Pottery queen talks of grief and anger at losing mother

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She has made her ceramics business into a household name, her cosy, comfortable plate, cup and bowl designs gracing tables, dressers and sideboards both at home and abroad.

While Emma Bridgewater, 53, may appear to have breezed along creating her eponymous lifestyle brand for the middle classes, having four children while her business grew and working closely with her husband Matthew Rice, in reality, life hasn’t always been as rosy for the pottery queen as her cheerful ceramics might suggest.

The daughter of a publisher, Emma had a privileged childhood growing up in north Oxford with her siblings, enjoying languorous sunny afternoons and enormous picnics which seemed to last all day. Her mother and father had three children before divorcing when Emma was a toddler. They both remarried and had five more children between them.

But life was to change irreversibly when her mother, Charlotte, on whom she doted and who inspired her ceramics business, suffered a horrific riding accident in 1991, which left her with permanent brain injuries at the age of 52.

She spent nearly three months in a coma and returned home in body but not in mind. For two years, the family looked after her, but she needed professional care and ended up in several nursing homes.

“The pain of losing her is still raw, and it often springs out to ambush me from something of hers - a song, a scarf or a plate can detonate a landmine, any day,” she writes in her new autobiography Toast & Marmalade And Other Stories.

“It was an appalling, difficult drama and we had to pull together as a family, which is hard to do as you struggle with great tragedy, but we did and we do. It’s made us all very close,” she explains.

At the time, Emma had two small children and, while she did all her crying in the car on the way to business meetings or the factory, she says her mindset was to put the terrible pain somewhere useful. She often asks herself whether her business would have done as well had her mother not had the accident.

“Grief and all the things that go with tragedy - the anger and the feeling of unfairness - can be very constructive and can be a great driver and force for energy because, in some way, you’re trying to put it right.

“Now, though, I feel I’m leading a much nicer life, one that’s more recognisably like my mum’s.

“When she died in December [last year] I felt a huge, blissful sense of relief for her and for all of us.”

Toast & Marmalade And Other Stories (£25) is out now.

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