Emma Bridgewater began in 1985, after Emma tried and failed to find a birthday present for her mum. "I was looking for a really special cup and saucer, but everything was either too formal or too clunky. That was my eureka moment. I realised there was a gap in the market for pottery that was beautiful and practical – pottery for a relaxed, colourful, mismatched life." Emma's book 'Toast & Marmalade and Other Stories', released in 2014, provides more insight into those moments which has shaped the business in the last 29 years. Today the company is run by Emma and her husband Matthew Rice, and our designs come from both of them. Most of the signature spongeware patterns, and the shape designs, are Emma’s, while Matthew is responsible for our timeless and much-loved Black Toast print, the cheerfully idiosyncratic Year in the Country range, and our Birds, Dogs and Animals mugs. Matthew's illustrations are also subject to a collection of books on architecture documenting churches and other historical buildings in Stoke and Norfolk. We’re very much a family business, and a lot of our ideas come from Emma and Matthew’s everyday life with their four children – our Marmalade pattern, for example, was inspired by a family tradition of stocking the cupboards with home-made marmalade every February, and we made our lovely deep pasta bowls after Emma couldn’t find any that were big enough for the generous portions she likes to serve at home. We’re a thoroughly British company too – all our pottery is made in Stoke-on-Trent, the traditional home of British pottery, and we’re proud to be one of the largest employers of potters in the area.
About our products
At Emma Bridgewater, we like to make things that make everyday life a little bit nicer – things that are beautiful to look at but also a pleasure to use, like a lovely mug that cheers you up when you have your first cup of tea in the morning, or a bowl with a playful message that makes you smile when you use it. Emma and Matthew only design things that they love and want to use at home themselves, which gives our patterns a unique warmth that makes them instantly recognisable.
All our pottery is made from cream-coloured earthenware – a traditional Staffordshire product which we make in our own factory in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British pottery. Most of the production work is still done by hand, and all the pieces are individually hand-decorated, so every one is very slightly different – and our spongeware is always signed by the person who painted it. If you want a completely unique piece, we can also hand-paint a name or message on many of our pottery items. From the very beginning, Emma was clear that she wanted to make pottery that could be used and enjoyed every day, so we take a lot of care with the shapes of our pieces – our mugs feel just right in your hands, and our bowls and plates are big enough for generous portions, but not that silly restaurant size that takes up all the room on your table. And of course, all of our tableware is perfectly happy being washed in the dishwasher.
Pottery is, and always will be, at the heart of our company, but in recent years we’ve come out of the kitchen and used our patterns on a growing range of other products including glass, tins, picnicware, wallpaper and fabrics from Sanderson, and our own collection of home fragrances, and bath and bodycare.