We eat with our eyes first – so says the ancient adage presumably coined by Apicius, a 1st century Roman gourmet and potentially the world’s first cookbook author. With such historical thrust behind it, as well as a wealth of modern-day research and documentation of this phenomena, we can be fairly assured of this statement’s validity. Some may suggest that the focus of some gastronomical cuisine veer too far into presentation and that may be the case with some chefs, but I do genuinely believe that the taste of food, and our perception of the flavour can be enhanced by both the presentation of the food as well as what is served on or in.
This is perhaps why many of us have favourite mugs, glasses and plates. I will only drink coffee out of my Santa Monica mug, because otherwise something tastes off with the coffee – it’s too weak, too watery, or generally disappointing. The mug conjures pleasant memories of the boardwalk where I bought it, the warmth of the California sun, and the sound of the Pacific Ocean. Such associations make drinking the coffee a richer, more sensual and satisfying experience.
I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately and it’s compelled me to take interest in dishware – not the generic, mass produced kind you might buy at Pottery Barn, but rather the artisanal and unique dishware crafted with precision and care, that is created with intention, to evoke an emotion, and enhance the experience of food. Through my new interest, I’ve discovered some really amazing artists and producers. Here are just a few of my favourites.
The Quebec based endeavor of Manon Martin and Louis Durocher is dedicated to prompting the fine craftmanship of Quebec creators. There tagline is Imperfectly Perfect, in honour of the unique character and charm of their collection of hand-made goods. Some of the artists and studios represented in the dishware selection are Atelier Forma (one of my favourites), Lola Cera, Catherine Auriol, Cindy Labreque, and Roxane Charest. In addition to the plates, bowls and mugs you can also find some really nice art and decor pieces for your home.
The stunning ceramic collection by the Prince Edward County based studio, headed by artist Caitlyn O’Reilly, is nothing short of breathtaking and evokes a strong pastoral vibe and reflects the farm to table ambience of the area’s food scene. Much of the merchandise is made to order, so you can be guaranteed of your item’s uniqueness.
Another Quebec studio with a stunning aesthetic. Though based in Quebec, their pieces are intended to invoke the Maritimes, with a palette inspired by sand, wind, and salt water – simple in design, but elegant, much like nature itself. Their collections includes plates, bowls, pitchers, and of course, a maple syrup jar, all at very reasonable cost.
The collection of the Portland-based studio, headed by artist Sarah Van Raden, is an ode to minimalism and form, with basic hues and subtle flourishes. It is a bit pricier but certainly worth it for the level of artistry and craftmanship. Be sure to check out the Pinch Dish Collection, a uniquely shaped five-piece set crafted in white porcelain clay.
Everyone at one time or another has longed for and dreamed of the farmhouse life, of the simplicity and quiet of the country and of sumptuous farm to table dinners. While actually owning a Farmhouse is probably out of reach for most of us, Farmhouse Pottery’s dinnerware collections, like the Pastoral Silo and White Silo series, can bring the hearty comfort of the country into even the most modest (or non-existent) and urban of eating nooks. Made, of course, in Vermont.
The clean, contemporary, Hygge invoking Dinnerware collection of the Sausalito California based studio is irrefutably sleek and attractive. One of the signatures design elements of their pieces is something called a wiped edge – where the foot is wiped of the glaze prior to firing. The process is part of what gives such a refined quality to their ceramics, and while it may have less of the rustic and idiosyncratic qualities of other handmade dishware, it is no way lacking in personality or distinction.
For a more modern look and feel, you can’t go wrong with East Fork, a studio based out of South Carolina that produces elegant, functional and made to last dishware. A dinner set will run you about $150-160 (USD) which is a very reasonable price for unique and high-quality pieces. Also check out their Birchwood Knife set in their Kitchen & Pantry collection – pricy but a stunning set.
Dansk is a brand, rather than a studio, and a fairly large and well-known brand at that, but their pieces are not lacking individuality. Their specialty is mid-century Scandinavian design, so you can expect to find lots of simplicity and functionality in their extensive collection. If you’re looking for a bit more ornateness in your dinnerware, Dansk does tend to delve more into elements like florals and the occasional splash of colour.
1220 Ceramics Studio
Etsy has provided a wonderful and accessible platform for artists to promote and distribute their handmade wares. There is an overwhelming number of great creators to be found in the fathomless depths of the online retailer, but 1220 Ceramics Studio is one that really stands out from the crowd. The studio helmed by Tel Aviv based artist Lior Shachar and the collection carries the Mediterranean character of her surroundings, and the varied historical confluences of the area but she also cites minimalist art and architecture as being a key influence in her designs.
There is something so irrefutably appealing about the Nordic aesthetic and the work of Latvian artist Laima Grigone epitomizes that appeal with a minimalist collection that conjures the comfort of the indoors, and of hearty meals shared by the fireplace. Some of Grigone’s most recent work uses “special effects” glazes and there is some really stunning work available here. I particularly like the turquoise matte and the yellow galaxy porcelain sets.
Yom Yom Ceramics
I find the rustic stoneware look to be very appealing and it can really make food visually pop. Israel based artist Joseph Malca Yakir specializes in what might be called more abstract pieces. The dishes don’t necessarily conform to a particular shape, and instead use more nature inspired contours, and emphasize textures – many are very sculptural in design. I also love the Ceramic Wall clock.
The nature inspired pieces of Netherlands based artist Kari Ytterdal masterfully conjure the raw, unspoiled beauty of her native Norway. With deep earthy colours and rugged textures this is dinnerware that has the power to transport you and evokes a strong sense of place.