How does a ceramic master make one of the restaurant plates

Erin Hupp Auckland-based at Erin Hupp Ceramics, restaurants look to as live galleries showcasing her art. “I really designed my work around a high-touch collaborative model,” Hope says of the restaurants that use her work. “I inspire the chef to invent their art, and they inspire me.”

Hupp begins its process by weighing the clay based on the type of dish you’re making. For example, for a pillow with a drop edge at the Nightbird Restaurant in San Francisco, it weighs 2 pounds. 12 oz. from clay. “Ceramics always calculate the rate of clay shrinkage. I would lose a full inch of panel width,” says Hope. “But starting with the same weight provides enough frame to be a set.”

You then roll the clay, similar to how a chef kneads dough, to get the air bubbles out (if there are big enough bubbles, the clay will explode in the oven). Then, the clay ball goes to the wheel, where Hoop can sculpt it with her hands to make the exact design you want as it spins.

“The mud is quite wet when I start. Over time you will see that it will slowly dry out and therefore sag,” says Hope. “The clay crystals, the clay particles will somehow enter upon themselves.”

Once the now-cast plate is removed from the wheel, Hope measures it and sees it is nine and eight inches long, rounding it to nine. “I want to have this standard deviation,” Hope says. “I want it to look a little different.”

Then the boards dry on a wooden board before trimming them from the bottom. Hupp puts its signature screw-on design at the bottom of the plate at this point, as well as a stamp with its logo. The next step is slow drying, which helps prevent cracking in the clay due to weather and other factors. Then they go into the kiln first and then sand them down with wet sand to rid the boards of any dry particles that shouldn’t be consumed. “Under the glaze there are hundreds and hundreds of fingerprints, because it’s handmade and it’s art,” says Hope.

Hupp then paints glazes on each of her dishes to give them their distinct look. Since they are hand painted, each dish looks a little different from the other.

Hope sees her dishes as an extension of the dining experience. “Those little touches are everything. Not only is he making art, he is thinking about how art can help the experience in the end.”

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