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Making Creative Dishware Sets with French Ceramics

As we wrap up the season of holiday entertaining, I find myself thinking about dishware sets. Instead of the couple of plates and bowls you use daily, entertaining has most people emptying the cabinets to serve the 8, 12, 30 people gathered for dinner, brunch, or afternoon cocktail party. If you’re not used to crowds in your home, finding enough of the proper servingware can be the biggest challenge. That’s where having flexible dishware sets comes in.

One of my favorite current trends with tableware sets and decorative dinner plates is having pieces that mix and match. Individual dinner plates with fun designs or vibrant colors make each place setting really stand out, and add incredible depth to a table. Layering dishes with different complimenting colors and designs is another deceptively simple way to create a dynamic table setting.

For color and pattern, I feel like French ceramics have a playful spirit, polka dot plates bowlsparticularly those from Provence. Whimsy endues polka dot plates and bowls by Richard Esteban as well as the delicate pastel washes of Sylvie Durez’s one of a kind French ceramics. Then there are details like Poterie Ravel‘s pitchers splattered glazes or the delicate edging of their bowls. Patrice Voelkel’s French ceramics go another direction with jewel-toned glazes and local black clay. No matter what speaks to your aesthetic, these plates and bowls are truly unique and make any table stand out.

Of course, French ceramics are useful throughout the year, not just around the holidays. Their festive spirit injects joy into all occasions, from toast covered with your favorite jam for breakfast to celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Appetizer dishes hold daily snacks, pitchers bouquets of fresh flowers, and bowls everything from ice cream to cereal. Richard’s plates and bowls are an excellent example of the versatility of French ceramics. The soft yellow base glaze makes food look delicious and the playful dots, stripes, bird, or dog motifs add lively personality to these decorative dinner plates.

Paired with weighty pieces like the barn red milk pitcher or a rustic casserole full of tonight’s dinner, it’s hard to resist these French ceramics.

How do you dress up your table for the holidays or everyday dining? What are your favorite French ceramics? Are there dishware sets you absolutely adore? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Our Favorite Plates and Serving Dishes, both Large and Small

When it comes to plates, one size definitely does not fit all. Take serving plates. Sometimes you need small side dishes to hold additions for a meal (like chopped cilantro, slices of lemon, or spices), other times you need a massive ceramic serving platter to hold an entire roast or turkey (like at Thanksgiving). Having only a few plates that are somewhere around 9 inches wide just won’t do, particularly if you enjoy entertaining.

A customer emailed the other day asking what my largest serving dishes are, so here’s a quick roundup of the biggest and the smallest plates in the Emilia Ceramics collection (as well as some ideas about how to use them).

The longest plate

This is the pear rectangular serving platter by Tuscia d’Arte. At 22 inches long and 9.5 inches wide, it is a gorgeous decoration as a centerpiece or even more appealing holding an assortment of appetizers at a party. The other rectangular serving dishes (the Tuscan fruits plate and the peaches plate) are similar in shape, but just slightly smaller at 17.5 inches long and 9 inches wide.

The widest plate

Not quite as long as Tuscia’s serving plates, Ceramiche Bartoloni’s rooster platter is the perfect size for a turkey with its generous rectangular proportions (measuring 17 by 14 inches). This serving plate also looks fantastic hanging on the wall for a touch of Italian country charm.

Other large ceramic serving platters

The fish platter and the petal platter by Richard Esteban are both ceramic serving platters that make a bold statement, nearing 20 inches across.

Both these styles come in a variety of colors, the rustic glaze making these plates truly stand out on any table, buffet, sideboard, or as a wall decoration.

The smallest plates

Proving that even small plates can pack a major design punch, these 6.5 inch mini plates by Gorky Gonzalez are perfect as bread plates for dinner, serving dessert, or even as a soap dish.

The El Mar plate and Las Flores plate mix and match perfectly with your other blue and white serving dishes.

The even smaller plate

Speaking of soap dishes, the cheerful lemon soap dishes by Ceramiche Bartoloni also double nicely as tiny serving plates. 6 inches across, these round and square plates add flair to your condiments and other delicious additions to any meal, from jam at breakfast to chocolate shavings at dessert.

What do you use the largest and the smallest serving dishes for? Are there plates you just can’t do without? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Serving Plate Trends: Best and Worst

Serving plates are a key element for any party, whether you’re serving simple appetizers or a formal dinner. I’m sure you’ve been to an event where the serving ware didn’t quite match the contents and everything just felt a little off. Perhaps there was a large serving platter with only a few things on it, so the food looked dwarfed and scanty. Or a tray that was supposed to be passed was just too heavy to comfortably lift. Or a beautiful platter heaped with a pyramid of canapés that looked like it would collapse if anyone touched it… so nobody did the entire time.

While white platters are classic when it comes to entertaining, I’ve been thinking about some other trends in how to serve guests in a way that compliments the food, looks chic, and adds to the atmosphere of the event (even if it’s just family dinner). Here are some current trends to love (as well as some to skip) when it comes to serving plates and platters:

Blue and white serving platters. I’ve written about the versatility of blue and white serving platters for everything from watching “the big game” to having an elegant cocktail party. People love this color combination and it makes food look even more delicious. Mixing blue and white serving platters into an existing all-white set makes for a more dynamic table setting or buffet.

Cheese Plate Slate Chalk Food Macro January 23, 20111Slate. There are some great uses for slate platters, like labeling your cheeses for your guests. A piece of chalk and everyone knows that’s Roquefort, not another blue cheese. But when it comes to individual plates, I tend to agree with David Lebovitz’s take on this trend. Not only are slate plates hard to pick up from the table, they make poor cutting surfaces for a steak entrée or other food that needs cutting. Knives across a chalkboard is not a good dining sound, so I say keep these serving plates for cheeses or other stationary items only.

Meat + Cheese TrayBamboo. Wooden serving trays have always been a good way to transport breakfast in bed or a tea service to your company. Bamboo is not only good for the environment as a renewable resource; it looks streamlined with interesting stripe patterns and real durability. I have a large bamboo cutting board I always use for slicing fresh bread for parties (it looks fantastic with my blue and white serving platters too!).

Overly-specialized serving plates. While I think that having the right tool for the job is great, there’s no sense in wasting storage space on a piece that has no versatility. A good example is this ridiculous champagne and sushi serving platter (unless of course, you throw champagne and sushi parties often!). Functionality is also important. How frustrating is the chip and dip bowl where the dip hangs over the chips and drips onto the chips? No one wants to eat that. Just use a dip bowl next to a larger serving bowl and the problem is solved. Choose serving platters that are versatile and functional so you’ll actually use them.

Slate cheese tray image courtesy of Steven Depolo.

Bamboo serving tray image courtesy of Eric Kilby.

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A Few of My Favorite (French) Things…

Back in September, I took an amazing buying trip to Provence. I revisited my favorite artists: Sylvie Duriez, Patrice Voelkel, Richard Esteban, and the 5th-generation family-run Poterie Ravel. It’s difficult not to overbuy on a trip like that. I was overwhelmed by the creativity of each artist and just kept falling in love with one piece after another. By the end of the trip, I was pretty convinced that I had bought way too much. But as it turns out, that’s nearly impossible. You just can’t buy too much of the beautiful ceramics these French artists are creating. I am constantly blown away by the color and creativity surrounding me in my pop-up shop in Palo Alto and my customers have absolutely loved my French finds. Speaking of the shop, it is closing next Wednesday, March 14th. So if you’re in the Palo Alto area, now’s your last chance to stop by. As for the rest of you, here are a few of my favorite new French ceramics… most of which are now available online.

Pitchers with Personality.

I fell in love with the Three Hearts Pitcher (above left) in Sylvie’s workshop and had to convince her to sell it to me. It is packed with personality (like all of Sylvie’s pieces) and defines one-of-a-kind. It combines fun with authentic and raw emotion all at once. And don’t even get me started on Patrice Voelkel’s large pitcher in (what I’m calling) dark cranberry (above right). The soft glaze on this pitcher is irresistible and the shape is both functional and absolutely breathtaking. These two pitchers are everything a pitcher should be: useful, beautiful, artistic, and individual. In addition to these attributes, they convey a rustic and earthy quality that communicates pure Provencal personality.

Functional and Fun Platters.

 

Continuing the theme of soft and inviting glazes, Richard Esteban’s platters are beautiful pieces to look at, but even better to use. The large petal platter (above right) is just begging for a selection of charcuterie or a main dish like roast chicken. The cheese plate (photo on the left) boasts a fresh, spring-inspired glaze with rustic flecks of brown around the edges. If appetizers of cheese and fruit are your kind of thing, then this serving platter is perfect. I love the way the green makes a relaxing backdrop for the more elaborate Limoni plates and mugs by Ceramiche Bartoloni.

Everyday Pieces You’ll Want to Use… Everyday.

  Whether for cereal, ice cream, snacks, or dipping sauces, the polka-dot bowls in 3 different sizes will bring a smile to your face all day long. Our new arrivals from France also include polka-dot mugs, creamers, plates, and pitchers. Mix and match the polka-dots with plates depicting birds, houses and dogs for a dinner table that is as interesting as the people gathered at it.

Artwork You Can Eat Off, But May Not Want To.

While hand-thrown with the intention that they get used as serving dishes, bowls, pitchers, and creamers, nobody can deny that Sylvie’s pieces are first and foremost works of art. The bowls pictured here are perfect examples – whether depicting birds chatting happily on a flowering branch or expressive (and oh-so-French) women lounging on a lazy afternoon, her soft, watercolor-like glaze transports us much like a painting on a canvas would do.

One reason I have always loved Sylvie’s pitchers is simply that they can be looked at and used simultaneously. Both the mini pitchers and small pitchers are great as creamers or to hold a small bouquet of flowers. The whimsical paintings are pure delight.

I always suggest Sylvie’s one-of-a-kind artwork to customers looking for the perfect birthday or Mother’s Day gift. They are unique, expressive, and unfortunately, almost completely sold-out after my extended season in the pop-up shop! Click here to see what’s left.

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Say Cheese!

I just added some awesome new cheese platters to the Emilia Ceramics collection and it got me thinking about what is by far my favorite appetizer to eat and serve: cheese.  My personal favorite is Manchego (aged sheep’s cheese from Spain), but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Gouda, Brie, or really, pretty much any cheese you put in front of me!  Most of my friends have come to know that I will always be serving cheese at my place, whether it’s accompanied by crackers, bread, apples, pears or grapes.  And another thing they can count on is that it will be served on a handmade and beautifully painted platter, which I pick out specifically to flatter the cheese on display.  I honestly believe that how food is presented has a direct impact on how it is received and how it is enjoyed.  So here are my three favorites, hand-crafted by three of my favorite artists:

1. Gogo Long Snack Dish in Cherry (above) by Gorky Gonzalez (Mexico).
Price: $32 at Emilia Ceramics.

This bright red dish makes all food look gorgeous, but is especially great for a small selection of cheeses.  Spread them out, alternating between a cluster of grapes, a wedge of cheese, some crackers and apples, another wedge of cheese, etc. And for only $32, this is an awesome gift as well!  It also comes in a large round platter (more cheese, please!) and in various other colors.

2. Square Pear Plate (above) by Tuscia d’Arte (Italy).
Price: $148 at Emilia Ceramics.

It is always fun to serve with odd shaped platters (which I consider anything but round) and this square plate is a perfect example of that.  The hand-painted pear is pure Italian class, the blue background makes it unique (this is not your typical Deruta design!), and the decoration around the edge makes it beautiful even when filled with food.  Needless to say, cheese, crackers, and fruit look amazing on this square plate.

3. Small Cheese Plate in Burnt Honey (above) by Richard Esteban (France).
Price: $145 at Emilia Ceramics.

Here’s the newest cheese plate that I mentioned above.  It has warm French country charm crafted and painted right into it.  Just looking at it transports you to Provence, so imagine what happens when you put some amazing French cheese on it!  It also comes in a large size, both in the Burnt Honey and a beautiful Teal Blue, which just screams for a big hunk of Roquefort!