Last week I had a lovely experience when I was invited along to the Emma Bridgewater pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent. After a busy school holidays the invitation came at just the right time and I was so looking forward to a grown up day looking at pottery! I even got to paint my own too.
Emma Bridgewater and her husband Matthew still head up the company and do all the designs themselves, which amazed me. In fact, Matthew was at the factory that day talking to the Emma Bridgewater stockists. If you aren’t aware, Stoke-on-Trent is renowned for its pottery, however this factory is now one of the last still producing British products there, the others like Wedgewood having outsourced abroad several years ago. Emma Bridgewater began designing and producing its wares back in 1985, and a few years later acquired the 19th century factory in Stoke where it still resides today.
What struck me most throughout the day was the essence of this company. Yes, they produce lovely pottery and designs and most of us will be familiar with the famous Emma Bridgewater polka dots or stars patterns, but they are also a British company to its core and very proud of that fact. All of the staff members whom we spoke to throughout the day, from the factory, to the shops and to management were enthusiastic and passionate about the brand and their work. The fact that the day itself was a treat for Emma Bridgewater stockists is testament I think to the generosity of the company and its ethos in general.
So what did I learn about Emma Bridgewater pottery? Well I mentioned the most famous of its designs, Polka Dots, but did you know it’s been updated slightly? Polka Dots with Pansies was on full display and looked lovely mixed with its predecessor. In fact, I learned that many of the Emma Bridgewater designs get a tweak here and there, and even old designs are revisited to bring a fresh new look to a mainstay. Take Toast and Marmalade for example, which has to be my favourite. The Black lace wallpaper design is an old pattern that’s been brought back to add a more eclectic, modern look to this range, and I think it does that brilliantly. If there was one range I had to choose to see in my kitchen this would be it.
A tour of the factory proved to be inspiring. Still working to old factory values, with a clocking in system and weekly pay, generations of a family have worked here and continue to do so. All of the work is done by hand from the pot casting, to throwing the bowls and to the sponge decorating which in fact, makes Emma Bridgewater a highly responsive company. At the time of the Prince George’s birth, Matthew had designed a new celebratory mug, and all that was needed was the baby’s name. When the name was announced, the sponge needed to decorate the mug was soldered immediately (yes, the sponges are cut by hand using a soldering iron) and the initial 4,000 orders were underway. Emma Bridgewater was one of the first companies to have a commemorative piece on the shelves following the new Prince’s birth. Amazing.
After our factory tour and in-depth lesson on the history of Emma Bridgewater pottery it was time for a browse around the shops, a refreshing coffee and even a mince pie or two. And then lunch! This stockists day is a real tradition and we met a lovely shop owner who was on her 10th event. Lunch over and it was time to head across to the Pottery studio to paint our own pots. Now I must admit to being a little nervous here (art and creativity isn’t my strong point) but I shouldn’t have worried. Paul in the Studio gave us a great tutorial and put us at ease. Can’t wait to see my pot in a few days’ time!
I came away from my Emma Bridgewater visit with a completely different view of the brand and the products. They aren’t just for the country kitchen and although they are reasonably priced, the British handmade quality speaks volumes.
If you want to see more of the Emma Bridgewater Pottery range then head over to the website here.
My favourite Toast and Marmalade range can be viewed here with the Black Wallpaper mug starting at £19.95.
If you’re looking for gifts for family and friends then why not consider the personalised service offered at the Emma Bridgewater website. One of their most popular items this is great for Weddings, Anniversaries, special birthdays and Christenings.
And of course, if you want to get your hands on one of the lovely Prince George mugs then click here for more information.
Before this visit, I liked Emma Bridgewater pottery and had purchased one or two items as presents, but after this tour I’m a complete convert and am totally blown away by this company, their values and their completely British, handmade products. If you’re looking for birthday or Christmas gifts, or would just like to treat yourself, look no further than the lovely Emma Bridgewater.
Thank you to Emma Bridgewater for inviting me along to experience the factory tour and brand. I received a lovely lunch and goodie bag but all comments and opinions are genuine and honest.