Taylor Swift, tarot and Buckfast: The Craft Pottery Glasgow celebrates a decade of themed crafts activities

They offer sessions with themes including tarot and Taylor Swift
Jessica Kirke Pic: Scott ArthurJessica Kirke Pic: Scott Arthur
Jessica Kirke Pic: Scott Arthur

It’s fair to say that Alabama-based Jessica Kirke was ahead of the curve.

She set up Glasgow’s The Craft Pottery, back in 2014, while she was studying at the city’s university and wanted to offer a social experience that was more exciting than going to the pub. Indeed, fast forward to 2024, and Scotland has ball pool cocktail bars, and ones that offer axe-throwing and darts, among other activities.

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Last year, Kirke, who runs the business remotely, with the help of studio director, Beth Hoad, fired an incredible 60,000 pieces of pottery in her studio’s kiln. We asked the duo to tell us more.

Beth with Joanna Scott Pic: Scott ArthurBeth with Joanna Scott Pic: Scott Arthur
Beth with Joanna Scott Pic: Scott Arthur

How did the business start?

JK: I'd recently moved to Glasgow from Brooklyn, where I had been working at a BYOB pottery painting studio. I missed spending time there, but couldn't find one in the city. When I told my mom about it she said; "Why don't you just open one?” - I didn't have a good answer, so it made me think about it. I had to present my business plan to the University of Glasgow (where I got my Master's) to support my graduate entrepreneur visa and the board was keen on the idea. That gave me confidence.

What's it like approaching your tenth birthday?

JK: I honestly can't believe The Craft Pottery has been around this long. It feels like the studio keeps going from strength to strength. I can remember so vividly what it was like working every shift alone, and dipping/loading every single piece that came through the kiln. Now I'm an ocean away, but still able to connect with my fabulous team of 20. I just feel very, very lucky to do what I do.

The Craft Pottery exterior Pic: Scott ArthurThe Craft Pottery exterior Pic: Scott Arthur
The Craft Pottery exterior Pic: Scott Arthur

Any lean times?

JK: Of course, at the start of the business it was super tight. The business was a new concept for the city, so it took time, and word of mouth, to reach a larger customer base. I didn't take a salary for the first two years, as I wanted to make sure we had enough for all the bills, staff, stock, etc. I essentially couldn't sleep during the last week of every month - just waiting for all the payments to come in and cover each invoice successfully. Luckily, we grew busier and once we were able to expand to a larger location, things really took off since we could fit more people.

Then the pandemic hit, and we were forced to close for five months in 2020 and six months in 2021. I am so thankful we were able to furlough the staff and for the small business grants. Without that, I'm not sure it would've been possible to bounce back as quickly. There was a renaissance for the arts and doing things with your own hands during lockdown, as people had more time to slow down and focus on things they enjoyed. We pivoted and sold takeaway kits for at home painting and posted makers’ content on our socials. People couldn't wait to visit in person once we reopened. We were busy pretty much every day from then on. Most of the excess is still put back into the studio, the team, and ensuring we always have plenty of savings to get us through any more worldwide shutdowns, or future expansions.

Why was Glasgow the perfect location?

The Craft Pottery mural Pic: Kenneth ArchboldThe Craft Pottery mural Pic: Kenneth Archbold
The Craft Pottery mural Pic: Kenneth Archbold

JK: Glasgow is home to such a diverse group of people and different forms of self-expression. The city itself is full of fun energy, with most people looking for a good time. There's such a passion to support unique, independent businesses in Glasgow and ours fits the bill. TCP is an inclusive space and pottery painting is really for anyone. You can take your grandparents for bonding time; bring a date and get your tarot cards read; go alone to decompress after an exam, or pop bubbles with your besties at a hen party. It's also a space where Glaswegians can go and enjoy themselves without alcohol as the focus, which can be a niche thing in a large city.

Do you miss living in Glasgow?

JK: Absolutely! I lived in Glasgow for nearly a decade and had the time of my life. I met my husband the day I landed there, which was totally unexpected. Through the years I met friends who became family, and explored the city as much as I could, along with the rest of the beautiful country. I will always have the biggest spot in my heart for Glasgow and the friendly people that live there.

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Leaving was the hardest decision ever, but once our daughter was born, I knew I wanted her to properly know my parents and it was getting hard for them to travel internationally. I miss my fabulous team and the studio. Luckily, I get to visit over video chat weekly, and will always fly over as much as I can - we'll be there in June, and I can't wait. My daughter was born a Glaswegian and I'll never let her forget where she came from.

What have the most unusual themes been?

BH: We’ve hosted themed sessions with everything from Animal Crossing, Gilmore Girls, Horoscopes, Wallace and Gromit, Shrek, Twilight, Adventure Time, The Simpsons, Tumblr, Dollywood - the list could go on and on.

Any wild parties?

BH: Yes, absolutely! We are entering the hen party season and that brings us some of the best groups of people you will meet. It's lovely to be part of so many women's special day but as you can imagine these groups really know how to take full advantage of our BYOB policy. Last year we renovated our studio which built a separate events room which we host most of our hen parties in. You’ll just have to imagine what we see painted on pottery.

Has anyone discovered a latent talent?

BH: Our very own Lorna was a dear repeat customer who used to visit every week and paint masterpieces. When she applied for the role as events coordinator alongside her colleague Rosa, we knew she would be a perfect fit. She knew the ropes already and has been one of the brains behind some of our best events.

Any memorable creations?

BH: I have seen over 200,000 pieces of pottery, so even when we think we have seen everything, something interesting will come to be glazed and inspire us. We love to see Glasgow-themed pottery; and have seen things like bottles of Mad Dog, Buckfast and Glen’s before. Our favourite piece from last week is a plate inspired by the viral Wonka event that went wrong. We take pictures of our favourite creations weekly and they are uploaded to our stories as a Kiln Haul.

The Craft Pottery, 48-54 Washington Street, Glasgow (0141 243 2823, www.thecraftpottery.com)



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