Helen Levi’s New, Mismatched Dinner Plates Are Like Fiestaware for the Modern Era
These days, you can pretty much get anything built by a so-called power potter — a pipe, a candle holder, a coffee pour-over, a water filter (more on that one later this week!) — but if there’s one category the small-batch ceramics revolution hasn’t really touched, it’s the dinner plate. Sure, there are a few excellent options here and there, but there’s a reason you’re more apt to find planters than platters on the market, explains one of our favorite indie ceramicists, Helen Levi —who’s launching her first-ever dinnerware collection today on Sight Unseen. “I’ve never offered dinner plates because as any potter will tell you, they’re a bear,” Levi says. “You need a lot of clay for each one, you have to trim a lot off of the bottom after you throw them, and then they need to dry very slowly to avoid warping or cracking. Other potters I’ve talked to say they break even on plates, and there are always a lot of seconds. And unlike a mug, it’s important to have plates be relatively consistent, so they stack well in your cupboard.”
But after creating dinner services for a few different restaurant clients, Levi got the idea to offer them in her own shop and decided to explore working with a manufacturer outside her own Brooklyn studio. “I decided to try out RAM pressing,” Levi explains. “A RAM press is a hydraulic press that uses 60 tons of pressure to press soft clay into a mold. I made a bunch of plate samples on the wheel and sent them to a ceramic manufacturer in California; he made a steel mold of my plate, and sent me back a sample from the press. There was a bit of back and forth to tweak them, but once we got it down, he produced several hundred plates in just three days. Then he bisqued them and packed them up on a pallet to me. Now I have blank canvases — white stoneware plates ready to be glazed.”
As for the colors, Levi is offering a few glazes she’s been exploring for a while now — like one that resembles splatter paint and another a swirling ocean — as well as matte cobalt (chic) but she’s most excited by a set of four mismatched glossy solids, which were inspired by the best-selling dinnerware of all time. “Growing up, we had mismatched Fiestaware, and I was always aware of which of the four of us got which color, and, when we had more people over, not repeating colors next to each other.” Finally, a dishware set for the perfectionist in all of us. Prices range from $47-$56 and are available at Levi’s online shop and at The Primary Essentials.