My son gazed at the kitchen shelves, silently counting the rows and rows of colourful mugs. “Do you know?” he said finally. “We could invite 100 people to tea and not have to borrow any cups.”
Most of the cups he’s talking about are from Emma Bridgewater, the eponymous potter whose china adorns kitchens the length and breadth of the country. Manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent and sold all over the world, Emma’s china is decorated with everything from those famous multi-coloured spots to flowers, birds and Union Jacks. My own favourite, produced in the nineties, is a mug printed with purple houses, keys, hearts and stars (below). It’s been used so much that it’s got a hairline crack down the side but I can’t bear to throw it away. I’m so addicted that I can’t walk past the Bridgewater shop in Marylebone High Street, currently decked out in patriotic red, white and blue designs to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, without buying something.
I first interviewed Emma and her husband Matthew Rice back in the early days, when they lived in a house on the Fulham Road crammed with old china, architectural drawings and assorted animals – both live and stuffed.
It’s a huge success story, which started in 1985 when Emma was looking for a cup and saucer as a birthday present for her mother but couldn’t find anything she liked. Even though she didn’t have any formal art training, she hit on the idea of producing her own designs.
“I knew before I started my business that it was going to take off,” Emma told me all those years ago. “If you’re going to do something successfully, you have to believe in it 100 per cent. It’s never an accident. You’ve got to wake up every morning with a powerful conviction of what’s going to happen today, what it is you’re trying to achieve.
“Mind you,” she added, “there were days when I got up with no conviction at all and went straight back to bed with a novel.”