I was given a Red Letter Day gift for my birthday this year of an Emma Bridgewater experience day. Of course I knew all about EB, I love her pottery, I’ve even got a pair of her wellies and some of her lovely notecards, but quite what was in-store for the experience day was another matter.
Having been bought up in the Midlands area I am very familiar with the Potteries in general but its been at least 15 years since we last visited and I know in that time the vast majority of the major manufacturers have since left. Even Wedgewood, that true British product now has its manufacturing base in Sri Lanka?
We rang to book our places on the tour (max 15 people at a time, 3 tours a day) and that was fully booked on our preferred day, fortunately they had a couple of spaces for the following day but were incredibly busy for most of the week. We booked ourselves onto the 10am tour knowing it would take between 45mins and 1 hour. We also had to book a space in the decorating studio, they can seat slightly more for each of those sessions so we were able to book in for the 11.15am slot. We also had the afternoon tea included although there was no need to book for that. I did ask the question, with an outside hope, if they did a GF version and was very surprised when they said yes. I was told it was best to mention it in the cafe on arrival just to ensure they had everything but they fully expected there wouldn’t be a problem.
Perfect, we were all booked and raring to go.
When the day finally arrived, we set the sat nav to the postcode and off we went, as we neared the factory, the area was quite familiar, with the old industrial buildings and run down area but the familiar primary coloured welcoming sign of Emma Bridgewater was clear.
Parking was easy, plenty of spaces when we arrived and off we went to get signed in for our tour. Passing by all the lovely pottery in the seconds shop was so tempting, but I saved myself for a good browse later.
The tour itself was so informative, the guide a retired ex-decorator was very knowledgeable about all the processes and all the potters were very friendly willing to chat about what they were doing as they were working. Its been a long time since I’ve been on a true “behind the scenes” tour of a working factory, all to often nowadays what you see is a cleaned up version of the real thing. We continued through to the decorators and were astounded how skillful all the process involved were. There’s some real talent working behind the scenes to create that lovely pottery.
As the tour finished we went straight into the decorating studio, again we were enormously impressed by the staff who demo’d how to choose the foam stamps, paint colours, even an eraser if you made a mistake.
As part of the experience, we were given a 1/2 pint mug to decorate, but for extra you could choose any blanks to decorate.
I did think once I’d done my mug I may do something else, of course I underestimated the time it would take and only had time to do the one mug in the 1hr 45mins allowed. Once we got started decorating, time just flew by.
I did see one or two seasoned pro’s who had obviously done this before as they arrived with sketches and plans of how they wanted to decorate their mug, for the rest of us it was designing as we went. When I go again, I’m going to go with a design in mind.
Finally off we went to the cafe for our afternoon tea, well what a treat that was, an enormous platter loaded with sandwiches, cake and scone with clotted cream along with a big teapot of tea. Of course they did a GF version which was equally delicious.
We’ve already decided we are going again, in fact if we only want to do the decorating next time, it’s £2.95 for the studio fee and £10 for the mug, or whatever else you choose to decorate. I think I want to do a serving bowl next…..