Emma Bridgewater is the oldest daughter in a large family and her mother Char provided the first inspiration for her as a designer. Emma grew up in Oxford, where her mother’s welcoming kitchen was dominated by a scrubbed pine kitchen table and a big dresser covered in colourful, mismatched china including big Victorian meat plates, pretty cups and saucers and generous jugs big enough for a bunch of flowers from the garden. An early exponent of kitchen living, with rush matting on the floor and Elizabeth David’s cookbooks on the window sill, Char Stroud’s taste defined relaxed, easy living. Emma’s father started, built up and eventually sold, a publishing business; this gave Emma an insight into entrepreneurial life.
Emma graduated from London University with a degree in English Literature. Her first and only job was working for knitwear designers Muir & Osborne. She became involved in every aspect of this small fashion company and it gave her the taste for doing something for herself.
Matthew trained as a theatre designer, and subsequently designed bespoke furniture. He also produced a range of stationery and desk accessories featuring his watercolour paintings of Venice, country houses and farms.
Emma and Matthew met when they were both selling their products at London trade fair Top Drawer.
Born in 1962 in London, Matthew is the only son of designer Pat Albeck and theatre set designer Peter Rice. Matthew went to Chelsea and Central School of Art. He set up furniture design company David Linley Furniture with David Linley, an old school friend from Bedales, in 1985. Matthew produced a range of beautiful desk accessories and stationery for the company featuring his trademark muted watercolours. Subjects included Venetian scenes, country house and English farms.
After marrying Emma, Matthew left David Linley Furniture and in 1989 set up his own company ‘Rice-Paper’ which was very successful for some years. Matthew joined forces with Emma after their marriage in 1987 and he now collaborates on designs in partnership with her.
As well as his work on Emma Bridgewater designs, Matthew has also produced a range of beautifully illustrated books about architecture and Norfolk, where he and Emma have lived for much of their married life.
Emma and Matthew now live in Oxford, but retain a home in Norfolk, which they both love. Matthew and Emma design together, working on the patterns that decorate your kitchen.
The early family life which inspired the Emma Bridgewater business took place round the kitchen table, and that is still the focus of Emma and Matthew’s life with their four children today.