We were invited to visit Emma Bridgewater to learn more about the Stoke based pottery and a chance to participate in their factory tour. Located in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, the factory offers a chance for people to see how the pottery is made. Visitors are also able to purchase seconds, individual or discontinued items at bargain prices at their factory outlets. Others wanting to get hold of Emma Bridgewater’s latest pottery designs can head to their giftshop. Open 7 days a week, It is a great place to head with the family, as even young kids will enjoy the factory tour and decorating studio. There is a lovely cafe there selling cakes, breakfast, lunch menu and offering afternoon tea selection to keep the rumbling tummies quiet. Do watch the HD video slideshow which we made to give you an idea of the tour.
Located on Lichfield St in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. The Victorian factory has easy access and ample parking at the back of the factory. Do follow signs to their free parking lot.
Below you will see a photo of the factory shop where you are able to purchase individual, seconds as well as discontinued items at bargain prices. This is also the location where you meet for the factory tour. The tour tickets as well as the decorating studio tickets can be purchase online from their website or at the counter. We would recommend that you pre-book it online as it can get busy on some days.
Our tour guide for the day was the lovely and informative Rosetta. She mentioned that currently the factory churns out over 32,000 items weekly and this would increase to 42,000 soon after the expansion. There are about 300 staff there in total, from normal office staff to skilled workers.
The tour was eye opening as well as entertaining and was not boring at all, as there was so much to see. We got to see how a normal lump of clay was transformed into a beautiful piece of artwork. The factory can make up to 400 mugs a day.
We brought along our kids who were both seven and four-years-old. They both thoroughly enjoyed the tour and were engaged as they had a chance to participate in some of the process. Below (right) photo is of Wayne showing us how to throw a plate (which is called jiggering). He does about 60 plates a day. Cake stands are more time consuming as there are two parts to it (the plate and the stand) and they need to be joined as well.
One of the more popular items being sold at Emma Bridewater is their animal pottery collection. Andy (photo below) is in charge of the dogs and does up to 200 different parts a day. We were told that about 30 hands touch a lump of clay before its finished.
A shot from the top showing the vast pottery which is made at the factory. The bottom photos are of the mugs, plates and pots placed on the ceramic truck ready to be fired in the kiln. The kiln can go up to a temperature of 1050 degrees Celsius.
Here are some photos of the little things that is done at the factory which may not seem much to us but it does matter. The top left photo is of Lionel ‘dipping finger’ ie rubbing the dent off (where the cup and handle joins) to make the mug stronger. He does this individually for every mug. Each step is time consuming and done by hand. The top right hand shows a staff signing her name on the back of a plate as some collectors have a favourite decorator and this is how they know who decorated an item. The bottom left picture shows a before and after photo of the smoothed mug by ‘diddlers’ which is later decorated by hand using sponge design, hand painting or by lithograph transfer. The bottom right photo, shows a rose sponge which is used to make the pattern on the pottery.
It was wonderful to see how a plain piece of clay gets changed into something so beautiful and magical. That is why locally made pottery costs a lot more than China made ones! Personally, It was lovely to see first hand how pottery is made and the effort each decorator makes.
At the end of the tour, visitors can stop off at the Decorating Studio to create a unique pottery design with the help of experts. We did not have the chance to do this activities but there were lots of other kids there who looked like their were enjoying their experience. Visitors would need to sign in and collect the form at the till, then they would need to choose the pottery then pay for it first. Pricing will depend on the type of pottery which is choosen.
Here are some photos of the beautiful items being sold in their Gift Shop. All their latest and newest designs are sold here…trust me, you will be spoilt for choices.
We stopped off at their Cafe after our factory tour to have a hot drink and some cakes, the cafe it was beautifully decorated and staff was friendly. While we waited for our drinks and cakes to arrive, the kids had a fun time doing the Tomato Trail Challenge which they enjoyed. The kids enjoyed their hot chocolate which was served in a mini kids mug.
There is always something happening at Emma Bridgewater, do visit their what’s on page to find out on current activities. Hope you enjoyed reading our post and do make a visit to the Factory if you have not.
About Emma Bridgewater
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 their 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 their Birds, Dogs and Animals mugs. All their pottery is made in Stoke-on-Trent, the traditional home of British pottery, and they are proud to be one of the largest employers of potters in the area.
Where is Emma Bridgewater?
Tel: 01782 201328
What are the opening hours for Emma Bridgewater ?
Monday to Saturday – 9:30am to 5:30pm
Sunday – 10am to 4pm
How much is Emma Bridgewater’s admission fee?
Its free to go to Emma Bridgewater. there is ample of parking spaces at the Back of the Factory, just follow signs. The factory tour costs £2.50 each person, it lasts