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Kitchen Tools: Hand-Carved Wooden Spoons
Three years ago, Toronto blogger Nikole Herriott asked her father, Lance, if she could turn his woodcarving hobby into a business: "Whether my dad is watching TV or waiting for my mom in a store, he's always got a spoon going." Now, twice a month, Lance sends her boxes of the spoons, pastry cutters, rolling pins and salt bowls he makes with wood from around his British Columbia farm. She then photographs each piece, styled with her own pastries (she used to work as a pastry chef). Within two to four hours of posting the images to her online shop, she usually sells out. "The record is 12 minutes," Nikole says.
To keep up with demand, the Herriotts have partnered with other artisans; for example, Lance carves cake stands out of wood, and then a ceramicist in Montreal makes multiples in porcelain. But no matter how much the company grows, Nikole doesn't think her father will ever stop sending her packages of his one-of-a-kind items. "My dad doesn't fly, so I don't see him very often. As silly as it sounds, this is our connection." From $70 for a rolling pin; shop.herriottgrace.com.
Kitchen Tools: Modernist Cast Iron
Working with recycled steel in a micro-foundry powered by vegetable oil and Kickstarter money, cousins Jason Connelly and Jason Truex are updating the design of cast-iron cookware. Their first two pieces include a braising skillet and a 9.5-inch skillet with a long handle that stays cool. Pieces are hand-poured into sand-and-clay molds, then preseasoned with flaxseed oil, so they're supersmooth and nonstick. From $180; boroughfurnace.com.
Kitchen Tools: Sturdy Copper Pans
Brooklyn Copper Cookware
"Tin-lined copper pans are unbeatable. They shed heat as fast as they gain it, perfect for fragile sauces and control-freak cooks," says Mac Kohler, who founded Brooklyn Copper Cookware with metalsmith Jeff Herkes. "Re-tinned as needed, the pans last forever." As the only copper-cookware maker in the US, the company has gained a following among chefs like Alice Waters. From $329 for a 9.5-inch sauté pan; brooklyncoppercookware.com.
Kitchen Tools: Powerful Mezzalunas
Iron Design Company
Blacksmith Marc Maiorana of Iron Design in Cedar Bluff, Virginia, hand-forges beautiful steel housewares, including a stunning one-pound mezzaluna that's great for chopping vegetables. Each piece has a slightly different texture, one that Maiorana describes as wild and organic. "I love that, with heat and force, I can manipulate steel," he says. "I can give a rigid material some grace." $300; irondesigncompany.com.
Kitchen Tools: Ergonomic Mortars & Pestles
"Once you touch clay, it's hard to stop," says Chifen Cheng. By day, she helps design free-standing bathtubs for Fleurco in Montreal; at night, she makes ceramics to sell in her online Etsy shop, Design Lump. An avid cook, Cheng longed for a lightweight mortar and pestle she could hold in her small hands. "I've never found one that felt good after grinding spices for a while," she says.
She now makes them for different hand sizes, adding an ergonomic thumb dent on the pestles. Although signs of the artisan's touch can add to the charm of handmade pieces, she can't help but aim for perfection: "As a designer, I want everything to be smooth and proportional," she says. From $47; designlump.blogspot.com.