Tag : stoke
Tag : stoke
Yesterday was a bit of a ‘road trip’! One of my closest and dearest friends had her birthday recently – and as she is also very creative, and we mentioned AGES ago about doing something like pottery making, or decorating – my gift to her was to visit the brilliant, and iconic Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-on-Trent. We were booked in for both a factory tour to see the makers and creators in all their skillful glory… and then to go and decorate our very own pieces in their studio. Exciting!
It was a horrible drive up – the weather was typically Britishly grey, rainy, horrid visibility – but when we pulled up at the factory the clouds were on the turn – with blue skies and glorious sunshine just around the corner. A sign that our day was about to be on the up!
Despite the horrid journey, we did arrive quite a bit earlier than planned. But – this actually was a genius move – plenty more time to spend in the factory shop! Winning.
Although marked as ‘Seconds’ you sometimes struggled to work out exactly why it was just that – and ‘Seconds’ – the odd mark here and there that perhaps was ‘out of spec’ but nothing that didn’t stop each piece certainly being a delightful piece of exquisitely handmade piece of pottery here at the very factory in Stoke. Bargains galore – I really did have to reign in my desire and the true definition between ‘want’ and ‘need’… Beautiful mugs normally £19.95 – instead… £11.90 for two anyone?? A true sign of the high quality standards that the factory obviously strives towards.
They are very proud of the fact they are in Stoke – and, that everything is made on site – and so they should be! They are one of the largest employers in the area – around 185 people – and it is just so exciting to see such an industry still in good old Great Britain.
Although I knew they were made in Stoke, and yes perhaps hand decorated – I had no idea, that Every. Single. Piece. is TOTALLY handmade. Hand moulded, hand finished, hand checked, hand well – everything – from beginning to end – each mug, bowl, tureen is completely hand created. And, due to that – on the finishing at least, one will never be exactly the same as the next. Each very talented painter – will of course, have to keep to a certain spec, but it will always be their own. Our delightful factory tour guide ‘Julie’ explained that some people that collect Emma Bridgewater pottery – will ONLY collect certain artists pieces. What a compliment! You may be thinking – but how do they know!? Well, underneath each item, the artists leave their little ‘mark’ – usually their initials, and in the romantic eyes – it gives credence to the artist – which, of course it does – but, also it is a part of the quality control system – but either way it certainly shows it was hand created by a person, and not a machine!
Next we headed over the cafe for some well earned (ok, not really – but well desired) tea and scrumptious-moist-really-not-needed carrot cake. What a place! With (as expected!) everything served on in house wares – a now famous ‘polka-dot design’ adorned Aga in the middle, the walls covered with quirky posters and shelf upon shelf of mugs, plates… Just lovely! A fun, relaxed environment akin to the branding and designs of the Bridgewater pottery.
We didn’t actually have long, so we wolfed down our treats – and headed on over to the decorating studio.
We knew we were doing this – but it wasn’t until we were actually inside that we thought about a) what we wanted to decorate and b) what we wanted to decorate it with! Blank pieces started from as little as £6.00 and luckily there were a wide selection of stamps and paint colours – so it wasn’t long before we were inspired and raring to go!
Those girls in the factory are really so talented – they make it look ‘easy’… I had grand visions of all sorts of complicated designs – but in the end settled for some lovely and very ‘The Crafty Lass’ hearts and stars in a repeat pattern around the edges of the iconic Bridgewater mug – in green and pink too, of course.
I love those mugs – we were bought the also iconic ‘Mr & Mrs’ mugs when we got married – and although they have a special meaning of course – they are such lovely mugs to drink from. Heavy, but still actually useable. Thick and solid, but still somehow delicate. It’s crazy – but my morning cuppa of Yorkshire tea, always tastes better in that mug than any other.
Anyway – back to the decorating – we soon learnt that the paint dries very quickly, and that’s quite handy – as if you make a mistake, you can sandpaper it back off! We were fortunate that the scheduled groups after us – weren’t so large, and so with plenty of space – we managed to hang around longer than the normal allocated time. We were so absorbed in our new found love of pottery painting – we hung around in the studio for 2.5 hours…! And due to that – not only did I complete two mugs – one for myself, and one for The Husband but also a ‘Crafty Lass’ inspired matching plate with my now well used ‘Make. Create. Inspire.’ “catchphrase”! I have delightful and rose-tinted visions of my morning tea and toast with them to literally inspire me onwards in my The Crafty Lass days. The only deadline that curtailed us short of moving in and staying there all day and night and decorating pretty much everything – was that the cafe stopped serving lunch at 3.30pm… so we managed to put the paintbrushes down, pack-up, pay and get over there for some more delicious food. (A pesto, mozzarella and tomato toastie and a Ham, Cheese and Piccalilli bloomer – both with salad and plenty of homemade coleslaw incase you were wondering. Delicious!)
The final pieces need to be glazed, fired, cooled – and so they will be sent on to us in just a few weeks time. I cannot wait for the knock on the door the day that parcel arrives!!!
A final mooch around the shop to buy more items that I probably don’t need, but feel that my kitchen is greatly improved by – before back in the car, and off home. A long day – but happy, content and I actually feel like we had a therapeutic, creative and world-away from the day to day stuff – just, put simply – a truly lovely day trip out with my dear friend.
I left feeling inspired. Emma Bridgewater started the company simply because she couldn’t find the right present for her mum. Spotted a gap in the market – and et voila! They now produce 1.2 million pieces of pottery every year.
If you hadn’t already guessed by my above review – I would highly recommend a visit here to anyone. So, if you are ever Stoke way, or fancy a bit of a road trip – head on up there! Your bank balance won’t thank me for the recommendation, but your soul and kitchen certainly will.
Wow, what an epic day of craftyness, shopping, making, thinking, doing and inspiration!
So, to review the fair – I have my cup of Yorkshire tea in my lovely Emma Bridgewater mug (of course! See later in the post…) and to make sure I don’t miss anything, I am going to try and go through this in a blow-by-blow chronological order… I always knew The Handmade Fair would be a great day out, but I think you aren’t prepared for the sheer number of ideas and things to see and do until you are actually there!
I went full force into booking into pretty much as many different workshops as I could possibly get my hands on. The main ticket included one ‘skills workshop’, one ‘grand make’ and one ‘super theatre’ event… but I additionally booked (on the day) three more workshops – I kind of wish there could have been two of me so I could go to more, but I had to be brutal and pick the ones that really stood out for me. So, here goes:
9.30 – The fair opens, with a welcome from Kirstie, great jazz singing and much delight! Then…quick! Book as many workshops with spaces as I can… at only £10 each for around 45 minutes of crafting, often a new skill to be learnt and inspiration to be had I think this is a bargain!
9.45 Skills Workshop – Christmas Crackers with Zeena Shah
We started out with lino cutting – picking out our own design, carving it into the lino – and using ink stamps printing on to paper we would use to make the crackers. I wasn’t actually expecting lino printing to be part of this particular workshop – but it was a lovely surprise. I haven’t done it in years and you can get some lovely, quick and fun prints – it has already got me thinking how to incorporate this technique into my own creative workshops – which actually, is kind of the point of this whole fair, right? Getting you thinking in a new way, inspiring you to try new or retry old techniques, and to think how you could use them for yourself! Zeena was great – very clear with what we needed to be doing next – which once we had printed our paper, we rolled up, tied the crackers with some hessian, added a snap and et voila – crackers!
11.15 Skills Workshop – Biscuit Icing with Biscuiteers
So, when I saw you could go to a workshop on a how to ice with them, it was of course a must! We started out with a beautiful bag and box – containing four delicious butterflies. A great technique demonstration for ‘flood icing’ and creating some fabulous tricks with cocktail sticks to make the icing look like real butterfly wings. Impressive! As we didn’t have access to an oven to dry the icing afterwards, we were just working with the thicker outline style icing which dries alot quicker. It meant we couldn’t try some of the techniques demonstrated – however, it has certainly got me thinking of when can I next have a reason to bake biscuits just to try them out! Perhaps I don’t even need a reason – make them just because I can! We just had some fun piping, getting messy, and admittedly one of the butterflies didn’t make it home… in fact it didn’t make it out of the workshop – they tasted delicious! 😉 The rest were saved for when home and even now I think there is only one left. Art you can eat! Perfect.
12.30 Skills Workshop – Wedding Fascinators by Harriet
Starting out with the ‘do’s’ and ‘do-nots’ of birdcage veils – we learnt how to sew the veil in to the ‘correct’ shape (no horn shapes allowed!) Considering it would take Harriet far (far!) more time to create her beautiful fascinators I was surprised to find how quickly we had created something that vaguely did resemble a veil! Then we selected our fascinator base, and sewed our veils into place. Next – and the most fun bit I think – the decoration. There was a lovely selection of buttons, and some ribbons to make into flowers/loops/whatever we wanted really! I didn’t get time to finish this within the allocated slot, but I was allowed to take away the remaining bits and I will certainly be finishing this lovely craft at home. The workshop definitely got me inspired – I plan to make a fascinator for the next wedding invite!
Lunchtime! By now, I was certainly ready for a lunch break – and what a great selection of foodie delights. Crepes, posh burgers, pies, ‘pimp my porridge’, fresh smoothies, wood fired pizzas… makes your mouth water! I went for the Soulful Foods truck and their onepot Moroccan Chicken Tagine. I certainly wasn’t disappointed – chunks of chicken, vegetables, apricots and almonds all served with some British spelt and red quinoa! Sounds perhaps very ‘healthy’ but wow, the flavours packed a punch!
2pm Skills Workshop – Christmas Garlands with Rebecca Moyster, Bon Bon Balloons
This was a riot of colour, bright foil, ribbons, cords, cut out stars, hearts! Rebecca briefly explained what we were going to make, and the majority of the time was dedicated to the actual making part, which was great! We made handmade tinsel, and lovely little festive bunting style garlands. It was a very simple craft – but has got me thinking of ways to incorporate this into my own Christmas tree. Perhaps swapping the foil for fabric, and the cord for hessian for a more natural look. Fabulously festive and fun!
Would you believe me if I told you that literally within 3-5 minutes we had created a rose from ric rac ribbon? Well that is exactly what we did – a simple technique that was surprisingly effective. I am thinking to incorporate the one I made into the fascinator from earlier! Jane was so much fun – telling us how to produce a last minute gift and the wrapping all within a few minutes with a speedy envelope technique. Great stuff considering there must have been a hundred people to teach in one make!
5pm Super Theatre – Kirstie and Emma Bridgewater
The piece de resistance for me, and a great way to finish the fair. I was lucky enough to be sat in the second row, and was a good hour listening to the life and times of Emma Bridgewater. How she set up the company, her full undying love for her Stoke-on-Trent factory, and for buying British. Some good advice for women in business, some very comical anecdotes of growing the business whilst juggling childcare and life in general. Just lovely and once again, feel inspired – this time to push forward with my pure vision for The Crafty Lass. As Emma said – if you can see it, you’ll get it.
In between all the making and eating – there were two shopping ‘villages’, an Artisan market place – full of lovely foodie things, a Hobbycraft tent, a Mollie Makes cafe – various other make and do tents – no rest for the crafty!
The husband did very well out of the fair too, not only did I get out of his hair for a few days in London, I also purchased some amazing ‘Espresso’ chocolate from Seed and Bean (it was hard to pick which of the many, quite unusual flavours!), an Oatopia Energy Ball made from Raw Cacao and Almonds, AND a delightful ‘Man Cave‘ wooden carved keyring from Betty and Dodge. I had to get some good pressies to make up for the ‘7 days til Handmade Fair’, ‘6 days til Handmade Fair’, ‘5 days…’ ok you get the picture!
All in all, as expected a great – long – day. Top tips for next year: wear comfy shoes! Make sure you take plenty of cash…most places took cards, but a few didn’t. There was an onsite cash machine – but as expected there was a fee – so get organised in advance and nip to the cashpoint before arriving. You certainly will want to book/buy things! And, perhaps consider going on more than one day – to allow you to try/see/make/do more things! I certainly will be going again next year.