Countryside, Cromer and Norwich Castle - what pottery designer Emma Bridgewater loves most about East Anglia
PUBLISHED: 22:55 27 December 2019 | UPDATED: 22:57 27 December 2019
Emma Bridgewater CBE started her business in 1985, when Emma was searching for a cup and saucer for her mother's birthday. Discovering everything was either too formal or clunky, she realised there was a gap for pottery that was both beautiful and practical, and that reflected her mother's relaxed, colourful, mismatched home. Today, Emma Bridgewater products are sold worldwide with turnover of over £20m a year. Here Emma talks to Gina Long.
What is your connection to East Anglia?
Long and cousinly. My mother's mother comes from Norfolk, three generations back. I am related to a lot of people here.
What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?
The marshes, the churches, and the people. I had the most heavenly walk on the back of Blakeney Point last Saturday. We walked from Cley to The Watch House.
What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?
Oh...I don't hate anything. Although it's a very long way to Stoke-on-Trent, that's quite hellish for me. That's where my pottery factory is. When I lived in Norfolk full time, I drove from North Norfolk to the West Midlands every week and it's a bad drive. Nobody was meant to make that drive!
What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
First of all, absolutely top of the list it's Desmond MacCarthys' Wiveton Hall Café. It's a café in a combine shed. It's absolutely fantastic. He's my oldest and best friend. He's marvellous.
My second recommendation is the newly opened, Siding Café in Melton Constable. A fabulous girl called Polly Quick is doing a really beautiful bakery job there. It looks as if the pastries are flown in from Paris. Absolutely amazing, best bread, best flourless chocolate cake, amazing croissants, all together delish.
What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?
In winter when we lived in Wickmere, the treat was to go to Cromer, see a movie, eat at the Cromer Tandoori, and then walk, the wilder conditions the better, down the Pier. Quite good to start with a drink at the amazing Hotel de Paris, right above the Pier. It's a marvellous hotel.
What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?
Morston Church, Salthouse, and I love Norwich Castle, there's a very good exhibition there, 'Tor Falcon: Rivers of Norfolk'. It closes on 12th January. What she has done is extraordinary. She's walked the length of every single one of Norfolk's rivers and drawn them. They really stand out. In The Castle Museum, my second recommendation, is the dioramas (painted scenes, different east Anglian landscapes, many of them!). They make the settings for the museum's collection of stuffed birds. I know, a bit unfashionable, but grin and bear it, you'll be so pleased if you do. And there are even soundscapes added, at the press of a button.
Another favourite landmark would have to be The Shell Museum in Glandford, a real one- off treat. Check the opening times before you go...
What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
The Thursford Christmas Spectacular. It's another dimension, it's got that touch of circus that we love in my family. The Cushing family own and put on the Thursford Spectacular. They are great family friends. I was first taken by my farming neighbour; I remember how I really couldn't believe what I was seeing. When someone does something so utterly how they want to do it and they do it really well, that's my definition of exciting. John has really gone to town with this, and he has such talented, lovely young musicians and dancers.
What your specialist Mastermind subject?
(LAUGHS) I've no idea!!...ceramics…I'm fairly knowledgeable about ceramics…and I'm fairly knowledgeable about Norfolk churches and the Norfolk Churches Trust is an organisation I've always admired so much.
What is always in your fridge?
Hmm, Tahini in case I want to make my own humous, yoghurt, I like yoghurt. I'm a terrible cheese addict, and I'm quite a rabbit, I eat a lot of salad and probably a couple of bottles of white wine.
What's your simple philosophy of life?
What's your favourite film?
Some Like it Hot. Second choice, Almost Famous.
What was your first job?
I worked for two British girls who designed knitwear, I walked the dogs, recruited their knitters, worked on their stand at a show in New York. I had a lovely job, as their business was growing at the time, so that was very exciting, and they were very generous and let me ask a lot of questions.
What is your most treasured possession?
I wear an Ethiopian silver cross that my mum gave to one of my sisters, so I wear it for both of them. But I do just love it.
Who do you admire most?
My children, I feel about them like my mother felt about me, which is that I am incredibly impressed by them. She would say things like "You're so grown up; I was so stupid when I was your age". I feel a bit the same, I look and them and think how very wise, and lovely and loving they are.
Who else impresses me, oh, Amber Rudd, or what she did in politics and for when she left. She is an old friend and a real figurehead; I admire her hugely.
What is your biggest indulgence?
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The kids and I do very very much like watching films, so probably having been for a walk in Morston, we come back, light the fire and watch several movies back to back, with quite possibly an Indian takeaway. I might be sewing at the same time; I make patchwork quilts while watching tele.
What do you like most about yourself?
That's a really good question, because it's not one I've ever really been asked. I cook a really good macaroni cheese!!
What's your worst character trait?
There's so many to choose from! Probably, being overly tenacious!
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Well, I really like exploring. France probably, or America. France for the food, America more for the fun! I particularly love a driving holiday. My kids are much too grown up to go on holiday with me now but driving in America with them was a fantastic success. We did several big family holidays driving.
Best day of your life?
Definitely, absolutely the birth of each of my four children, without a shadow of a doubt.
What's your favourite breakfast?
Slightly more bacon than there ought to be involved in this, but there's a butcher in Melton Constable that does amazing sausages and incredibly good treacle cured bacon, and then either my bread or probably some sourdough from Siding Café. Ideally, breakfast would be sourced from Melton Constable and then cooked on a fire on the Freshes after a big swim.
What's your favourite tipple?
I've got Catholic tastes when it comes to booze! If it's outdoors in the winter, you can hardly beat sloe gin. I quite like old fashioned drinks like Dubonnet. It's marvellous; it's got a hell of a punch! I love Campari and soda. It's my favourite aperitif, and then of course French wine.
What's your hidden talent?
It probably is the sewing of quilts; it's a bit unlikely I do that!
What's your earliest memory?
I had all my teddies in a little cot, and they were running away with me down towards the pond, and I couldn't let go as I didn't want them to drown. Luckily my Grandmother saw us and saved us all! I do remember clearly thinking I can't let them go.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
I have got various ideas about that, but I would like my daughter Lil to sing Amazing Grace.
Tell us something people don't know about you?
I really like singing in the car.
What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I was devastated when a man said to me when I was a teenager, "You've got the kind of look that will serve you much better when you are older". I was devastated then, but now I hope he was absolutely right!
Tell us why you live here?
It's the skies and the fact that it's far away. It's also far away to get here but it's so lovely when you do. I very often arrive late at night and the silence and the clean smell; you realise how much better it smells than anywhere else…and the bright stars.
I've got a lot of friends in Suffolk too, and I do spend a lot of time there. We used to holiday near Aldeburgh, so that really was what started Matthew and my love of East Anglia.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
We've all got to start living more like our grannies, frugally and sensibly, consuming less. And rediscovering how lovely homemade fun really is. We are consuming too much.
I adored both my grannies, and of course in the 80s I used to laugh about them carefully washing out old plastic bags and putting them on the washing line…but now I find myself doing it. Turn the heating off, light a fire. You know, all the stuff they taught you and how you lived when being looked after by your granny. Make the cake, don't buy it.
There are noble exceptions. Nobody loves a McVities ginger cake more than I do. For a picnic, it's jolly handy.
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Contact Gina Long at firstname.lastname@example.org
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