ground and, therefore, provide easy access for all (in the unlikely event of someone being tired wheelchairs are provided). Unlike many other Potteries we have chosen to provide a personal guide for all groups.
The tour begins by one of our guides welcoming our guests to Belleek and explaining a little about what they are about to experience. The first area is mould making. In this situation a master case is used to make working moulds. These working moulds are made of plaster of paris (which is very absorbent) and from which the shape is produced.
Following on from the mould making area you will be brought into the casting department. (See Virtual Tour)
Here you will see how liquid slip is poured into the plaster of paris moulds and allowed
to sit for two or three minutes before being emptied out. (Slip is a liquid form of the clay used in making a typical piece; it is made by mixing three different types of clay with water. All of the clays and the water are mixed in a large tank for up to three hours to ensure consistency) When the excess slip is poured out the "skin" left on the inside will become the Belleek product. The mould is later opened and the shape removed for drying before final fettling and firing.
Our next stop will be in the floral and basket making department for which Belleek is world famous. Here we look on in awe as our craftspeople weave the intricate strands for the baskets and painstakingly create beautiful flowers; leaf by leaf, stem by stem and petal by petal. Every piece produced in this area is truly original and no two pieces are the exact same.
leaving the kilns area our groups will be greeted by the fresh essence of the many paints and fat oils that are used each day in the adornment of many of the Belleek products. The varied shades of pastel colours are visible on the workbenches of the decoration staff as they apply colour with every careful brushstroke - you never know, you might even be asked to paint a little yourself!
And of course finally after having been decorated the china undergoes its third and final firing; the enamel firing, this time at 700 degrees centigrade for approximately seven hours. It will then receive a final quality inspection and packed into gift boxes in the warehouse.