Emma Bridgewater began in 1985, after Emma (yes, she is a real person!), 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.’
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 their timeless and much-loved Black Toast print, the cheerfully idiosyncratic Year in the Country range, and their Birds, Dogs and Animals mugs. They’re very much a family business, and a lot of their ideas come from Emma and Matthew’s everyday life with their four children - their Marmalade pattern, for example, was inspired by a family tradition of stocking the cupboards with home-made marmalade every February, and they made their lovely deep pasta bowls after Emma couldn’t find any that were big enough for the generous portions she likes to serve at home.

They’re a thoroughly British company too – all their pottery is made in Stoke on Trent, the traditional home of British pottery, and they’re proud to be one of the largest employers of potters in the area.