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Stone’s Young Enterprise business stars visit Emma Bridgewater factory

Luxury potter firm invites Company Programme team in for private view

at emma bridgewater

Suzy Francis, Upper Sixth pupil and I.T. Director for Tiers of Joy, gives an account of a research trip into business and marketing practices:

Eleven students recently visited the Emma Bridgewater factory in Hanley, these included Year 11 Business Studies students and the Sixth Form Young Enterprise team.

We felt a connection with this local entrepreneur as she had visited our school and spoken to some of the Lower Sixth students when she opened our new Science and Prep Art building last year.

We also thought it was appropriate to visit the Factory to understand the background to the base of our Young Enterprise product, cakes stands created from recycled ceramic wares.

When we arrived we were given the Emma Bridgewater “Feels like home” experience. In the newly refurbished pottery decorating area we were treated to drinks of tea, coffee and – by far the most popular of the three – hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, all served in trademark Emma Bridgewater mugs.

Then we migrated outside of the building into the courtyard of the factory, where we learned about the history and roots of the building. Emma told us of how she saw the factory building for sale and leaped at the chance to purchase it. She advised us to be bold and grasp such opportunities.

bridgewater products

We began the factory tour with the day casting process. The clay cast workers took the casted and dried slip from their cases, which are then left them to dry overnight before the next stage. The atmosphere around us was warm, friendly, yet organised and focused.

As we moved further, we saw the slip mixers which recycle the clay over and over, resulting in less waste. All the clay they use is sourced in Britain giving the company a really home-made feel.

After this we saw how the recycled, hardened clay is made into a bowl. The clay is cut and flattened into a round sheet before being thrown onto a mould – some of our students tried their hand at this and discovered that it wasn’t as easy as it looked. The clay is then shaped to form a bowl – the piece of machinery used in this process was over 100 years old and parts are no longer available for it, meaning that they have to be specially made.

We then passed through the section of the factory where ladies scraped off the marks from the joinings of the cast and made the surface even. Following this we saw how the clay is glazed before it is decorated to give it that trademark colour. We were able to talk to the painters about how they print the designs for the much loved polka dots, the love hearts, and some new designs which haven’t been seen by the public yet! We saw how some ladies printed designs which had been hand drawn by Matthew, Emma’s husband, onto items of pottery.

At this point we entered the business end of the factory. Filling the right wall of the business boardroom was a large ornament unit holding many of their most loved designs; this added a touch of Emma’s personality to the room which you could see ringing throughout the factory. We watched a PowerPoint presentation, delivered by Hannah Ault – an old student of St. Dominic’s! We talked about the ethos and marketing of Emma Bridgewater as a brand and the slogan “Feels like home”, and came up with some new ideas for our company, Tiers of Joy.

At the end of our trip we thanked the staff for their advice, and we were kindly given a gift of a beautiful 2013 Christmas mug. Head Girl, Ellen Mathews summed up the day;

“It was a deep insight into the inner workings of an iconic manufacturer in our local area, and throughout Britain. It has helped us in improving our marketing skills to further develop our young enterprise company.”

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