Katherine Swift

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Katherine Swift (1956–2004) was an Irish-born Portuguese painter, illustrator and ceramicist.

Estudio Destra, faux door, tiles by Kate Swift, 1994
Acrobat, acrylic on canvas, inspired by Celtic and Iberian imagery, Kate Swift, 1999


Born in Dublin in 1956, Katherine was the first child of Patrick Swift (painter) and Oonagh Ryan (formerly married to Alexis Guedroitz with whom she had a daughter, Ania Guédroïtz). Her uncle was the artist and man of letters, John Ryan; her aunt the film actress Kathleen Ryan. Her father gave a portrait of the poet Patrick Kavanagh to the doctor, Michael Solomons, as a gift for delivering Katherine and the doctor subsequently bequeathed the portrait to the Dublin Writers Museum, where it can be seen today. Katherine had a bohemian upbringing moving between Dublin, London and the Algarve in southern Portugal. Katherine had shown a gift for drawing and painting from an early age. Her father taught and encouraged her. As a teenager she attended boarding school in England and later studied at Art College in Lisbon and London before moving back to the Algarve more permanently in 1982, when her father was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Katherine was an outstanding portraitist and landscape painter. Her portraits include David Wright and her father. She illustrated several books including a guide to Portuguese restaurants. Throughout her life she continuously painted the Algarve landscape. For some years her work was inspired by ancient Celtic and Iberian imagery, as can be seen in the Acrobat displayed here. Katherine had exhibitions in Dublin, London, and Algarve. She worked in a variety of media including oils, acrylics, ink, watercolour and ceramics.


Doves, tiles by Katherine Swift
Estudio Destra entrance
Estudio Destra pot signed by Kate Swift

Porches Pottery (Olaria Algarve) Katherine had been around and involved with the pottery her father founded, Porches Pottery, from its inception. She showed an artistic flair from a young age and, as a child, would often pass the time by decorating ceramics. By her teens Katherine was already an accomplished ceramicist and painter. Katherine, like her father before her, only ever decorated free-hand, never using stencils or other reproductive techniques. Following her father’s death in 1983 she was to take over the management of Porches Pottery. At Porches she concentrated primarily on painting tile panels while also training Porches Pottery decorators in the free flowing style that is associated with Porches Pottery. Estudio Cynette She was later to leave the fold and found Estudio Cynette. It was here that Katherine developed her own, unique, style of ceramic decoration.

Estudio Destra In the late 1980s Katherine founded, with the ceramicist Roger Metcalfe, a ceramics workshop and studio, Estudio Destra. Estudio Destra (which continues to be a working studio & workshop run by Roger Metcalfe[1]) is located in a 16th-century Jewish townhouse in the historic town of Silves, Algarve. Silves was once the capital of the Algarve and an important Moorish city that rivalled Lisbon. Among the very few buildings to have survived the earthquake of 1775 in Silves were the Cathedral, begun in the 13th and completed in the 15th century, and the building that today houses Estudio Destra. During the building's restoration a small indentation was noticed on the doorpost where a mezuzah — the little case containing a handwritten scripture from Deuteronomy and a fixture on a Jewish home — once hung.

Katherine is credited with re-introducing Moorish decorative patterns and techniques to the area. At Estudio Destra, apart from re-introducing ancient ceramic designs and methods, Katherine specialised in painting magnificent tile panels. Her tile panels were lauded and bought by collectors from around the world. Here she was to "gain international repute as a ceramics painter. Kate’s splendid works are free interpretations of ancient Iberian, Islamic and pre-Islamic designs. Every piece is unique and no stencils or any kind or reproductive technique is used".[2] Katherine and her studio were the subject of a documentary on Portuguese national TV.

Katherine Swift, after a prolonged battle with cancer, died in 2004.


  1. ^ ArtGallery.co.uk on Estudio Destra, Kate Swift & Roger Metcalfe
  2. ^ AA Algarve Guide (AA Spiral Guides), p.30 (p.26 earlier issues), Katherine Swift and her Silves Studio, 2005, 07,09, ISBN 978-0-7495-5964-9

Sources and further reading[edit]

  • Whytes, Irish auctioneers: [1]
  • Porches Pottery website [2]
  • Estudio Destra today: [3]
  • Artists at Estudio Destra today:[4]
  • AA Portugal (Spiral), p. 17, tiles by Katherine Swift, 2009.
  • PS...of course, Veronica Jane O’Mara (ed.), Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1993; with contributions by Katherine Swift, David Wright and others
  • Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
  • Green and Red Magazine [5]
  • Artnet [6]
  • Frommers, Algarve Travel [7]
  • Portugal, by David J. J. Evans [8]
  • Richard Neubersch, Algarve Report, p. 57 [9]
  • Algarve Inspirations [10]
  • Algarve Resident: Porches Pottery- The Inside Story [11]
  • Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, by Antoinette Quinn, Gill & MacMillan Ltd, 2001.
  • Algarve Resident: Anniversary Party [12]
  • Images [13]
  • Images [14]
  • AA Algarve Guide (AA Spiral Guides), p. 28-29 (p. 24-25 earlier editions),Swift family and ceramics.
  • Swift Images [15]
  • Algarve, Top 10, Eyewitness Travel, p. 91, p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4053-3973-5
  • Estudio Destra today, run by Roger Metcalfe [16]
  • Images [17], [18], [19], [20], Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  • Ceramica [21]
  • Images [22]
  • Hotel Garbe [23]
  • Info [24]
  • Algarve Welcome Magazine [25]