Emma Bridgewater and Matthew Rice rewarded for reviving city's pottery industry
COUPLE Emma Bridgewater and Matthew Rice have picked up honorary degrees for helping to revive Stoke-on-Trent's pottery tradition.
The pair, who run Emma Bridgewater in Hanley, were recognised by Keele University for their 'enormous contribution to the ceramic industry of North Staffordshire and the local community'.
Emma, who grew up in Oxford, set up her eponymous firm in 1985. Struggling to find a simple earthenware cup and saucer for a birthday present, she decided to design her own and found a small manufacturer in Hanley to make it for her.
When the factory was facing closure 10 years later, she and her business partners took it over. Today the company employs almost 200 people at its Lichfield Street factory, where almost 25,000 items a week are made and decorated by hand.
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It turns over £15 million per year, compared with £30,000 in its first 12 months.
Matthew started his career as a furniture designer with renowned designer David Linley. He and Emma met through work and married in 1987.
Matthew is behind many of the firm's designs and has also written books including The Lost City Of Stoke-on-Trent.
Speaking at yesterday's ceremony at Keele University's chapel, pro vice-chancellor Kevin Mattinson said: "Together, this husband and wife team represent a success story for Stoke-on-Trent.
"It is a pleasure to be able to honour two people who have made an important contribution to the life blood of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and in so doing have reaffirmed the skills and qualities for which the city has long been famous."
Emma said: "This is an incredible honour. When I first came to Stoke-on-Trent and I stepped off the train, I fell head over heels in love with the city and what it represents.
"Matthew and I met through work and of course I was anxious to see what my friends and family would make of him but the really big question was what would he make of Stoke-on-Trent?"
Matthew said: "When you join a family you get involved with what they love whatever that might be, and what I got was Stoke-on-Trent.
"It's quite a hard place to get your head around – at first glance it was rather dirty and disorganised, and it doesn't always put its best face forward. But through working with Emma I found that in fact it is an extraordinary shimmering treasure chest of talent, skill and creativity.
"Josiah Wedgwood was the man who put a lot of that in, a man who created this extraordinarily developed and sophisticated industry. And he was an outward facing man, so much so that he built canals to take things out."
Addressing the graduating students, Mr Rice said: "Keele seems to me very much a place like that, it is nationally and internationally renowned, and I hope some of you will come back after working elsewhere to help regenerate this completely brilliant city."
He added: "It is incredibly flattering and lovely to be recognised like this and to be involved with Keele."
Emma said: "I found it very emotional as I watched each graduate."