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Craft Journeys: Emily Johnson - Creative Director

Where industrial design meets craft

In the third in our series of Craft Journeys, Emily Johnson explains her circuitous route from a pottery family, to advertising sales, to running a successful design brand.

Emily Johnson. Photo 1882 Ltd

Tell us about what you do

I boss people about, creatively.  

I am the Creative Director, Co Founder and Owner of 1882 Ltd., which is a design-driven ceramics brand. I am the bridge/conduit/ communicator between the designer who we have asked to collaborate with us and the factories that produce their designs. It is a lot about communication and relationships in keeping both sets of artists and creators happy. I am also the Founder/Owner which means I have to look after the business as a whole.

What led you here?

I am the fifth generation of a pottery family, so it runs in my veins. I was inspired to start the company because the pottery craft in Britain was moving overseas. I believe we have some of the best industrial craft skills in the world and that, coupled with innovative design, should mean we have a strong story and incredible product to sell.  

Do you have any training in craft?

I have a postgraduate diploma in architectural interior design, which drove me to look at fine bone china in more detail. The rest of my learning has taken place through my work in the factories. There are so many different approaches to getting things made, so learning as you are doing is the best education.  

Crockery White, 1882 Ltd. with Max Lamb. Photo 1882 Ltd

How did you get started?

I dropped out of university and went to secretarial school. After that, I got a job in advertising sales and that eventually took me to America, which changed my perspective entirely as the choices I made there were very much my own and I now have to make very confident decisions in my role. Coming back to the UK, I interned for the London Design Festival, which helped shape and form 1882 Ltd, as that is where I met Max Lamb and many of the other designers I have collaborated with. That experience made me realise that my talent wasn’t in designing, but in communicating and getting things done.  

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in craft?

‘Craft’ is often associated with the lone potter working at his or her wheel, but our craft is done in factories. Ceramics is a wonderful industry. It is hard work and can be unrelenting – there is about 5% of creativity in the daily work. But if you enjoy what you do, you will get so much from it.

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