Emma Bridgewater is a British ceramic designer and businesswoman. She set up her pottery business in 1985 in Stoke-on-Trent, when many other manufacturers in the city were either closing down or going overseas. Her pottery is instantly recognizable, decorated with polka dots, stars, hearts or elegant lettering using 19th century sponge-printing techniques. It is an unlikely career for someone who studied English at University. Together with her husband, illustrator Matthew Rice, Emma Bridgewater has played a part in keeping the pottery tradition alive in Stoke-on-Trent. The factory also now hosts an annual literary festival. She was awarded a CBE in 2013 for services to industry. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc hulu on Kirsty young. Thank you for downloading this podcast of desert on an discs from BBC radio for for rights reasons, the music choices of shorter than in the radio broadcasts for more information about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont uk slash radio for Castaway this week is the designer and business woman Emma Bridgewater, you may know and love her upon him, a sprawling range of home where, but whatever you do, don't call her potter, she's, not she's, grubby industrialist, her words and the company she funded souci years ago. Manufacturing still content has succeeded.
Condensing, a well made and gently witty version of british innocent mugs, teapots, milk, jugs and dishes from its beginnings, the companies designs embodied notions of quality and comfort at once. Nostalgic. He had also somehow entirely of the moment. We have in no small part her mother to thank the crowded, dresser and found a kitchen in oxford was a blueprint for to fashion a harmonious whole from mismatched dissonant pieces. So it was with her crockery, but also with her life, Michael two way grew up in a liberal, slightly chaotic home, enjoying a bohemian childhood of above siblings, wild swimming and colorful lodgers. She says instead of smooth sailing on a sunny day. It seems as if I've been frantically trying to learn to sail a boat that I built in my sleep, then in a moment of delirium boarded and set out on around the world trip with no map. Or skins or even much of a picnic a better description of being a human being. I cannot
find em original site where you talking there exclusively about your business life or about the business of life in general. I was thinking about the business, but your right it for it probably applies to the whole world. Doesn't it being a household name, as you are a people again I'm sure you ass many times about you, how you made us and how you build a brand Are you telling me there wasn't a plan there? No, I really did fall into it. I was very young when I started, and I really didn't know what I was getting into when I had at first, I dare in a china shop that I could make what was missing mercifully friend set me on the road to stoke. On trend- and it was there that it jailed into something of a plan and the thing that you were looking for at the time I have heard- I have read your looking for gift for your mother and you couldn't find quite the right thing is that true, exactly that, I was looking for two cups and saucers, because to me that said, what I longed to be able to say are technically to her. I'm surrounding such a practice. At the moment,
we will sit down and drink coffee together and chat. I just can't quite do it now that you are right or two and in one of your books pattern you talk about this, you call it was secrets of lasting design. I'm should actually is poorly quite a complicated, but can you do still it down for me, what you think good design is. I think that good design speaks from one person to another. It conveys something very important and quite emotional, and I think, in terms of housewares, we ve become. Something of an anomaly that used to be lots of studios in prison, so content, for example, where people sat down and they thought about their holiday in Spain or they went to the library, got some books at mexico and they did designs very carefully with quite a knowledge of their audience or to have now think
buying team. This does much more sort of pragmatism and calm us than heart and soul, going into the making, let's goose the music and which was to tell me about your first piece to do. What is it and why specifically, have you decided that it's one of unique discs? It's the swimming sung by kate, nana, mechanical and listen to their songs, all my life. This really reminds me of being in the car, with my brother and sister with moment: rick driving all the way from oxford to northumberland, maybe a moment's queen of the phone she's, always very good at making every day jolly and lovely and an adventure as they serve me. She d been in a very good mood if we were setting offer to stay with cousins in norfolk or her parents in northumberland. So this really feels like singing and ranking in the car and must have those making absolutely
tenuous late and sometimes posing the tapes to read out loud to her from private eye, because we denounce none the jake's, but we thought it was hilarious because they were nothing. This summer in swimming summer round a mailman breath, then a kick men. Be then my arm, my summer, lamb innocent man saw mom loreen my eyes, amazon. Swimming song performed my case and mechanical? The company, of course, then, is an abridged water, but for some years now it's been run in partnership with sir. Your husband designer matthew rice. Is that a clear demarcation of went what right matthews we finished working now and now we're going to go home
Do you have any friends now where we try and train ourselves to talk about other things? It doesn't work for long. We met at a trade fair, he strolled past my stand and then strolled back again and then back again, so I was on to him we got married very shortly after that within a year and we didn't start working together. Absolute immediately. We waited all of eighteen months. This idea of brake through to a new design, is it sort of like giving birth is a difficult process too. If your designing together, given birth, is a good description of it, we have to have a colossal row usually to started off and there's something in that this terribly important and will scrap about something are utterly stupid. The designing has sort of two arms to it. On the one hand, we quite sophisticated good commercial department and they give us a lot of sophisticated sales feedback, and we know whether successes are, but we also
have to do the thing that no sales figures continuing to dream the future it's trying to get at that. That does require a loss. Galvanizing and there are other routes to walking is good one of your monks, I'm not sure. If it still introduction, I think it probably isn't had the phrase to love and high adventure sort of inscribed in it round. The room was there's something autobiographical in that. Definitely a friend described it as a sort of guerrilla approach to business. Kindly I am aware that its its unconventional and I'm not merely risk of us enough minimal praying to two jumping. Can you give me an example of that? Well, when Michael he's, no sixteen was only a tiny baby. The company was doing ok, but it wasn't growing wheat had for children with
calculating in any way. But I do think the only way to go about anything, and that is needed- is a new roof quite badly and was a bit of an emergency, and I jumped in to the business, not knowing what I was about, but knowing I was gonna have to prevail and not far down the liner hotter completely mortgage. The has lost the time we ve been my on the edge and that's being almost people can't really can't stand uneasy with it no sleepless nights, then you darling, sweating? No, I dont really have sleepless nights. Let's have you second disc and bridgewater. Tell me about this. What are you gonna hear? Its attract coolio premier bonner de jure sung by force was already an whitey chosen. This will. It just is the acme of glamour. I must have first heard it when I was a very little girl, I can picture the record,
great big sort of mahogany chest in the sitting room of the house in haulage aware I pensive before they split up I'm putting this and dancing around and laughing at I've come to think of it as a source of some kind of x, the nation for my parents love affair, something about bosses. You don't get to hear the love story. Do you you any sort of here the aftermath, and I that they met in paris- and I know that they went on meeting there, so I love the thought of them being young enough there say? sir the key Yes, sir,
from one of these The premier bonham too sure you ve, written and abridge water think of my childhood is being totally happy and golden will three two years to that, can you describe him was vivid memories of the of the very early parts of childhood. Well, my parents were still married. Living is lovely lovely farmhouse in a village in half a chance, They gave certainly one maybe more spectacularly glamorous parties with maybe one of the beatles or tracking relieve. Yes, absolutely, I loved helping hang lots of sir knight lights in the apple trees and the fact that I was going to wear my address. I want a bridesmaid and it being terribly exciting that ended when I was seven What you have in oxford and oversee seven tom. I went with her, but I was never aware tool that my parents didn't get or an,
had married very young, you were the eldest of three children. You were born right at the dawning of the nineteen sixties and innovative in nineteen sixty and how young women, when they were. They started married life together she was barely twenty and he was a couple of years older. So Joan Look at my children now nothing of what was going on but relatively typical of the generational heavily and lately they will grow much quicker, didn't and they divorced. When you would just seven answer, you written very enthusiastically about how fond indeed how much love you had four both step here, and you were also one of eight various children that had been produced by these two sixty set out. Yes, that's what I'm think quite as sixty set up. What do you think it was a basis that meant that they got it right and we get one incredibly well. I, when people set, which you have sister, doesn't matter she's my sister it for meat has definitely the feed.
Of one family, a real leitmotif of my early childhood, is going to bed definite, knocking sleep for a long time been puts bed in an attic bedroom with a whole lot of kids writing about up there, but to the glorious sound of extended drunken dinner party going on downstairs and knowing that We run our undoing double das and being a bit wild, they wouldn't know they want, can come and check. Tell me about your third piece of music. What we're gonna get her lovely piece of VON Williams, and I was trying to work out how to get her a military band of cholera, brass band and some lovely lyrical english, the lovely sound of summer. And the stone williams is just as my favorite so perfect.
that was part of the first months from the english folk song sweep Ivan Williams, perform, thereby the central banks of the royal force kinda By wing commander Eric banks and emma which was your mother, then, as you have described her queen of the fun, tell me about the queen of the fund's kitchen door. She seemed to inherit. Every house we lived in had she never installed, one will thought bite it magically. There was one that perhaps it was what clinch the house each time for I don't know I'm awake at night in the fifties and life was much more formal mahogany thence issues it just transitioning out of food. Did she had a lovely old, pretty copeland in a service and then some other things mixed into it from the beginning. I can remember of non matching situation, so when you led the table, there were no to place the same and it certainly
to mobile cups and saucers, and that seemed just right and then all amongst it. There were two invitations and arrested desiccated bridesmaids, bunches, and if I were a little tiny silver cup running at school or some, that would be in in there somewhere. Do you have to have one in whatever high sulivan dinah? Yes, it's a requirement, light central meetings. It. More does seem to be a much more important central heating either. So this rambling bouhe, In the house that you then move to a roundabout aged seven in oxford, late sixties, early seventies. Tell me about this assortment of the sun, but very well. Here's the old hat betrayed colorful kenneth
There are the people who came to large. She was way beyond her budget because we just lived on the ground floor and she, the rest of this big edwardian, has was full of lodgers and there was erika who kept a parrot which would mimic everyone's voices in the house. You could hear laughing in everyone's different thanks and my brother and I spent hours in there and though our students up in the flat upstairs- and I remember, coming back from a summer holiday and some of them had started a vote by repair business on the landing and they were literally owed motorbikes all over the landing. There was a girl who, when we were away, she painted the room. Purple ceiling. We never seen anything so exciting overnight, gloves simply marvellous, probably s time for your force, one. Oh, it's love straight, the sexiest, some in the world, the doors
live streaming were lying row, lazy diamonds. The doors and love street sue emigrants bridgewater you left home at eighteen to go to university in london and you were particularly fascinated by angry sex. And middle english, and I think that is probably not the classic tell tale signs of a future entrepreneur. I did you imagine your life shape alive. I thought I'd work for a publisher. He be tall and thin, and rather bad tempered might be good at that. If cooksey him and we'd work in it,
the tiny little attic in so who and sue when they all go right when we can think yes actually on a businesswoman art. Don't think. I've ever really thought that I just find myself with this very compelling idea of making the poultry that that we need it, and then I got to stoke on the place. Just absolutely got hold of me. I'm making one of those pushers live again filled my thoughts when I saw one of these factors. I do so it's gonna my name on it. This is the crucial part of your story- is that it runs in tandem with a particular time in british manufacturing in british life generally heading into the modalities when british manufacturing was decimated, and it takes a certain sort of optimism to look at. One of those thank and down like factories with the boards on the windows and doors and think I'm going to breathe life into it again. I think,
Firstly, I am very optimistic and in some sense completely bunkers minute, but some hoist. I could feel that I could do something here You went to a blue composer on chemical lean and said to him he's my joy Could you may use like a bull in a china dish, and why did they have to be like that and not like something else, I was, it was, if I didn't know any other way. If I go to a school, I think I do. Been shown a route that I should concentrate on myself his design ideas and that I would oh two parties that convention laced sold blanks for the people to decorate and I've been absent governed from the start, because I d in using someone else's horrible shaped you. It was a bad moment them a date is the fact that I did my own things was very significant, though I didn't know it tell me about the first day. Up and running and you walk along the factory floor, and you see this imagining in reality. There isn't ever a first day like that we did take a picture of it.
All tiny little group of us outside the factory compared to the new three hundred people are now and yes, we put a special back stamp on the first weeks, production in eastward works when we moved into that big factory, but this is very bad habit and entrepreneurial set of mindset, which is always looking forward. You want more, never think. Why look at this. In fact, the first time I. Must unite of ever felt. Caustic at this was of the literary festival which you have begun. Yet a swift return to three years and this june very Very, very tired at the end of it, but Mathieu said we ve made something really lovely look, what the factory can be and the extraordinary thing of having hudson bay, glittery names was one thing, but watching children sitting around the courtyard reading books you to sink close up.
How does it is felt like him? Something good was happening. Let's have more music and bridgewater. Tell me about this. This is your fists, terribly difficult, cheese and emily harris track at me like impossible, and this is gulf coast highway, which is getting worse willie nelson, it reminds me hugely of my oldest daughter, has an amazing voice and she thinks this very peacefully and some land She walked through spring, what Yes, nice
Cs the jobs that was Emily behind us and willing elsie gulf coast highway as we know, and the bridge was her- you, you ve, been made for a long time soon. It'll be thirty years. Europe partnership with Saint Matthew, he'd known you for what about ten weeks when he put used what was your initial response, Adam and uncharacteristic moment, perhaps of of complete indecision, and when I said to soar best friends, I come, I think we might be going to get married. They went yeah he's fantastic. I just knew when I met him. I was never going to have so much fun with anyone else and one she will may then is what you were living then in norfolk. Your manufacturing base for this relatively small operation at the time was in stoke on transit about four hours away. Your customers were, london spheres, away in the opposite direction may before us by traffic. You.
Manning and running trade stalls, maybe up to six times a year in london, paris, sometimes in america, you were leaning in before anybody had even source of the phrase I are you feeling with that. I wasn't working out for you, my sisters and I talk bite it. Why have we got these crazy, busy dives. I think the underlying there is some strange dynamic to do with moms accident, some kind of fury. That was quite a good, useful driver and turn. The terrible thing happened to her when she had a writing. I spent which disabled her later was that if she got acute dementia whence came I for coma. It really propelled. May my sisters to work. Very very hard you mothers very serious accident was when she was out riding in the horse slipped and she and she fell. So suddenly the woman who had been this vigorous centre a family life is no longer that women anymore. It made life
for suddenly, it made it very, very, very difficult she'd, as he's a big family, big life and my sisters were very young. It was very testing indeed, but none of that money does not. I think through, took speak of myself as what had happened to her her loss. I perhaps its living life for her slightly unfeeling terribly terribly sad for her. I think you understand, after a disaster that life hangs on a thread cmos will get on with it. Let's take a break for some music tommy. What we can do here, it's it's your six! Oh it's a sad one! It's dieters lament some
Janet baker, I went to a day school and I know that my relationship with my mom was hugely about the texture of everyday life and deciding at the washington the washing up on that kind of thing. I missed that where my children went to boarding school, but I have completely to acknowledge that what they gained from going to be there has been enormous and the most incredible gang of friends, and the song is one of a repertoire that as an informal qua and this one, the songs they sing.
damn janet bakers, singing lion laid in earth from per cells die due at an s with the english chamber orchestra conducted, thereby sir answered louis. What are you have written this after your mother life. Changing extant life moved on with a jagged in the middle of it for all of us. Emotionally, I did you accommodate that jacket who. Will you do what you're in to begin with your very hopeful crazily optimistic that its open, right now. You're moving towards recovery is really believe that send it only dawns, only very gradually your mind colony, take it in its if two years will itself to hurt hope. That's when she chooses came three months and cheap covered juice quickly sent home, which was
very very testing and my little sisters junk teenagers who, looking after him at the time and then must have already sensibly said whatever good bye come of this for her world gauge pay too high a price she's got go, find him. When I search we looked after and move on and it was then you start the process of darning that jacket hove and when we lived in office using a very nice home there, where they encouraged us to come in with dogs whenever we wanted to, they were very very so you can make it all fine and try and use I've tried to use what she taught me to me.
Life from your mother charlotte. She lived for twenty two years after her full. How much has it made an impact on the big questions you know of of of god, and why would he let this happen of end of life care of those those huge things that surely you ve had to confront the very real level? I have no truck with the idea that got caught exists because he lets bad things happen. Bad things happen and we have to deal with them and thus the test- and I was dead- imagine myself to having to em hitch up my skirts and an wade through difficult stuff. What I got was much more difficult challenge. You don't get the challenge you choose to you, but I could do that. Haven't you and mom
faith with huge her father was a clergyman. Church was always part of our childhood life and have you was it childish to look for explanations? Leave room for the miraculous, believe the impossible and doing to such furtive proper out says two things just accept when she died in Thirteen aside from, I imagine the inevitable deep sorrow. What will your feelings given? there had been so many years of such incredibly difficult circumstances. She died in december and advocates always observed big highly charged him. It had been before her accident happened in november and we spent that address in intensive care with her. My grandparents both died in December. This was this was a marvellous release. I felt so
so glad for her tat. It was over and start nearly morning. Clover got them was with and she died and we arrived just after a sweet. They opened. The windows and there was a blackbird singing in the apple tree outside she's farina, taking what. We can have some music now. Just tell me what we're going to hear this is your seven's? Oh, it's a lovely advent him low. He comes with clouds dissenting church. There has been part of my life and I find it.
The atkins him so very, very moving. We got married in in december my birthday in December. It certainly not all bad, but it's a very very big month. I'm one of the greatest was surprises, really is it must unite, manage to be quite parents. We thought were polity flaky to manage it, but Michael our youngest is he's very orderly chop and he was, of course, to as one of the other quorums said. Well, we ve sat through a lifetime of even songs to get, and I love that the voices of the boy troubles.
He comes with clothes descending by charles wesley sung by the quiet of samples cathedral. Their directed by John Scott was christopher dirty. Organ and the english brass ensemble emma bridge will show you took something of a step, back from your business in two thousand and six was that for what reason I just got completely exhausted and I have rheumatoid arthritis. It was time for me to stop doing that, the huge mileage and carrying the management of the company Adam only solution, but you could do it. Your husband children said think what took you so long mob and what democracy, if he didn't think he could do the job which turned out to be spectacularly. While he's been Absolutely brilliant at your children are young yet, but do they show any signs of wanting to come into the parents business we boys at them no dollars. You must get on with their own lives and don't, for Heaven's sake, worry about the business and vague
roll their eyes and say it's not like we haven't, heard a lot of ashes, because every car drive and most meals is far too much better, but in they have gone, often done the right thing, and just now, when I wish, we had been a little bit more dramatic about titian, said european accountant he'll be a lawyer. Could you train for the business lizzie and kitty the oldest out very much on their own projects, which is, of course I do believe as it should be, but after the literary festival this summer we did have an about turn in situ voice said during thing now: hissing just come and have a think about the business and it's a hell of a thing to build up a business, and I really hope that at least one of them does full, for nothing is good chance tat. You thought them statistically, the must unite us Do you ever fantasize that, in a couple of hundred years time, when surely antics, roads we'll still be on somebody. Who bring a lovely little person, eyes monk and say I think it says bridgewater
something in the bottom. Do you think your stuff will last? Is that what's important to you that making what you make? I believe if I said that I hadn't crossed my tell me about your atheists. Gonna Bridgewater wouldn't go here, was really lovely sancho, the next upon to train and it's a band called the bigger ten years, and this is matthews in my kitchen and our kids. It particularly makes me Think of cooking on a saturday morning in the kitchen in norfolk, polly mackerel, a cheese, bizarrely better. With boiled potatoes and green solid, strange combo, you wouldn't have thought you needed a meeting. And the children all around and that that very very likely to attract I put on
was on my bed and I was on the beach ten years and the links of puncture train. So emma it's time for me to give you those books, you get the bible, you get the complete works of shakespeare and you can take another book along. What's he gonna be? Oh, have I deliberated about this, but I don't He'll be very good. Big on my own, I know, will be homesick, but I think Patrick abroad, please, I don't know if you could do the whole set us back: twenty titles, morocco,
Give you twenty books is one story, pretty sloop as you well know, and if there is one book with some collected works of his and surely there must be. I'm gonna give you that big book, but I'm not gonna, give you all. Twenty bucks and a luxury what will your luxury item bouquet? I thought bite asking you for my life. Three to sweep the island, so it didn't have snakes, but that's bit, babyish! Isn't it. I think I have to learn to grapple with the snakes. Could I have as big a bottle? Is your prepared to give me as of Stefano tests? Bothwell, we ass, I think I'll, be fine. Would you even like a bath to go with us? if a patent and finally, if you had to run to save one of these discs from the waves which one would it be
Probably that lost one, because that's so much about me, matthew and our family, that's our kitchen totally emma Bridgewater! Thank you very much for letting see your time. Industry has been lovely think You ve been listening to download from the BBC
you'll find more information on the radio for website bbc co uk slash radio for this is the bbc.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.