My final guest of the latest series is Emily Johnson, co-founder of the Stoke-on-Trent-based, ceramics company 1882 Ltd. Clay is part of the former TV executive’s DNA. She is the fifth generation of Johnson to work in the industry, with her father and business partner, Chris, spending over 30 years as a production director of Wedgwood, after it bought the family firm in 1964.
Since launching a decade ago, 1882 Ltd has worked with an eclectic roster of designers including: Max Lamb, Faye Toogood, former Material Matters guest Barnaby Barford, architect John Pawson and fashion designer Paul Smith. According to the company’s own official blurb, at its core is a combination of ‘progressive design and industrial craftsmanship’.
So why did she decide to leave television and return to clay? And what’s it like to launch a new manufacturing company in Stoke-on-Trent in the 21st century?
In this episode we talk about: making through the pandemic; opening a brand new production unit (or factory) at Wedgwood; why she initially eschewed clay for TV advertising in the US; the pain of watching Johnson Brothers wither; launching 1882 Ltd; keeping craft skills alive in Stoke-on-Trent; the social and economic issues the city faces; working with her father and why a piece by Barnaby Barford changed their relationship; Brexit; and the joy of the common language of clay.