Sunday 31 December 2017

Craft and Industry - Visit to the Emma Bridgewater Decorating Studio

In 1984,  Emma Bridgewater was working in London soon after leaving university. She was hunting for a birthday present for her Mum. She wanted to give her two cups and saucers that would say 'I love you. I miss you'. She hoped to see  china that would capture the warm, welcoming spirit of her mother's kitchen.  All she could find at the time were dainty and formal or robust and decidedly unromantic. Emma had a vision of the dresser from her mother's kitchen. She imagined it in a china shop, full of colourful, mismatched pottery.  She felt the only way to make the vision a reality would be to start making china herself. 

Emma Bridgewater first came to Stoke-on-Trent in 1985 where a local pottery company helped to her to create her very first pieces. In 1996 she and husband Matthew Rice moved production to the traditional Victorian pot bank alongside the Caldon Canal where every piece of pottery is still made by hand. Around 185 people work at the Emma Bridgewater Factory on Lichfield Street in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, a site first opened by the Meakin brothers in 1883.

Our group decided they would love to visit the Bridgewater Decorating Studio where they were able to choose a classic, un-fired, Emma Bridgewater pottery shape and use their creativity to design any pattern or picture . There was  a huge variety of ready cut sponges and paintbrushes and water based paints to help make their own unique designs or wording.

"What shall I choose?"

So many brushes

colours, shapes, patterns!

 a bit of sponge decoration perhaps?

Before and after firing

Some drawing

Carole did some freehand painting

Everyone found the painting process very relaxing and the whole day gave people the chance to catch up with old friends and new.

A child's mug, lovingly painted by his Grandma

perhaps it will become a family heirloom?

It's a holly jolly time of year!

Baby plate decorations for a new baby

Some more designs after firing

There is a fabulous collection of framed tea towels, many designed by Matthew Rice's mother Pat Albeck here is a great article Back To The Drawing Board looking at her Oxfordshire home and works in situ. We would love to find a copy of this book too! 

There is a secret walled garden to be found

and you can see how the natural world

growing and cultivation is at the heart

of work by Emma Bridgewater, Matthew Rice and Pat Albeck. It may be winter outside but for a wander through the seasons follow the link to Arthur's Blog to read more about the gardening year in the Walled Garden. If you are inspired why not check out his book too!

There are always flowers to be found

and it is a joy to eat in the Cafe which enabled us

to feast whilst using the many designs

Even if you have the smallest kitchen with no room for a range decked with gorgeous crockery it is possible to enjoy the dream and be inspired by all the art, craft, design and industry to be found in one small corner of Stoke-on-Trent. 

 The Afternoon tea is delightful too!

We were back before Christmas to collect the fired wares.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Branching Out - Along the Ise

At this time of year it is always difficult to judge what kind of weather we may encounter the photo above is from a day in August and rains continued intermittently for most of summer and autumn.

This resulted in our route along the Ise being both overgrown with brambles, nettles and weeds as well being rutted and muddy in places which made walking an interesting proposition, especially for those who had forgotten their boots (again)!

The weather was kind to us with the December sun casting a lovely, yet melancholy glow through the leafless branches. We thought back to other walks in different seasons as we stopped to sit and enjoy our Mindfulness meditation. We allowed our breathing to slow and felt the warm on our faces, we felt calm now the muddy puddles were behind us and glad that our way was easier to navigate. 

We crossed the bridge and remembered Allan the Storyteller from our last project telling us a tale on the very bridge in a heavy downpour. We felt glad that we were warm and dry, we felt glad to have walked successfully towards another lunch with friends.

As it was a Monday we had the 
Green Patch, where some 

of our group are volunteer gardeners, 
we had the site to ourselves.

We fed the chickens and ducks in the hopes of finding some eggs and looked at these optimistic little plants

Back in the cabin Carole had arranged our fired and glazed

clay stars, birds and trees. We kept the ones we had

made to take home as gifts for friends and family.

We also wanted to leave a gift

for Sue, Nigel, Vicky and all 
the other groups and volunteers

as they are all stars!

So we hung the remaining

decorations on a tree

outside the cabin

to wish everyone all good 
things for the coming year.

After we had eaten, we all got busy tidying.
What an enjoyable walk! What a fabulous team!