Non-executive board director of Eden Project International Ltd
Emma Bridgewater grew up in Oxford, the eldest of a large family. After studying English at London University, she joined a small knitwear firm, but soon realised that what she really wanted to do was start her own company.
Her ‘eureka moment’ came in 1985, when she was searching for a pretty cup and saucer for her mother’s birthday. Discovering that everything in the shops was either delicate and formal, or heavy and clunky, she realised there was a gap in the market for pottery that was both beautiful and practical, and that reflected the relaxed, colourful, mismatched home she’d grown up in.
Emma sketched out a mug, bowl and jug, and found a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British ceramics to make them up. She then set about decorating them using cut-out sponges – a traditional technique that was to become her signature style. The designs were snapped up by Liberty, Harrods, and The General Trading Co, and Emma Bridgewater Ltd was born. The company now has a turnover of over £20m a year, and Emma Bridgewater products are sold worldwide.
As the company grew, Emma was determined to keep production of the pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, and in 1996, bought a Victorian factory there. Emma Bridgewater Ltd is now one of the largest employers of potters in the area. In recognition of her work championing manufacturing in Stoke-on-Trent, Emma has honorary degrees from the University of Staffordshire and Keele University, and in 2013, she was awarded a CBE for Services to Industry.
Emma and Matthew have four grown-up children, and live in Oxfordshire. When not working, her interests include books, food, country music and quiltmaking, and despite being surrounded by it every day, she still loves to collect pottery. In 2014, she published Toast & Marmalade and Other Stories, and in 2016 Pattern, memoirs that cover everything from the rollercoaster ride of building the business and creating the iconic designs, to the best way to cook bacon, and the pleasures of a well-stocked dresser.
In 2016 Emma was appointed President of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). CPRE campaigns to preserve the English countryside, to direct planning pressure away from greenfield sites and guard against the despoliation of Britain.
In 2018, Emma became a member of the Industrial Strategy Council, a group tasked with improving and strengthening government support for British industry.