An afternoon at Loaf Pottery

What better combination is there than pottery and pizza, set in a 17th century building? None is the answer, and the newly-opened Loaf Pottery in Crawfordsburn styles the winning combination excellently. What’s more, the Pottery is in fact the latest project of award-winning social enterprise NOW Group, which supports people with learning difficulties and disabilities into gaining employment.

The Pottery is located on the site of the former Pinewood Pottery. When it closed a number of years ago, the local community contacted NOW and asking them to consider taking it over. The initiative fitted with NOW’s ethos of creating safe spaces for the whole community, including people with learning difficulties and disabilities, so they jumped at the chance. It’s clearly a perfect fit.

It’s been open for 11 weeks and has gone from strength to strength – we were lucky to have stumbled upon it in the early days while adventuring along the coast, and have relished its flourishing: from additions to the menu to new art classes and just this weekend, its first evening openings (the Pottery is now open for pizza every Friday evening. Booking essential.)

As you see, it’s the kind of place that is the perfect backdrop for a date, or a business meeting, or a quick drop-in with the kids: it caters to all.

Dan and I were delighted to be invited along to sample the Pottery’s Baby Print Tile activity, as well as their wood-fired artisan pizza. It made for a perfect afternoon with Baby B (the venue is very child-friendly, even including a child-sized kitchen for little ones to play with and hosting children’s parties.)

We started out by meeting Josh, the Pottery’s new potter who exudes enthusiasm for both his pottery and the bigger picture it’s a part of. This is his first job since graduating, bringing real expertise and a passion for his craft to his role. He runs classes and is working on a custom pottery range which will be on sale in the shop and online from September.

Josh painted Baby B’s foot with colours of our choosing, and carefully pressed them on a clay tile before inscribing Baby B’s name and date of birth and placing it in the kiln. Baby B LOVED the experience – he was fascinated by all the action and Josh was so good with him. Parents will know it makes all the difference when people know how to speak to your baby!

We then were welcomed into the cafe by Lauren, its manager, whose smile is brighter enough to light all of the tea lights she was gathering for the cafe’s first evening opening! She clearly is the backbone of the busy venue, keeping everything running smoothly and supporting her staff in a personable and big-sisterly way. What she loves about her job? “The fact that we get to make a difference every day.” She wants people to engage, whether we spend £4 or £40, with the project: even just dropping in to say hello means a chance for society to change for the better.

The cafe feels like home: it’s tasteful, full of delicious treats and contented chatter. (Of course I find its clean, scandi-inspired decor particularly pleasing!)

We popped outside to see James, another member of the venue’s 5-strong staff and expert pizzaiolo. His favourite thing to do is “make the pizzas and feed the people” which he does expertly. No word of a lie, folks, his pizza is the best I’ve tasted in Northern Ireland. I went for a classic margherita with basil oil while Dan’s was topped with chorizo. Both were absolutely delicious.

I thoroughly recommend checking out Loaf’s gorgeous venue, satisfying breakfast and lunch options as well as their pizza and sweet treats (the avocado cake is unbelievable!) And don’t forget their many pottery opportunities: Paint me, Glaze me sessions, Baby Print Tiles and Pizza & Pottery nights all available! The team is also finalising the Autumn/Winter schedule of events and workshops which will include more pottery classes, floristry, kids classes and a supper club.

Find out more on Loaf Pottery’s website. And to be in with a chance of winning pizza and drinks for two kindly gifted by Loaf Pottery, just head on over to my Instagram grid and tag a friend you’d love to bring along!

All photos by Dan and Gemma Brown.

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