March 14, 2014 6:33 pm

The Inventory: Emma Bridgewater

‘ I have always felt shopping is the most political thing we do,’ says the pottery designer
Emma Bridgewater©Camera Press

Emma Bridgewater, 50, launched her eponymous company in 1985 in Stoke-on-Trent, one of the traditional centres of English pottery. Her pieces have since become classics in their own right. She was appointed CBE for services to industry in 2013.

What was your earliest ambition?

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I pined for a vocation but knew I didn’t have one. I read endless ballet and pony books, wishing and wishing.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Oxford High School, then a direct grant school, run by the Girls’ Day School Trust. Then English at London University.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Initially, both my grandmothers. We’re a very long-lived family of powerful women and I plan to still be organising things in several decades’ time. In business, once I work out what I need, I’m good at going out to find it.

How physically fit are you?

I have a trainer, and I walk, run and swim. I had a wake-up call, a violent bout of rheumatoid arthritis; I had ignored the signals about the way stress was getting to me.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Hard work is probably most important but luck comes into it.

How politically committed are you?

Such a floater! I’ve voted Green and Lib Dem as despairing alternatives. I wish I could believe that one of the two key players has the solution, but I can’t.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

I’ve got a weakness for small dogs so an Italian greyhound and miniature poodle entwined. A Georgian silverware teapot. And sea lavender from the Norfolk marshes.

Yes. I have always felt shopping is the most political thing we do and I believe in shopping intelligently and shopping local.

Do you have more than one home?

I live in one place but I do like to flit about.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

I spend far too much time and money in bookshops.

In what place are you happiest?

Norfolk, on the marshes. Whatever stress you’re under just blows away.

What ambitions do you still have?

We bought a very run-down farm because it seemed a place that would be worth rehabilitating. To disinter the romance and put it back together intrigues Matthew [her husband] and me. There’s a parallel with Stoke: I badly wanted to put the lights back on in one of those big Victorian factories. I want to widen that, I’m not quite sure how.

What drives you on?

A strong feeling of wanting to make life nicer. Feeling I’ve been lucky and wanting to spread that around.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Having created a company while raising four children. I’m more proud of them than anything else.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

There is a period around 40 when you say goodbye to all the versions of yourself you’ve been carrying along. I’d hoped to have been and done several other people and things.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

She’d either think “What a pity you abandoned books” or “Blimey Charlie, you’ve been working hard.” I’m naturally quite lazy.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Write a novel. Business takes up too much of your head and makes one a frightful bore.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

There might come a time when you want to make an exit but the burden on the assistant isn’t something I can imagine asking of them.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

A solid seven.

‘Toast & Marmalade and Other Stories’ by Emma Bridgewater (Saltyard Books, £25). Emma Bridgewater will be appearing at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival, March22-30, www.oxfordliteraryfestival.org

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