To work with Rachel Bishop, Moorcroft’s senior designer, is an unforgettable experience. Inspirational, brilliant and totally committed, she has surpassed in reputation and quality all three of her predecessors, a feature of her artistic make-up and reputation that has not passed unnoticed on the world stage of ceramic art. Each day of the year, Rachel is a different person, with ideas for design which can travel through a full 360 degrees from one day to the next.
The Rachel story began well over ten years ago when she was alerted to vacancies in Moorcroft for people ‘who could both paint and draw’ by her late grandmother who lived in Stoke-on-Trent. At Rachel’s interview there was a huge and positive emotional reaction the moment her design portfolio was opened. Here was a designer of huge ability, but Moorcroft was not looking for a designer but a painter, and Rachel was rejected as a potential candidate as a result. However, Moorcroft’s Chairman, Hugh Edwards, decided to stay in touch. For almost a year, they corresponded, and as soon as the old Moorcroft design team left without warning in December 1992, he made contact with Rachel.
For the first time since 1986 Moorcroft was facing a year without a new catalogue design. All of this had come as a huge shock to those working at the art pottery, but Rachel responded by joining Moorcroft at the run, taking retailers and collectors by storm as she did so. In practice, this meant learning Moorcroft’s tube-lining and painting techniques from start to finish. There was no other designer to help her learn. From this almost traumatic experience Rachel learned to draw designs straight on to the pot, and not on to flat pieces of paper as her predecessor had done. To her credit, in little over three years following the launch of her new Tigris design in 1993, Moorcroft’s sales doubled, and a new design star was born.
On a number of occasions, Moorcroft’s senior designer has confided that “she was born to the job” - a statement which she has proved to be true. Throughout her life she has been in love with the work, style and ethics of William Moorcroft, and inevitably some of her work shows clear lines of identity back to the great man. Even so, Rachel’s design style is entirely her own.
Today, everyone of us can look back on Rachel’s ten years at Moorcroft as ten golden years. Make no mistake. Rachel Bishop is a fine ceramic designer, destined to join the great names in the demanding and unforgiving world of ceramics. To collectors she will say “I am just doing my bit. If what I do actually works, so much the better. Failure is not something I like to think about.”
So what enables this complex colleague to work her magic? Just recently, daughter Eve has started to play a major part, with her light brownish-grey eyes and brown hair, and a conversation stream that frequently exhausts her mother in its loquacious intensity. Dooley the dog, also has a part to play, with Rachel continuously reminding her friends that “Dooley is not just a dog, but a dog with feelings.” With much of the day taken up with daughter Eve and Dooley the dog, you may well ask how Rachel finds time to design. “Luckily the best hours for design are late at night and early in the morning. That has always been the case for me. Hopefully daughter and dog will continue to tire each other out.”
Her love of the New Forest is well documented, but more recently the mountains of the Lake District have begun to exercise a strong pull. It is as if the power and majesty of God’s own creation provides the inspiration for an almost continuous stream of quality design. Rachel is at home with dramatic scenery and extreme weather.
Asked how she would like to change the past were that possible, Rachel comes straight to the point. “Given half a chance I would like to re-do everything I have already done in the way that I’d like to do it today.” Fortunately the ‘born to the job’ philosophy never fails, and at a purely personal level all of us look forward to celebrating her ten-year love affair with the art pottery that is Moorcroft today. It will be a great celebration, and if Rachel remains true to herself, she will want to share it with each and every Moorcroft collector all over the world.