Monday, 14 October 2019

Our very own Emma Bridgewater Factory Experience Day

Hi there everyone 😀

Before I bore you all rigid with a raft of Isle of Wight holiday posts I have something just a little bit different to share with you first.

A few years ago now, Jackie, one of my closest friends, her daughter Rachel, who is my eldest God Daughter, and I decided we would stop buying birthday presents but make the effort to do something together instead.

As the kids are all growing up and have lives of their own it gets more and more difficult to plan time in to spend together and this annual birthday treat is now something that we all always really look forward to.

We normally end up having a nice afternoon tea somewhere with maybe a bit of shopping thrown in. This year we had something a little bit different on the cards and we had such a lovely day that I thought it definitely warranted capturing for posterity.

We had booked ourselves in for the Emma Bridgewater Factory Experience Day. It costs £30 and involves a factory tour, afternoon tea, the chance to visit the factory shop and hidden garden and a visit to the decorating studio where we were able to decorate a piece of Emma Bridgewater pottery in our own fair hands.

After a bit of a false start ending up at the warehouse, which did look a bit grim, rather than the factory, we arrived, parked up and made our way to reception. It was a real treat to get up close and personal with the old factory building, which was beautiful.  It was lovely to see it still in use for its original intention, rather than having been converted into trendy apartments or a shopping centre.
We found where we needed to be and booked in for our tour which started at 11.30am ...
... which just gave us time to have a quick comfort break and a look round the ‘seconds’ shop ..
None of us really knew what to expect from the tour but we were all really thrilled with how much we saw and how interesting ... and interactive ... it was. I think in these days of mass production and automation it was a real surprise to see how much of a manual process pottery making in this factory is.

We started right at the beginning where the ‘slip’ (the liquid clay) is piped to work benches and poured into moulds ...
We saw the moulds being turned ... every single one by hand ... for the excess slip to drain away to be collected and reused ...
We then got to see one of the moulds opened to reveal its contents, before being added to the ever increasing pile ready to be sent on to the next stage ... 
From here we got to see where the clay is diluted into the slip before being piped ...
It was then on to jollying and jiggering ... where we got to watch craftsmen at work on pieces that, for one reason or another, can’t be made in the moulds ...
Rachel even got to have a go at throwing a plate and, whilst one did end up in the trolley to go back to the start of the process ...
... her second attempt will at some point become a bona fide piece of Emma Bridgewater crockery ...
From here we got to see the fettling and sponging, where all of the rough edges are smoothed off before being sent to the kiln for its first firing ...
It was then on into a room full of workbenches, where we could watch people decorating the pottery ... 
It was fascinating and we could have watched these hearts being stamped for the whole of the afternoon ...
We were starting to appreciate why this pottery is quite so expensive.

We saw lots of pottery ready for its final firing, to give it that high gloss finish ...
... plenty of preparation for the next season ...
... and lots of new designs not yet released ...
That was it for the tour ... we’d really enjoyed it but were all ready for our afternoon tea.

There’s a fairly big tea room, with lots of mismatched Emma Bridgewater crockery and the afternoon tea went down very well
We then had a visit to the shop ... 

... where we were all very restrained ...
We were a bit disappointed to find the garden was closed for maintenance, as we’d all been looking forward to seeing it, but we did get to have a little look through the window and it looked like it would have been really nice to explore.

The last part of our experience was one we were all a bit nervous about ... time to paint a pot ...
The studio was lovely, light bright and spacious and there were staff on hand to give bit of a demonstration ...
There were plenty of brushes, lots of sponge stamps, so we didn’t have to go freehand, which was a relief, and lots of paint ...
I opted to paint an ‘old bowl’, with Jackie and Rachel opting for mugs ... 
There was plenty of procrastination as none of us are born artists and didn’t want to make a complete hash of it. I think we all did OK in the end ...
Ta-dah ...
We left our pottery behind for its final firing before it would be sent out to us via the post within the next two or three weeks.

So that was it for this year's big birthday day out. I'm sure if we lived a bit nearer the tea room would certainly be in for another visit, but we would all definitely recommend it as a day out ... it was a real treat.

It was time to head for home ...
 
Within a couple of weeks Rachel took delivery of our eagerly awaited fired pottery ...
As Jackie and I were both away on holiday we had to have a 'What'sApp' reveal ...

... which was all very exciting and left us all with a pretty decent memento of one of the loveliest of days. 

We will have to think of somewhere equally as fab for next year's treat. If any of you have any great suggestions it would be lovely to hear them 💜

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