Friday, March 23, 2018

Two Books You May Enjoy by Emma Bridgewater

Whenever I am working on a book, I always turn to books to give me glimmers of ideas of how I want to proceed on a project. Writing a book is like one long term paper. It always begins with research. It is a whole lot of work but once I hold my book in my hands, I forget about all the sweat and tears and hours of work it took me.

After finishing writing and illustrating Crafting A Patterned Home, I have remained interested in pattern - maybe even more so than when I began. I have always loved looking at patterns - as a little girl and still now so many years later. A few years ago, I read a Book Review in World of Interiors about a book called Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories by Emma Bridgewater. It was published in 2014 in the UK and I couldn't get my hands on it. Somehow, I remembered it late last summer and looked it up and was able to find a copy of it in the US. 

I have a few pieces of Emma Bridgewater's ceramics and I have followed her company and career as her ceramic range has expanded over the years. Toast and Marmalade is the story of how Emma got into making her ceramics in Stoke on Trent. Emma is not a potter - she doesn't make her ceramics. She and her husband Matthew Rice own a factory in Stoke on Trent. But real people do make the pottery. It is slip cast and decorated by hand using sponge stamps and decals. It seems like their company has changed the fortunes of Stoke - by bringing back a dying industry and giving people work who might have soon been out of a job if Emma hadn't come along. 

Toast and Marmalade is a beautiful book that shares the beginnings, the struggles of an entrepreneur's life but it is more. Emma writes beautifully about her Mom, growing up in the UK, of being a sister and a Mom and wife to Andrew Rice (who is her business partner). She writes about food and serving it. She includes favorite recipes from her family. 

I was so surprised at this book - at how good it was. I guess I thought it might be more like a giant advertisement for the company. It was anything but. Emma writes from the heart. She writes about loss and struggle, about love and children and roadtrips, about remembrance and pattern. It was a really good read - one that I couldn't wait to go to bed for each evening. And it all "circles back" to her pottery. (I hate that phrase "circles back" but it seems to work here.)

The photos were done by Andrew Montgomery. They are gorgeous and interspersed throughout the text. These photos are taken from Andrew's website. He is a fantastic photographer and a look around his website is worth your time

I discovered that there is a follow up book to Toast and Marmalade called Pattern and the Secrets of Lasting Design. I ordered the paperback version which is not nearly as lush as the full color version of T&M. It too was a good read. Emma organized Pattern into chapters about all the different patterns she designs for her pottery - flora and fauna, fruits, veggies, lettering and more.

As I read both of these books, I learned that Emma is married to Matthew Rice - he himself an amazing illustrator and a chicken collector. Matthew now runs the company which now does several millions of British pounds per year. And then I learned that Matthew is the son of Pat Albeck - a longtime textile designer whose work I have admired for many years. For many, many years, she designed tea towels for The National Trust of Britain. You can read her fascinating obituary here (she died in September of 2017), see her house here and read a nice interview with her here. Here is a feature on Pat's house on The Bible of British Taste - one of my very favorite blogs. 

What a talented family who have brought so much beauty to the world. Here is an interview with Emma. You can also watch a TED Talk with her here


Auntie Shan said...

Oooo... LOVE that BLUE & WHITE tablecloth[?] in your first pic!! :-D

That PATTERNS book looks intriguing... Several of my Ancestors come from STOKE and the general area around there along the TRENT...

BTW, speaking of "patterns" and such, about a year or so ago I picked up a terrific tome at the thrift store called, "TEXTILE DESIGNS" by SUSAN MELLER and JOOST ELFFERS. -- Thought of YOU when I saw it!

d said...

Thanks so much for these suggestions. I always follow-up and enjoy the info you share with us.

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