Pat Albeck discusses her life and work at Keele University’s Textile Design Forum

Emma Bridgewater and Pat Albeck 690

Pictured L-R: Prof Fiona Cownie, Pat Albeck, Emma Bridgewater, Prof David Amigoni

Posted on 20 October 2016

As part of the ‘Back to the Drawing Board’ exhibition series, the sell-out ‘Textile Design Forum’ event, chaired by Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Fiona Cownie, explored the extraordinary creative life of Pat Albeck.

Joined on stage by her daughter-in-law Emma Bridgewater, Pat discussed examples of her work, her inspiration and her long and varied career, from her first days at the Royal College of Art in the 1950s, through to her work with John Lewis and the National Trust, and more recently, her designs for Emma Bridgewater.

Throughout the event, Pat made reference to her beloved drawing board, explaining: “This is what the exhibition is about - getting back to the drawing board, always keeping your materials to hand, and continuing to be creative.”

Over 100 guests packed the Salvin Room in Keele Hall to hear Pat’s story. Many were curious to find out Pat’s thoughts on her favourite flowers, her creative process and how she selected projects. Asked whether she knew, upon completing a design, whether it would go on to be a best seller, Pat responded:

“I never set out with the ambition to create a commercially successful design, and sometimes I rejected those projects. But yes, I think when I created something, if I really loved it, I often knew that it would be successful.”

Emma and Pat also discussed their early careers, including the moment when they were first introduced, and the inspiration Pat had on Emma’s future career. Emma commented: “I knew, right away, that here was a woman I could learn a thing or two from.”

Pat also recalled being impressed by her first visit to Stoke-on-Trent, when she first became involved in ceramic design and was invited to a tour of the factories and a directors’ lunch:

“It was very glamorous; I remember buying a new outfit and some white gloves from Fortnum and Mason, and getting the train up from London to Stoke-on-Trent. I was greeted at the station by the directors in their tweed and with their pipes. It was all very impressive. I recall that the cook made the most wonderful trifle, and from then, whenever I visited, she would have this trifle ready.”

Pat and Emma also spoke about Pat and her husband Peter Rice’s relationship and work ethic. Pat explained, “We had our studios at home, and we both worked, and would spur one another on. We would work until 6 and then stop for a drink and a meal, and then it would be back to the drawing board - which helps to explain the title of the exhibition.”

The ‘Back to the Drawing Board’ exhibition of Pat Albeck and Peter Rice’s work will be at Keele University from 9th November to 26th January.  More information about the exhibition series can be found on the Arts Keele website.

Professor Fiona Cownie, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at Keele University commented: 

 "The Back to the Drawing Board exhibition and event series is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the lives and works of an exceptionally talented group of people. The exhibition and events tie in to the university's many research themes, including the creative bonds between the generations, the cultural heritage of the local community, and creative engagement in later life. The cultural focus of the events and exhibition is especially important to celebrate this year, as we gear up to support Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to be City of Culture in 2021."

The next event in the series will be a theatre design forum and exhibition of Peter Rice’s work at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, chaired by writer, designer and artist Matthew Rice (son of Peter Rice and Pat Albeck, and husband of Emma Bridgewater.) The forum will be an opportunity to discuss some of Peter Rice’s most exciting and innovative works, and will also include discussions with Tom Hawkes, Lis Evans, Kate Burnett and Michael Holt. For tickets call the New Vic Theatre on 01782 717962