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This year, support a talented artisan—and upgrade your dinner party style—by investing in a gorgeous, handmade tabletop piece. Here, eight artisans who are making incredible one-of-a-kind trivets; stone and marble serving slabs; hand-dyed wooden bowls; and more.
Wood Bowls: Silvia Song’s bowls are labor-intensive investment pieces designed for the long run. She carves them by hand from maple then dyes them with an indigo stain she created with natural dye expert Kristine Vejar. After composting leaves from the indigo plant for a month, Vejar ferments them to make a brew that, Song says, is “full of live cultures that activate the dye—similar to yogurt.” Song dips each bowl up to 20 times in the indigo pigment, allowing it to dry between dunkings. From $350 each; silviasong.com, available at marchsf.com.
Stone Slab: Like Song, Rochelle Cheri Chavez of Primitive Reserve also uses long-lasting natural materials for her designs. She carves stone and marble into serving pieces like this slab. “Straight lines are easy to cut with a saw,” she says. “But when I’m cutting rounded shapes like this one, I have to use a hand grinder. Sparks are flying. It’s awesome.” The LA-based designer scours local marble yards for interesting remnants. “Someone probably made a beautiful countertop out of that pink slab, and I was lucky enough to get a piece of it,” she says. From $120; primitivereserve.com.
Locavore Linens: “My relationship to the land and to the farmers is the fuel for my work,” says weaver Adele Stafford of Oakland, California’s Voices of Industry. Her textiles use cotton from northern California’s organic Viriditas Farm, where the soil is fertilized by a flock of merino sheep and enriched by heirloom Sonora wheat crops. Designed as diptychs and triptychs, her pieces can be used as table runners or transformed into placemats or kitchen towels by separating the panels at the fringe that connects them to one another. From $385; voicesofindustry.com.
Wool Trivet: To make her chunky wool table runners and trivets, Atlanta-based textile designer Sonya Yong James uses spinning and knitting techniques that have been around for millennia. But her felting method, an important step in which warm, soapy water and repeated agitation turn wool into fabric, has a modern twist. “I start outside on the ground using a hose, olive oil soap, and my hands and knees to work the wool in between two screens,” Yong James says. Then she and her husband wrap the wool in a tarp, which they attach to a six-foot-wide roller on the back of their station wagon. Her method was inspired by ancient Mongolians, who felted wool by wrapping it around a tree trunk and pulling it behind their horses. $85; sonyayongjames.com.
Hand-Hammered Brass Utensils: After years in high-intensity restaurant kitchens like Craft in New York City and Fig in Charleston, South Carolina, pastry chef Ann Ladson wanted a change. She began by making jewelry, but soon turned her attention to tableware, designing forks with slender handles and spoons with deep, shiny bowls, all with enough weight to feel good in the hand. Now she works primarily with brass, a notoriously difficult metal. “Not many smiths forge with brass because it becomes very brittle,” she says. “But I like to see what I can get it to do.” $300; annladson.com.
Salvaged Metal Knife and Grater: Metalworker Chelsea Miller creates knives, graters and cooking tools out of old steel files originally used for shoeing horses or in mechanics’ shops, adding wooden handles sourced from her family’s farm in northeastern Vermont. Her father taught her how to work with wood and metal when she was growing up (“We were homeschooled, so we were basically his child labor,” she jokes). “I like to take discarded, ugly hunks of metal at the end of their lives and breathe life back into them,” she says. “It makes me feel very connected and very alive.” From $100; chelseamillerknives.com.
Ceramic Bowl: Clair Catillaz, the Brooklyn-based ceramist behind Clam Lab, creates rustic, minimalist designs with all the hallmark irregularities of hand-thrown clay. Now she’s starting to branch out from utilitarian tableware into more experimental statement pieces like angular jugs and platters. Incorporating pebbled textures, they are also her first forays into colored glazes. “I made only white and gray stuff for years, so even pale pinks feel really extreme,” says Catillaz, who mixes her own glazes—a rarity even among experienced ceramists. $60; clamlab.com.
Marbleized Plate: In between making plates and other serving pieces for chefs around the country, Nathaniel Mell and Wynn Bauer of Philadelphia’s Felt+Fat play around with new ideas and post the results on Instagram. The marbleized swirl pattern on this plate started out as one of these experiments. “We had such a great response that we started selling it,” says Mell. $38; feltandfat.com.
F&W's new series reveals the best ways to maximize your food year through travel, wine, cooking, tech, style, events and experiences. Use #BESTFOODYEAR on Twitter and Instagram to tell us about the ones you want to try. We'll continue to share more tips with the hashtag throughout the year and want to hear about how you celebrate food every day, too.