Our showroom team had a chance to sit down and chat with Keith about all things dinnerware. We learned he actually used to hate making plates. Who knew? Read on to find out more about what inspired the refresh of the Gramercy Dinnerware collection, and why it's great for both the home cook and pro kitchen. Bonus: Find out what Keith is serving on his new plates.
You’ve been making dinnerware for a long time. Why the new collection, why now?
KK: The different pieces in our Gramercy Dinnerware Collection evolved over time as we were creating specific pieces for chefs we work with. While the bones of the collection were strong, it was missing a few key options the home cook needed. Over the past few years we’ve really refined our plates and bowls, and this past summer we focused on filling-out the collection. It now consists of 4 sizes of plates and 3 sizes of all-new bowls. No matter what your needs are at home or in a pro kitchen, we have a piece for you.
What have you learned about dinnerware from chefs and restaurants?
KK: My work is pretty straightforward and simple, but it can be used in so many different ways and it works in all types of settings. The same plate can hold a helping of pasta at Coppa or a beautifully composed dish at Olamaie. This flexibility translates well for the home cook, whether it’s a measure of function or style. Use any number of Gramercy dinnerware pieces to set your table, during meal prep or even for serving... and the style looks great in the the most crisp contemporary home or a rustic bungalow.
What’s tricky about making dinnerware? What do you have to make sure you get right?
KK: Like anything we do with clay, we have to stay focused on the process first. When we get that right, the results tend to work out. Out of all the things we make, dinnerware is the trickiest because it has the highest loss rate. That’s why we try to make things intentionally, and we’ve learned to slow things down as necessary. We’re not trying to make plates for every table, but we are always striving to make the best version of our plates for the people who want them.
How would you describe the new Gramercy collection in terms of form and function?
KK: It’s simple, clean and universal. At its core, I hope that it’s familiar. Like a lot of my work, I’m referencing the pieces I know from growing up. The simple curve of a plate from the diner I went to as a kid, or hoping the bowl reminds you of a cereal bowl you used at your aunt’s house. I’m not trying to reinvent anything—but I am trying to make objects intentionally, hoping they cause people to slow down and notice what they’re surrounding themselves with and what they’re using everyday.
What goes into making pieces for the Gramercy dinnerware collection? You say it takes up to eight weeks and more than fifteen steps...
KK: First of all… we need to make the molds for all seven pieces. Using a mold helps us create an element of consistency in size and shape. We start by tracing out the design onto plexiglass that we then cut to make the profile of the plaster mold. Each plaster mold is made on the wheel, one at a time. After the molds are cleaned, we set them out to cure for a week or so. Each mold will last about two years, and we’ll count on it to make plenty of plates.
When the mold is ready, it’s time to start making plates. First we prepare the clay. We use a mix of new and recycled clay, and we roll it out into thick slabs, then cut it into a rough diameter of the plate. After the slabs are prepped and cleaned, we put them into the plaster mold on the wheel.
This is what feels like the first “actual” making step. With the wheel spinning, we compress the clay by hand as well as with the profile on the jigger arm, which helps us size the plate appropriately. After quite a few passes to get the thickness of the piece just right, the rim is refined and the piece is set out to dry. The plaster helps remove moisture from the base of the plate while the top dries slowly in the air. We pop the plate out of the mold when it’s ready, then we let it stiffen up under plastic overnight. The next day the piece is trimmed, cleaned and decorated, which is another three steps in its own right.
At this stage, we set the piece out to dry for about a week before it’s ready for the first firing. We clean it up one last time before putting into the kiln where it’s fired to roughly 1800º F, making the clay sturdy enough to glaze, yet still porous enough to absorb the glaze. We call this the bisque firing. Once it’s through the first firing, we give each piece a quick sponging-off to remove any excess dust, then dip it in a glaze which we mix ourselves.
We clean it up one more time before it goes back into the kiln and is fired to 2350º F. That temperature takes it to a stage where it becomes vitreous, or like glass, and hopefully also quite beautiful too. The glaze firing takes about 10 hours, and then the kiln is cooled for another 36 hours before we are able to unload it.
Once unloaded, we inspect each piece to make sure it looks and feels how it should, and we sand the bottom so it’s nice and smooth. At this stage, we’ll probably be packing it up and getting it out the door to you. The final step is yours… unpack it and get your next meal served on your new dishes.
Who is your dinnerware for?
KK: The person who looks at the details. The person who thinks about how things were made. The person who is always looking for the perfect tomato, the best bread or the first strawberries of the season. The person who wants to know where the things they have come from.
Talk to us about stacks vs. sets.
KK: While the work is straightforward, ordering dinnerware on our website hasn’t been. Hopefully, we’ve made it a lot simpler to figure out which pieces you want and how to order them.
The easiest option is to pick one of our four sets of either a 3, 5 or 7-piece place setting in sets of 4, 8, 10 or 12. Sets are automatically 10% less than ordering individual stacks.
If you’re looking to customize your options, you can order by stack. All seven of our pieces come in stacks of 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. You can mix and match, getting the exact pieces you want in the quantities that work best for you.
Either way, you’re going to be getting our dinnerware as quickly as we can get it through the making and firing process.
When and how should we use this new dinnerware?
KK: Use it often—and use it for however you like to eat. Share your meals with your friends. Share your meals with your family. Have breakfast. Have parties. Have midnight snacks.
Why is it good to know who made your plates?
Because I think we could all stand to use less buzzwords and use more real things.
What’s cooking in your kitchen? What do you want to put on your plates?
Breakfast: A couple of eggs, toast and sausage on the 9” plate.
Lunch: A big salad with greens, snap peas, some good tinned fish and a fresh vinaigrette in the large bowl.
Dinner: Ground chicken tacos on the 7.5" plate or take-out Thai food, using the small bowls for rice and medium bowls for curry.
Yum. Thanks Keith! Bring us some tacos.