"I studied at the University of Glasgow and created one of Scotland's leading pottery businesses"

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Inspired by her time working at a Brooklyn pottery studio, the then 24-year-old thought Glasgow was sorely missing an alternative pastime which didn’t solely rely on alcohol.

Ten years ago, MA student Jessica Kirke spotted a gap in the Glasgow social scene. Enter The Craft Pottery who are an independent, bring-your-own-bottle pottery painting studio which has welcomed 60,000 people through its doors.

Founded by USA-born Jessica in 2014 when she was studying at the University of Glasgow, it has since grown from a hobby to become one of Scotland’s leading pottery businesses, acting as a one-stop shop for pottery making, decorating and bespoke events.

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It’s a simple concept where customers from couples to corporate groups paint pottery in any style they want while enjoying each other’s company.

Scott Arthur

 

The concept has since spread like wildfire, growing from 100 pieces of painted pottery per week to more than 1,000. Evening classes and themed events – featuring everything from tarot to Taylor Swift – regularly selling out. It has also garnered a huge social media audience, with almost 25,000 followers on Instagram alone. 

Last year saw more than 40,000 painters enter The Craft Pottery’s doors, and 60,000 pieces of painted pottery fired in the kiln. Located on Washington Street, the studio has since grown from a team of three to a team of 20.

Jessica Kirke, founder of The Craft Pottery said: “I originally started the business because, honestly, I just wanted to paint at an adult-friendly pottery studio and there weren’t any in Glasgow.

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“It’s probably not the most conventional route into running a business, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I spotted an opportunity, as I saw how popular it was at the studio I worked at in Brooklyn – and I felt the people in Glasgow had a lot of similarities. Both are very vibrant, creative cities with tons of artistic people. More and more people in New York were looking for fun things to do that allowed for bonding and creativity while not being reliant on alcohol. Now we’ve proved the concept, we plan to expand our events across the west of Scotland and would love to potentially open another location somewhere else in the UK.”

As the company headed into the pandemic, they faced the challenges creatively, delivering at home kits for Glaswegians bored during lockdown.

In 2022, Jessica moved back to the US with her young family, where she now manages the studio from more than 4,000 miles away – and across multiple time zones. The set up works because of the strong partnership between Jessica and Studio Director Beth Hoad, who previously worked in a ceramic studio in Ayr, and joined the firm in 2019.

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Beth said: “It’s easy to see why painting pottery is so popular. You have fun with friends, family, your partner, your colleagues. You can take it seriously or just have a laugh, and at the end you have a special memento to remind you of the great time you had. Yes, you can have a drink at the same time, but the activity involves alcohol, it doesn’t revolve around it; that’s an important distinction.

“The way Glasgow has taken to The Craft Pottery is amazing. The variety of people who come through the doors and the reaction they have – especially those who’ve never done it before – is one of my favourite things. It’s about having fun with other people by re-igniting their innate passion for creativity. It’s usually those who think they’ll enjoy it the least that end up taking the most from it.”

“We want to make The Craft Pottery a household name. We want everyone in Glasgow to have a mug in their cupboard that they made at our studio. I think we’re headed in that direction.”

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