episode 64 | show notes & advice
This week Sarah is delighted to interview her great friend Emma Bridgewater. They chat about how nature and gardens inspire the patterns and designs for her much-loved Emma Bridgewater pottery company and how Sarah Raven tulips came to be part of their new spring Tulip range.
In this episode discover
- How a revelation in a China shop looking for a present for her mum sparked the idea behind the Emma Bridgewater brand
- The story of how Sarah Raven tulips became a new Emma Bridgewater spring collection
- Why insects and wildlife are so important to both Sarah and Emma, and happily their customers too
- Emma’s delicious recipes: cold roast chicken with green mayonnaise plus a ginger cake with marmalade
Episode 64 advice sheet
Sarah first met Emma Bridgewater when she went to write about her Norfolk garden for the Telegraph. They have been great friends ever since and, as Emma set up her company before Sarah set up hers, in many ways she’s been a mentor to Sarah. Emma feels there are lots of similarities in their life and work – both having made businesses out of passionately held things they grew up with.
They talk about Emma’s love of nature and gardens and how this has been a constant thread of inspiration for the patterns and designs of her Emma Bridgewater brand. Arthur is one of the connections between Sarah and Emma, having run the gorgeous factory garden at Emma Bridgewater in Stoke-on-Trent, an experience he wrote about in his book The Pottery Gardener.
For Emma, the natural world has everything for a designer to draw on. As her mother was a very good gardener, she grew up with some lovely gardens. It is poignant that just around the time Emma started to want some gardening advice, her mother had her terrible accident (Emma’s mother suffered severe brain damage after falling from a horse in 1991, needing round the clock care until she died in 2013).
Emma did marry a keen gardener and a total revelation during covid for her was that she began gardening herself, sowing sweet peas, dahlias and kale and sending Sarah pictures of her lettuces. She loves the information and advice Sarah and Arthur give. As an ex-medic, Sarah loves the trialling and scientific side of gardening and sharing the best varieties and methods these trials uncover.
Setting up Emma Bridgewater
Emma fell into the potteries by accident. She had a revelation in a china shop one day, trying to buy her mum a present. She couldn’t find what she was looking for and she had a startling conviction of what this should be and what it would look like – with an image of her mum’s dresser in mind. She asked a graphic designer friend and he told her to go to the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent. He gave a number, off she went and she knew instantly she’d met her fate. She was shocked by end of heavy industry and very inspired by the city and its traditions and expertise. This seemed to her immensely valuable and was being completely lost. She knew she wanted to revive one of the factories, plugging into the incredible expertise and talent of making in Stoke. She based her business on it, raising the money to buy a factory and embarking on the mad adventure of manufacturing in Stoke.
How Sarah Raven tulips became a new Emma Bridgewater range
Sarah loves that there are so many things inspired by nature in the Emma Bridgewater catalogue – all the best flowers, dahlia, poppy, foxglove and, relevant to now, a whole new range of tulip designs.
How this came about is a lovely story. Right at the end of a tour, Sarah was visiting Matthew Rice and she had some spare tulips leftover which she plonked in his garden in Bampton. Up they came and Matthew was inspired to paint them for the brand. The tulip designs are now one of the Emma Bridgewater new spring ranges, on mugs and beautiful linen tablecloths. For Sarah, it’s like meeting her friends at breakfast – beautiful scented bright orange ‘Ballerina’, frilly ‘Rococo’ and elegant dark and rich Tulip ‘Sarah Raven’. Emma explains it isn’t the first time they’ve done tulip and this time round it was a lovely bit of chance, circularity and one of life’s nice exchanges.
Garden as a habitat
Emma feels a real affinity with Sarah’s aim to create havens and habitats for wildlife with her gardens. More insects are creeping into Emma Bridgewater designs and wonderfully customers are responding really well and are very keen on seeing birds and pollinators on their homewares. Sarah sees the same trend at Sarah Raven with pollinator and bird friendly plants – a fantastic sea change from ten years ago.
The Great Pottery Throwdown
The Great Pottery Throwdown TV programme, made by the team behind the Great British Bake Off has been fantastic for the potteries in Stoke, helping to revive an interest in both handmade and factory pottery. While covid has had an impact on the potteries, causing them to scale back, in contrast homeware brands like Emma Bridgwater are growing and it is important to Emma that they have received B-Corp certification, manufacturing as sustainably as possible. This is something Sarah Raven is working towards and achieving, taking over the wonderful family run nursery they have worked with for years, moving towards being peat-free, plastic-free, using biomass boilers for propagating.
Emma is kindly sharing two delicious recipes from her memoir Toast and Marmelade
Cold roast chicken and green mayonnaise
Turn a chicken (as free-range and corn-fed as possible) onto its breast and cut either side of the backbone with scissors or poultry shears. Open up, flip back over and press down firmly on the breast-bone to flatten the bird. Rub the chicken all over with a little soft butter and season well. Put 1-2 thick slices of lemon, 2 bruised unpeeled cloves of garlic, 2 anchovy fillets and a small bunch of tarragon (or thyme) into the centre of an oiled roasting tin, then put the chicken on top, and drizzle over a little olive oil and a splash of white wine. Roast at 200oc fan for 45-50 minutes until cooked through and the skin is brown. For the mayonnaise, put 2 egg yolks, 2 tsp of white wine vinegar and ½ tsp of salt into a bowl and mix together. Very slowly whisk in 300ml of sunflower or olive oil (you can use an electric hand whisk if you like) until you have a thick mayonnaise. Stir in some finely chopped herbs. I like parsley, chervil and coriander.
Ginger cake with marmalade
This ginger cake is delicious on its own… The marmalade addition was my idea. Grease and line a 20cm deep, round, loose-bottomed cake tin or spring-form tin with non-stick baking paper and spread the base with 5-6 tablespoons of dark, thick-cut marmalade. Warm 150ml milk, 100g moist sugar (soft light brown or light muscovado) and 225g black treacle together in a saucepan. Add 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and ¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Mix together and then add 2 medium eggs and beat well. Put into the tin and bake in a moderate oven set at 170oc for approximately 55 minutes until a skewer comes away cleanly.