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Nest: Behind the Mask with ceramics guru Clare Sutcliffe


By Alice Ryan


Firstly, tell us about Cambrolino. . .

Cambrolino is the ceramics studio of designer and maker Clare Sutcliffe - that’s me. I create beautiful modern ceramics with personality and style intended to bring a smile to your day and be a joy to use. The name Cambrolino is made up of our family nickname for Cambridge (Cambro) and a word reflecting geometry and lines (Lino). I started the company in July 2018 and by September I’d had a message from Kettle’s Yard shop saying they would like to stock my work. It was a great start and now I’m on a roll.

Were you destined to take a creative path in life?

Definitely. I’ve been a maker since I was very young; I was always creating, drawing or inventing something in my spare time. I went to art college in Leeds and then on to study graphic design at university in Bath. I worked as a graphic designer for years before starting a charity that teaches children to code in after-school clubs – it’s called Code Club and we create games and websites. So design has always been very important to me.

Cambrolino (6933322)
Cambrolino (6933322)

How did you discover your talent for working clay - and what makes it your ideal medium?

My mum was a ceramicist when I was growing up. I used to sit with her while she worked and I would make little clay snails. She had a studio in the attic and a kiln in the cellar, so I’ve always felt confident around clay and the equipment. A couple of years ago, I then took up an evening class and grew in confidence from there as I learnt more and more.

I love working with clay. It’s just such a different material to the screens I spend a lot of my time working with - it’s so primal to use your hand to manipulate mud then use fire to form a finished item. I love the science behind it too, and recently spent a week learning how to make glazes from scratch.

What inspires your designs? Tell us a bit about your process.

I love looking at masks from around the world. I spend a lot of time in the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, sketching bits of masks to see how I can incorporate them into my designs.

I hand build all my work with slabs. First I build the basic form and then, while it’s drying and then in the kiln, I turn to my computer where I use a vector design programme to design the pattern that I’ll apply with glaze. When the piece is back from the kiln, I use thin washi tape from Japan to mask the neat lines required to create my designs before applying three to four layers of glaze for a solid finish.

I like to give the pieces with faces even more personality by giving them a name and writing little stories, which I post alongside a photo on Instagram (@Cambrolino).

Cambrolino (6933328)
Cambrolino (6933328)

Cambrolino (7077956)
Cambrolino (7077956)

Cambrolino (7077954)
Cambrolino (7077954)

What's trending in the world of ceramics? Is handmade work on the rise?

I see a lot of slip-casting work. I think it’s a great way of making work quickly, but it can sometimes feel like it’s made in a factory. What I like about handmade work is the little imperfections that can only be created by fingers!

I think the medium of clay itself is making a real comeback - there are so many new young artists and designers using clay in ways we’ve not seen before. It’s very exciting. A great book to check out on this is New Wave Clay by Tom Morris.

Are there any ceramic artists you especially admire?

I really love the work of Katharina Eichler from Germany, who hand-builds her work using different coloured clays layered in coils, sanding them after firing to create a really striking look. I bought one of her pieces last year and it takes pride of place in our bedroom.

Cambrolino (6933324)
Cambrolino (6933324)
Cambrolino (6933326)
Cambrolino (6933326)
Cambrolino (7077958)
Cambrolino (7077958)

Where do you work? Give us a visual.

I’m lucky enough to be able to share a studio with ceramic artist Paula Armstrong in north Cambridge. Paula teaches from the studio so it’s very well equipped and I benefit from Paula’s 20 years of experience in working with clay, too.

What’s the reward of creating - and selling - your own ceramics?

I also work with social impact start-ups, helping them to grow, so making ceramics is a part-time enterprise. It gives me a relaxing break from the digital world and the opportunity to express myself and make work I love.

It’s a great bonus that other people like it and want to buy it. I love the idea of my work going to live in other people’s homes to be useful to them and hopefully bring them a bit of joy each day.

Cambrolino ceramics are available from the shop at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge and Clare’s online store at cambrolino.com. Prices start at £20. Clare also takes commissions – email

clare@cambrolino.com to find out more.

Cambrolino (7077964)
Cambrolino (7077964)



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