Thursday, November 5, 2015

Winterberry Serving Pieces

Set of four 4" Coasters
Although I am not particularly inclined to celebrate one winter/year-end holiday over another (except, perhaps, the Saturnalia), I do like to celebrate the seasons of the year. One of the most trying periods of my life was my nearly-two-year sojourn in Singapore - where the sun came up at 7:00am every single day and went down at 7:00pm every single day; and where the weather report inevitably consisted of "Temperatures will be in the low 30s (Celsius) with scattered showers throughout the island." One wondered why they even bothered. (Granted, in November the showers were less "scattered".)

Pair of Trivets (6" and 8")
I grew up in the northeastern and midwestern United States, where we have a full four glorious seasons. In Michigan, in fact - being part of the high midwest, we have some of the most extreme weather in North America, spanning sometimes 100º (Fahrenheit) in less than 12 months accompanied by epic snows, devastating droughts, punishing thunderstorms and the odd tornado or two. (As well as some earthquake aftershocks....) And, although I have my favorites, I appreciate the seasonal cycle. (My favorites - Spring and Fall - are rendered more favorite by the not-so-favorites - Winter and Summer.)

Tiny, Small, Medium and Large
Winterberry Bowls
So, Winter is not my favorite season. But I have learned to appreciate it as a time for stillness and quiet (snow is a great sound insulator), especially as opposed to the other three seasons of the year, burdened as they are by a race to get the garden ready, the struggle to keep the garden looking good and the race, once again, to put the garden to bed (among other things).

Winterberry Spoon Rest
Recently, a mentor strongly advised me to develop some seasonably-appropriate pieces for Winter and, despite my personal resistance to her admonition, I did so. I decided to use as an inspiration my Applied Leaf Bowls and Trays, as well as our own Michigan Holly (Ilex verticillata), a deciduous, heavily-fruiting holly also known as Winterberry. The results are as you see here.

Square Winterberry Tray
I've used the same molds for the bowls and trays as I use for my Applied Leaf Bowls and Trays. (I will be posting on the other pieces in that series over the next few weeks.) These initial samples utilize a plain, untextured coil for the branches; upon further research, I discovered that Winterberry twigs actually have visible lenticels, so I am now using a metal grid to create a more accurate texture for the twigs on the bowls and trays.

Square Winterberry Tray with
Tiny Winterberry Bowl
Probably the most demanding aspect of these pieces, as opposed to their "leaf" predecessors, are the berries, each of which is individually cut (I learned long ago that the key to making consistently-sized seeds or berries is using a half-inch round clay cutter and a thin slab), rolled, scored and slipped into place. Three coats of Scarlet Red Amaco HF-165 are required to get a good color to contrast successfully with the Amaco Potters Choice Vert Lustre glaze used for most of the piece (With 30 "berries" on each of the three largest trays and smaller quantities on the other pieces in the series, I go through a lot of berries....)

Winterberry Dessert Tray
Winterberry Dessert Tray with
Tiny Winterberry Bowl
All pieces are food safe as well as dishwasher safe. I'm willing to bet they're also oven safe, as they're fired to over 2200ºF. The pieces are modular, so bowls and trays can be used separately or in various combinations. The Tiny Winterberry Bowl works well with all four trays, converting them into highly-functional "chip-and-dip" servers without the burden of washing and storing an otherwise cumbersomely-designed, limited use serving piece. The Small Winterberry Bowl can used with similar ease with both the Oval and Rectangle Trays.

I'm hoping to come up with some figured trivets and coasters for next year, as well as, perhaps, a round tray, a wine-bottle coaster and, maybe, a toothpick holder. I'm definitely open to suggestions so as to develop a truly comprehensive range of serving pieces that are not only suitable for the holidays but for the entire Winter season.

I am pleased with them. I hope you like them as well.

Oval Winterberry Tray
Oval Winterberry Tray with
Tiny Winterberry Bowl


Oval Winterberry Tray with
Small Winterberry Bowl
Rectangle Winterberry Tray with
Tiny Winterberry Bowl

Rectangle Winterberry Tray


Rectangle Winterberry Tray with
Small Winterberry Bowl








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