Danielle Lett finds out more about Carters of Suffolk, the iconic artisan teapot crafters

If there’s one thing us Brits love, it’s a cuppa. Nothing beats a cup of tea, and fewer things are better than a piping hot brew that’s been poured from a teapot.  

No one understands or appreciates the importance of a good cuppa more than Mark Gillam. 

Director Mark has been with Carters of Suffolk since 2019, and after helping turn the company around, things seem to be going from strength-to-strength for the artisan ceramicists.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Jill Davey, Carol Bridge, Mark Gillam, and Tracey Maskel from Carters of SuffolkJill Davey, Carol Bridge, Mark Gillam, and Tracey Maskel from Carters of Suffolk (Image: Keith Suffling)

“We’re a thriving company now,” he says.  

Thriving indeed, as the Stonham Barns-based company has won a number of awards, and will be the subject of a PBS documentary due to commence filming this spring.  

But what is it that makes these particular teapots so popular, well-known, and well-loved the world over?  

“Unique teapots have always been the company’s focus, and is as true today as it was before. Loads of people like drinking tea, and they love our designs because they’re so different. We are, without a doubt, the leading manufacturer of them,” he says.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Tracey Maskell and Jill Davey working on teapotsTracey Maskell and Jill Davey working on teapots (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

Carters of Suffolk began life in nearby Debenham, where founder Tony Carter first established the company in 1978 – and it wasn’t too long before it developed an enthusiastic, cult following that it has maintained to this day. 

“We have three girls working in pottery – two of whom worked with Tony when he started Carters of Suffolk all those years ago. We have a new girl who joined us over a year ago, who has been learning the trade. We’re small firm, but our reach is all over the world.” 

Carters currently supplies its handcrafted teapots to Disney’s Epcot over in the states, and previously supplied to department store chain Macy’s.  

East Anglian Daily Times: A Lewis Carroll teapotA Lewis Carroll teapot (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

“Disney is one of our biggest customers. And Rick Wakefield from the band Yes is quite an avid teapot collector as well. We also used to send them to the late Queen, too.” 

It’s not hard to see why the business has legions of fans.

Each one is handcrafted, made with love, and uniquely eye-catching.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Jam and marmalade jar teapotsJam and marmalade jar teapots (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

Just perusing the shop, you can see teapots in the shape of books, trains, boats, houses, jam jars, cats, and even people.

“Some of our most memorable ranges have been our book ones, such as Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll, as well as our locomotive teapots and typewriter ones.” 

These really are more than teapots – they're remarkable works of art. 

East Anglian Daily Times: A nurse shaped teapotA nurse shaped teapot (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

But how are they made?  

According to Mark, the process hasn’t changed over the years, and the techniques they use hark back to the 18th century.  

“Basically, you come up with a design, and get a set of molds made for it. The traditional way of making it is slipcasting, which is a process which has been used for about 300 years. We craft the mold, make the teapot in the mould, let it dry, then we paint it.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Inside the Carters of Suffolk studioInside the Carters of Suffolk studio (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

“We’ll then fire it in the kiln at about 1,100C before doing any additional work that’s needed, such as luster for gold or platinum finishes, or transfers. It’s then fired again before it’s sent out for delivery.” 

Making a takes anywhere between four and 10 days, while it can take around six months from a teapot’s initial concept to having a finished set of moulds. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Teapots being poured into moldsTeapots being poured into molds (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

To ensure they remain a collector’s item, only a few hundred are made in each design. And unlike porcelain and bone china, Carters of Suffolk’s teapots are vegan-friendly.  

“They’re just wonderful gifts,” adds Mark.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Teapots being preparedTeapots being prepared (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

“And to be so well-recognised is nice – it reflects well on the staff, and we’re here because of all the hard work they put into each teapot, and the skill and dedication they have.” 

To find out more, visit cartersofsuffolk.com or swing by the shop, which has its own tearoom.