We popped up north yesterday to see our manufacturers, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing everything being made. We are incredibly proud that our mugs are made from start to finish in the world capital of ceramics and the home of pottery making, Stoke-on-Trent (also known as the Potteries). Early on, we knew we wanted to dip into this famous and historic community of unrivalled heritage, and we are very lucky that we get to work with such truly wonderful and skilled craftspeople.
Stoke-on-Trent is a city in Staffordshire, an industrial area in the West-Midlands region of England. It is an area rich in clay, coal and canals. The history of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent is linked back to the Saxons and Romans, and was the birthplace of pottery manufacture in the United Kingdom. It became the world centre for the production of ceramic products in the 17th Century. The growth of this industry was fuelled by East Indies fashionable tea trade in the 18th Century, and also the introduction of railway distribution in the 19th Century. It was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and at its peak in the 19th Century, it was home to more than 2000 kilns firing millions of products a year.
However, manufacturing in Stoke-on-Trent has changed beyond recognition in the past 30 years or so, mainly due to the drift of manufacturing eastwards. It saw a dramatic decline and was unable to withstand the completion of low production costs, which inevitably led to closures and relocations abroad. Also, many family-run pottery factories were bought and taken over, with the longstanding managers replaced with new ones fresh out of business school, with little to no pottery making knowledge. They cared more about figures, cuttings costs and processes to maximise profits (with no difference to the retail price) than making an exceptionally crafted product. In the end, they were producing a poorer product for the same price, under the guise of a quintessential English luxury brand. Nevertheless, their loss is our gain.
We work with manufacturers who are committed to making pottery the right way, who hold on to these values and are true to their city’s heritage. It’s almost like a mini-revolution against those big companies who disrespected years of skill and craftsmanship. We are committed to supporting and preserving traditional techniques that can only be continued with manufacturers who value true quality manufacturing methods over taking shortcuts. In turn, it is reflected in the pieces that you buy. We are making mugs that we know are made in the best possible way, using the proper techniques and processes, and using the finest quality materials.
When we first drove up to Stoke-on-Trent to visit our manufacturers, we were shocked to see so many of the former factories empty and derelict. Every so often we would see one of the bottle kilns peeping out above the buildings, a gentle reminder of what this city is rich in history for. Within this landscape of abandoned buildings, our manufacturer’s factory is tucked away. It is a bustling hub of activity with skilled craftspeople at work, making, glazing, firing and decorating hundreds of pieces of expertly made pottery. It was clear evidence that the ceramic industry is in fact still alive and kicking. There really is something quite exciting about what we saw and have now become a part of, and we can’t help but feel optimistic about The Potteries future.