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A lot of people ask us whether there is a real Emma Bridgewater, and we are happy to say yes! Emma Bridgewater Ltd is a British company owned and run by Emma (née Bridgewater) and Matthew Rice. The core of the business is pottery, which is made with loving care in much the same way as it would have been in Victorian times when our factory was built.
The company was born in 1985, when Emma was looking for a birthday present for her mother. She wanted to buy a cup and saucer, but in the shops she couldn’t find anything that she liked; the choices seemed to be either bewilderingly formal bone china with stiff silver or gold patterns, or clunky earthenware. She liked some of the colourful Italian designs that she saw, but being made of terracotta they would crack or chip in the dishwasher. It was one of those “kerching!” moments - here was the opportunity she had been looking for; the pottery she sought for her mum was what every cosy kitchen needed. So she set out to design it herself.
Emma drew four shapes, a mug, a bowl, a jug and a dish. She went to Stoke-on-Trent to find a model-maker; she worked with him to get these first pieces just right. Luckily, her strong preference for cream earthenware was easily met as this was still in wide production in many large and small potteries in the city. Staffordshire earthenware has had a world-wide reputation since Josiah Wedgwood pioneered his beautiful creamware in the early 1800s. When her shapes were sampled, she started experimenting with the forgotten decorative technique of sponge printing, applying simple patterns with a cut sponge. She showed these samples to a selection of buyers, who almost all placed orders, and the show was on the road.
Stoke-on-Trent, the midlands city known as The Potteries, became the focus of Emma’s working life. At first she had her designs made under contract, but within a few years her company acquired their own manufacturing facility and soon expanded into a big nineteenth century factory on the Caldon canal, where they still make all of their ceramics (with the exception of some lines such as plates, which are locally outsourced). Many Emma Bridgewater designs are also adapted for application onto textiles, glass, tin, stationery and melamine and lots of further developments are planned in the studio; wherever possible these new products are sourced in the UK.
Today Emma’s husband Matthew also designs for Emma Bridgewater. He indulges his passion for birdlife in the best-selling and highly collectible Birds range. Matthew has always had an interest in lettering since his art master taught him how to do bold italic for posters at school. Black Toast is Matthew’s artwork as are patterns such as the Alphabet and lithograph commemorative specials such as a John Betjeman centenary mug and the Queen’s 80th birthday 1 Pint Mugs.
Matthew also has his own range within the Emma Bridgewater collection. This includes the annual series of charming and humorous advent calendars and his legendary Year in the Country calendar, which you will see in all the nicest kitchens. This annual must-have has a cult following, because it is useful, beautiful and educational; each month features interesting facts and tips about subjects close to Matthew’s heart.
We’re very proud of the fact that we’re the sixth biggest employer of potters in Staffordshire. Stoke-on-Trent is rightfully proud of its reputation as home to the Potteries and we’re delighted to affirm our commitment to making here and to playing our part in the local business community. We make our wares in a warm cream coloured earthenware which is a quintessential Staffordshire product; we are drawing on a long and well-evolved expertise and a tradition which stretches back 200 years.