Are you ready to see the Emma Bridgewater Factory? I hope so because here it comes! Visiting her factory here in England is something I’ve been wanting to do for so long! And now, we did . . . Let me sing a happy song . . . and take you places you’ve never been before!
I just had to show you this . . . I love English public bathrooms, they’re all so different and cute, you never know what you’ll get; lots of them have wallpaper, cute old tiles, framed paintings, and pretty paint colors; some of them even have hand cream in them! It’s practically like home! This one, with duck carvings over the door and a chain pull on the toilet, is up a narrow green-painted staircase, on the third crooked floor of a famous old bookstore called Scarthin Books in Cromford, Derbyshire (pron. Darbyshir). Thought you’d like to see it! (Wouldn’t want you to miss anything!)
So there we are (if you squint and look really close) at the far left end of those buildings, see the teeny silver sliver? That’s our car, parked in front of our cottage where the peacock (now named Darcy; had to name something Darcy!) lives called “Weathericks” in Wirksworth where you should all go someday (and say Hi to adorable Jean for us) because it’s heaven there as you can jolly well see! We got in that car, and drove about an hour away to the Emma Factory.
So, off we go . . . we follow GPS when we go anywhere, and it’s really good; I don’t think it’s ever made a mistake, but it takes us on all the shortcuts no matter how small, harrowing, narrow, and out of the way the road might be. Sometimes we find ourselves climbing teeny weeny remote mountain curves and think, this just can not be bloody right!!! People living on country roads in England are probably standing in their yards shaking their fists at the sky (at the GPS satellites) for bringing fun foreign drivers like us into their neighborhoods. I wouldn’t want to scare anyone, but I can’t help but laugh when I see this (drying my hands on my pants.) When Martha Stewart travels, do you think she screams in the car???? Is this normal? Probably not. I promise you, it’s not always like this. I just like to give you the best of the best!
For extra relaxation, we break up the driving with bookstores, pubs (pah sida!), antique stores, canal walks and ducks, which more than makes up for dodgy cow-path roads. Checking the bird book we found out the duck-like one with the white bill is a Coot, and those cuties with the huge feet are the baby chick coots.
It’s a little over an hour drive through festive little towns festooned with flags and bunting for the Diamond Jubilee; GPS (England calls it “Sat Nav”) takes us to Stoke-on-Trent, the home city of the Emma Bridgewater Factory — this was the first picture I took as I got out of the car. So excited!
Cute for the factory workers! Stoke-on-Trent was the center of the world when it came to gorgeous dishes; bone china, earthenware, pottery, it was all made here, Johnson Brothers, Wedgewood, Spode, the very finest and most beautiful was made in Stoke.
But it all fell apart (I will never understand why as I still cannot get enough beautiful dishes!); this city, totally built on the dish industry, went into a serious and very sad decline.
The bottom of Emma mugs are as beautifully decorated as the rest of the cup! I fell in love with Emma Bridgewater, her desire to do everything the “right” way, her conserving ways, her attention to detail, when I saw my very first mug. She retires designs after a while, which is the good news and the bad news, they become much more collectible that way . . . so the one you see above is no longer being made. I love this cup, it says “Love & Kisses” on the outside, and “Best Friends ♥” on the inside! How could she discontinue the most perfect gift in the world? I don’t know! I also love that her dishes fit in just fine with my old flea-market-collected sets of dishes. Because really, she makes them the exact same way as my antique dishes were made, and in the exact same spot!
(I love the way the English tell you ↑ they want you to slow down to nothing.) Stoke-on-Trent, with all the empty factories, and talented workers was the perfect place for Emma Bridgewater to put her “pot” business (“pot”=”dishes,” in Stoke-talk). They needed her, and she needed them. So, when all the rest of the world was turning their back on Stoke and the pot business, that’s when Emma began making dishes there; she took over the old Charles Meakin factory, and began to hire. She ran toward the burning building. And she’s young, only in her 40’s now!
I think that Emma’s factory must be a bright spot in Stoke. Prince Charles even visited the factory in 2010! What an honor! And the roses? Of course! They can grow roses right out of pavement in England! Am I happy? Yes, I am.
So off we go on our tour, Joe and me and maybe six or seven others, led by a sweetheart named Jan, there in the spotted apron (they call polka dots “spots” in England). Inside each of those boxes (molds) is thick earthenware creamy pot mix; it’s either a cup, a jug (what they call a pitcher), a bowl, or one of the other shapes they make, the old way, one at a time. I was truly surprised to see how MUCH goes into one little cup!
The factory was decorated for the Jubilee, just like all the rest of England! And this is only one room!
Each piece works its way through the factory, that’s a lot of pot moving! Stopping at each station for the individual treatment it needs before it finally makes its way across the sea to us in our studio, or out to the rest of the world; truly “Handmade in Stoke-on-Trent.”
I loved how they had plenty of jugs and cups for their work!
Custom-made sponge stamps are dipped in paint and put on the mugs one at a time! The sponges are hand-carved too, right there in the factory!
Here’s Jan telling us how they come up with some of the sayings they put on the cups with decals (one at a time – can’t quite get over that!); the yellow is a kind of sealer that burns right off when they fire the pots. Crikey!
Shelves of production go on and on; the rose pattern is hand-painted on the cups. This is how the colors look before they’re fired … which brightens and darkens them considerably.
An English factory always takes time out for tea! Good news is they never have trouble finding a nice cup to have it in! (I’m doing a terrible job of telling you exactly how the pottery is made! This website has a much clearer and detailed explanation of how everything really works at the factory, in case you have more questions, Dad.)
Because I’m not very techie; I’m more interested in the people side of things . . . we could tell how proud everyone was to be working there; proud to be making all this British beauty, proud to be part of such an amazing craftsman tradition; this woman pulled off her glove to show me her Jubilee fingernails! Love it!
I waited until tea time to sneak Petey into the picture!
Oh yes, like all good English establishments, the Emma Bridgewater Factory has its own tea room — also, a gift shop! All my favorite things! And best of all, there was a design studio where visitors can design their own cups!
How wonderful, we wanted something special to bring home to remember this trip by (not that we’ll ever forget!). Our own mugs! Lovely!
So I made an “ENGLAND ♥ 2012” cup, and Joe made a “Queen Mary” cup. Isn’t his ship perfect? He is so talented, my guy!
They give you paint, special pencils to draw with that will burn off during the firing, and they show you how to fix the drawing if you make a mistake! They let you practice and have sponges there for people who want to use them. The color goes on sort of pale, but gets much clearer and brighter once it’s fired. You can choose any shape dish or cup they make and just sit there, draw on it, paint it, and drink tea to your heart’s content. In the end, you’ll have your very own Emma Bridgewater cup! One of a kind! Worth the trip across the Atlantic!! We left them there, they’ll fire them, and ship them home, they’ll be there when we get back! Pretty neat, huh?
Then, of course, we went shopping and absolutely fell in love with this cup celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Yes, we got one, couldn’t help ourselves. Too cute.
AND, we loved it so much, we thought you might fancy one too! Would you? I hope so, and if you do …. just leave a message in “comments” at the bottom of this post (click on the really pale gray letters!), you’ll be entered for a drawing! In a few days, we’ll randomly pull out a name (I hope so much it’s YOURS!!!); we’ll LOVE to send you this memory of our trip to England!
And one last thing before I go . . .
Another bit of a surprise, news from the real world: you know how last year we ran out of our calendars? So this year, we asked to get them early … and guess what, Kellee wrote to tell me they just came in!!! Both the 2013 12 x 12, and the mini calendar! The rest of them will come at the normal time. We are going to try really hard not to run out this year!
OK Girlfriends, that ought to keep you busy for a while. I will give you one last little hint about the next post . . .
This was the sky over Beatrix Potter’s house. . . a dream just came true. ♥ Does that mean an angel got his wings? I think so! Bye for now, xoxo, Girlfriends Forever! Me.