Meet the maker: founder of Cara Guthrie Ceramics

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As a child, Cara Guthrie would play with clay she found on the floor of her parent’s farmhouse – she tells us how she turned that childhood delight into a business

 words Catherine Coyle | Photography Murray Orr

The founder of Cara Guthrie Ceramics grew up in the Trossachs, just outside a small village on the edge of Flanders Moss – she still thinks of it as her playground. “My mum tells me I’d always draw mountains in the background of my pictures of people, just as we had as a backdrop at home,” Cara says.

The ceramicist’s parents had taken on a huge renovation project in her younger years – converting a derelict farmhouse – and she still recalls her excitement finding clay in the old shed floor. Cara recalls, “I have clear memories of my dad laboriously lifting the concrete and taking off the roof to convert it into a walled garden, which I would shape into little pinch pots and let dry out in the sun.”

Cara Guthrie working on her newest project for brand Cara Guthrie Ceramics
IMAGE | Murray Orr. Cara crafting one of her gorgeous homeware piece for KESTIN®

Cara paints a picture of her childhood, “My parents are both creative and there are artists and designers on both sides of my family. Going to the big cities inevitably meant visiting a few art exhibitions. It was just ingrained in us. My older brother is an architect and my younger brother is a musician. In a way, it’s strange that I didn’t find a creative avenue for work sooner.”

It was whilst employed by a London design practice that Cara first discovered pottery (and what started her road to launching Cara Guthrie Ceramics). “I was surrounded by art and design but my role in the company was operational and I felt frustrated that I wasn’t involved in the creative side. I took some pottery classes as a way to quell this frustration and, much to my surprise, I found it very intense and focused my interest on it instantly.

“I became completely obsessed with it. My partner and I then moved to Stockholm where I found a studio to share with a local potter and I realised it didn’t feel enough for this to be just a hobby.”

Cara Guthrie hard at work in her studio for Cara Guthrie Ceramics
IMAGE | Murray Orr & Dominic Simmons. Cara at work in her studio

Shortly after, Cara applied to craft schools in Sweden and apprenticeships at potteries across Europe, and was eventually taken on by KH Würtz in rural Jutland for a three-month apprenticeship. This was the big test.

“When I got back to the UK, I didn’t know how to transition into making pottery my job. I was working as a seasonal organic grower in the Lake District and word got out that I, a budding potter, had moved to the area.

“I was soon taken in by the legendary William Plumptre as his part-time apprentice, which gave me time to continue to learn and grow as a ceramicist.”

Cara’s first gig was making an order for a restaurant around the corner from her parents. “From there, I had a small order from L’Enclume, the three-Michelin-star restaurant in Cumbria. That was a big deal at the time and got my name out pretty fast!”

The next big break was an absolute dream commission from Toast, she reveals. “This came in when I was still apprenticing a day or two a week for William.”

The next step was to moved to Glasgow where potter Jono Smart took Cara on as his first employee a few days a week. “This gave me the chance to carry on with my own work while having a regular income. Within a year, I had taken the leap into fully working for myself under the Cara Guthrie Ceramics brand.”

Cara Guthrie's shelf of ceramic mugs, formed and ready to design for her collaboration with IMAGE | Murray Orr. Ceramic mugs in Cara's studio, ready to be designed in collaboration with KESTIN®
IMAGE | Murray Orr. Ceramic mugs in Cara’s studio, ready to be designed in collaboration with KESTIN®

This talented potter tells us that being self-employed means she is lucky enough to be able to move to wherever she needs in order to complete her work. “My partner is a veg grower, so we moved to Perthshire principally for his work (he manages an organic market garden for The Taybank), but we also wanted to raise our kids in the countryside, so it all kind of came together quite nicely.

“I didn’t expect to live in the rural central belt again (my teenage self would be horrified!) but I love it here, and feel quite settled after years of moving about.”

Meet more Scottish makers in our H&IS Meet the Maker feature. We think you’ll love our chat with basket weaver Anna Liebmann.

Meet the maker: Basket weaver Anna Liebmann

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