Mike has always been interested in domestic ceramics, more specifically the jug, the archetypical domestic object. He uses it to explore the edges of, and the connections between design, function, narrative and art. The use of a combination of fired clay and other materials, both found and worked, and the freedom to play fast and loose with the elements, is an attempt to erode the boundaries between these disciplines. The way in which we consider familiar objects and their various relationships with symbolism, ceramic history and material culture is also part of the exploration.
Each piece is slab built, with surface patina resulting from multiple layers of engobe or coloured slips. Numerous firings take place until the desired depth of surface colour and texture is reached. Other elements, found objects etc, are attached after the final firing.
Mike Byrne graduated in Ceramic Design from Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD) Ireland, in 1977. Having worked as designer in the National Design Centre at Kilkenny Design Workshops, he established a production studio, continuing to work as a designer to the ceramic industry. In the mid-1980s he commenced his teaching career and began to develop a fine art practice in ceramics and printmaking, completing an MA in Fine Art in 2000.
He has continued to explore both the ceramic and printmaking strands within his practice and has exhibited extensively both at home and abroad. His work features in a number of private and national collections including the Ulster Museum, AIB bank, University of Limerick, the OPW and the National Portrait Collection. He is also co-founder of The Irish Contemporary Ceramics Collection at the Hunt Museum. Mike Byrne was Course Leader of the Ceramic Design Course at LSAD from 2009 to 2015. He now concentrates fully on his artistic practice. In 2016 he won the Peter Brennen award for innovation.
In 2017 and 2019 his work was chosen as part of ‘Portfolio, Critical selection’ for the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. He was also featured in the November 2017 issue of Ceramic Review.