Last Wednesday I was invited to spend the day at the Emma Bridgwater factory on the banks of the Cauldon canal in Stoke-on-Trent. We started the day off in the recently redesigned cafe with big windows that look out onto the factory courtyard, decorated with pretty bunting. From there we viewed the new Christmas collections and old favourites in the on-site gift shop.
We then headed up the iron work stairs to see the franchise lines where many Emma Bridgewater designs are also adapted for application onto wellington boots, umbrellas, and napkins, to name a few. My favourite was the pretty printed tins of home made fudge... So so yummy!
Before heading to the factory tour we had a whirl round the Factory Outlet, full of a wide range of seconds and discontinued lines at greatly reduced prices. "If you like collecting Emma Bridgewater it’s a great hunting ground for some pretty unique experimental pieces as they also stock occasional samples and one-off pieces".
The factory tour...
From the throwing of the clay to the final firing and decorating, the tour was inspirational to say the least and made me have so much respect for the Emma Bridgewater brand. "Hand Made in England" they surely are, as they have resisted the trend to replace people with machines and have preserved the traditional skills of pottery. Like a well-oiled machine, each department was run efficiently and smoothly and they warmly explained and showed us how each skilled job was done. I was fascinated by the lady who was making the design sponges using what looked to be a very fine soldering iron, and in awe of the ladies using the design sponges to decorate mugs, bowls and teapots.
The tours cost only £2.50 which is redeemable against any purchases made in the factory shop on the day.
After a delightful lunch we visited the decorating studio - a bright and inspiring space set up for you to decorate a plain Emma Bridgewater piece with your own design. There’s a great selection of hand-cut sponges in a host of different styles, and designs ranging from mini cupcakes to dinosaurs, a whole bunch of colours and if you need a bit of help then one of the lovely assistants is always on hand.
I decorated an Emma Bridgewater mug in a pastel design of stars and spots. Now I patiently wait for it to be fired and glazed and returned to me... (and I promise to show you when it arrives)
If you don't get the chance to visit the design studio yourself but are looking for a pretty perfect personalized gift you can always get a lovely Emma Bridgewater personalised mug or a personalized tea pot in the iconic heart, spots or star print with up to 40 letters on! What would you say?