With a Mayfair boutique opened last year, award-winning Guernsey jeweller Catherine Best has fast created an international name for herself. Born in Guernsey, Catherine and her family still live on the island, not far from The Old Government House Hotel & Spa. It’s a family business - Catherine works alongside her two daughters and husband at a stunning redeveloped mill which serves as both the family home and the brand’s Guernsey boutique. Here, she invites us inside her studio and opens up about her island roots.
What are your childhood memories of Guernsey?
“I was born in Guernsey and my childhood memories were of being very free, living outside the majority of the time and being surrounded by animals and countryside. I remember walking through the forest to go and see my grandma from a very early age and my parents not worrying. It was really quite idyllic.”
When did you first become interested in jewellery design?
“I think it was around age 14 when I began panicking about what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t enjoy school, I loved drawing but I wasn’t considered academically good at art. My father had his own workshop so I used to do some woodwork in there and observe what he was doing. Being a girl at school in those days meant we weren’t allowed to do woodwork or metalwork. We had to sew instead, which I didn’t like! So, the first experience I had of anything like that was through my father and originally I thought I’d like to be a farrier because it involved working with metal. It was actually my sister who suggested I make jewellery instead and from there I enrolled on an evening course in Guernsey. Within the first hour, I completely fell in love with jewellery design and knew that this was what I wanted to spend my life doing.”
Can you tell us more about the extraordinary Mill that serves as both your family home and Guernsey boutique?
“The Mill in Guernsey consists of seven floors and is around 70ft high. It was always in our family garden but it was very dilapidated and run down. My father rebuilt it when I married my husband. We moved into it and we’ve spent 28 years essentially rebuilding it. One of my favourite spots in The Mill is up on the roof, which opens up and creates an observatory-like space, which is the ideal place for a sundowner. The boutique is on the ground floor, which makes it very easy to get to work!”
What does a perfect day in Guernsey look like to you?
“I’d start the day being greeted by my two Jack Russell Terriers and the cat. Hopefully the sun would be shining and I’d enjoy breakfast with my friends at the stables before a spot of horse riding. After lunch, I’d spend the afternoon working, because my perfect day includes designing, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like these days! I’d finish the day having drinks with friends, ideally in my sundowner spot at the top of The Mill.”
What have been your biggest career highlights so far?
“I would have to say creating the Shere Khan Necklace for the Born Free Foundation, which was then auctioned off by Joanna Lumley for the charity.”
What are your favourite places to visit on the island when you’re in need of inspiration?
“Jerbourg cliffs. I love that side of the island, with its views out towards Sark and Herm. I’d also say our valley here, with all my ducks, geese, llama, horses and sheep, because it’s a very regenerating place for me. Fermain Bay is my favourite beach. I spent a lot of my childhood there and even have a jewellery collection inspired by it.”
What events are you most looking forward to in Guernsey this autumn?
“We have some great balls coming up, including the St. James Ball, which is set to be a lot of fun. I’m also hugely looking forward to the Les Misérables production at Beau Sejour as it’s one of my favourites and I could listen to the music forever.”
Visit Catherine’s extraordinary boutique in Guernsey while staying at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa.
Image credit: lead image © Catherine Best. Catherine Best and daughters © Catherine Best. Catherine Best © Catherine Best. Jerbourg Cliffs © Visit Guernsey. Fermain Bay © Visit Guernsey.