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Caithness Stone Industries – graduate placement case study
Creating lasting pieces of work that will be appreciated by future generations is surely every
artists dream, and for two graduates in Caithness they enjoy this reality on a grand scale every
Natalie Horner and Tamara Hicks are design graduates who came to work with Caithness Stone
Industries on a placement programme almost two years ago. Some of their projects can be seen
in public buildings, people’s homes and on signs and landmarks across the country.
The business, which was launched almost 20 years ago, provides primarily Caithness stone and
slate, although they also work in wood and steel. Its 30 strong team work together to quarry,
split and create precision cut, customised products using state of the art equipment.
Having been kept on after the placement both young women now play their part in the in-house
design and production. Natalie, 25, is originally from Yorkshire and is delighted that the original
scheme gave her a foot in the door.
She commented: “I wouldn’t live anywhere else now, I love it. Every day is different and the work
I am involved in is hugely rewarding. I have learned so much from the highly skilled team who
work here. We have created everything from illustrative panels for places like the Dunbeath
Heritage Centre, to stunning standing stones for town centres including Dingwall and Swindon, to
the unique pieces we make for clients and visitors who come to the showroom."
24 year old Tamara left Thurso to study her BA Hons in design and craft at Gray’s School of Art in
Aberdeen. She specialised in 3d design and is also a sculptor.
“Working with Caithness Stone Industries is amazing. We are encouraged to keep up to date
with all the latest techniques and are able to put forward our ideas for creating and marketing new
products and services,” she said.
Business owner John Sutherland said the graduate scheme had been valuable. “Employing
graduates with specialist skills has given us more capacity to develop the business in new ways.
As a team we are taking on exciting projects like the spectacular focal point in Fort William of the
West Highland Way map which we have sandblasted into Caithness paving stones.”
He added: “Tamara and Natalie have enjoyed their role in nurturing our showroom at Spittal,
where in addition to all our other work we now get many visitors who want to see the team in
HIE’s Annemarie Monteforte works with Caithness Stone Industries on their growth plans for the
future, she commented: “These young women are a classic example of what is so good about the
graduate placement scheme. Natalie has come to live and work in the area and Tamara has
been able to do the work she loves locally. These are skilled positions and it benefits the
business, the community and the region that graduate placement helped them get work here.”