Race to buy hand-made royal mugs

Royal mugsRoyal souvenir hunters have been racing to get their hands on keepsakes marking the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.

At Emma Bridgewater in Staffordshire, company bosses described demand as "ballistic" and said they are on track to take 7,000 orders by the end of today for a run of special commemorative mugs, less than 24 hours since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge revealed the name of their baby.

Mark Thomas, head of manufacturing, said the production line at their factory in the heart of the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent was working flat-out turning out the hand-made mugs.

Within three minutes of William and Kate announcing the name George Alexander Louis to the world, the company's decorators were already hard at work he said.

The public appetite is huge, with the firm revealing thousands of its half-pint earthenware mugs had been sold even before the baby's name had even been announced yesterday evening.

The finished glazed mugs bear the slogan, in vivid blue, "Hooray for George" framed by a crown, a heart, and swirls of colours, alongside his birth date - July 22 - and the exclamation "It's a Prince".
Mr Thomas said: "Production moved very quickly - within three minutes of the announcement we were moving.

"We had to assemble a group of people to start production in the early evening, last night, and we ran through to 10pm and then again this morning when we were in at 6am.

"We've got a team of people working on it and as the day progresses more people are being moved onto this project.

"Demand, as you would expect, goes ballistic.

"It started off that not many people knew about it, although we'd got loyal customers who were
already pre-ordering before this had actually been announced - we'd got 2,500 people who had ordered it.
"It went live from 9am this morning and we'd gained another 600 orders within the first hour and it will probably top 7,000 by the end of the day, then at the weekend it will grow a lot bigger."

There is a palpable mood of excitement on the factory floor - still decorated with bunting from the Queen's jubilee celebrations, where mugs are being hand-finished at a rapid pace to keep up with demand.

The mugs have all been intricately hand-decorated at the Victorian factory where all the manufacturing from design to firing in the kiln takes place - the clay itself is from Devon, making the process an entirely British affair.

The colours French blue and lavender are applied to the biscuit earthenware in the company's signature sponged technique, before they are glazed and finally fired for 16 hours at 1,120C (2,048F).
Leigh Willott, design studio manager, revealed that after months of planning, factory staff had been on the edge of their seats awaiting the announcement of the baby's name.

"Well, obviously we had lots of preparation, we had nine months advance on the royal baby and we did have time to come up with a few design ideas," she said.

"We knew we were going to be pink or blue, and we knew we wanted to add the date and the name.

"So we were all here, baited breath, yesterday waiting for the big announcement.

"It was so lovely when the announcement came through - we had a team of decorators straight here last night starting production of the mug.

"We based the design very much on our other commemorative pieces that we've done in the past for royal occasions, so we've got the date and the scroll work to follow that theme through."

She added the company was already poised to start production next week on another commemorative piece, a small crown which is similar to a larger crown the company's designers created to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee last year.

Emma Bridgewater, the company's founder, said: "The Staffordshire potteries have been marking royal events in earthenware for four centuries and we have been a part of the tradition since I started the business.

She added: "We are delighted to be producing a commemorative mug for Prince George of Cambridge in 2013."

Emma Bridgewater, set up by its namesake in 1985 and employing 200 staff, has a history of creating pieces marking royal occasions, first producing earthenware for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.