Meet the Makers

Cara Janelle’s Happy Accidents

“I grew up in a cornfield in Illinois, but was living in San Francisco when I decided I needed to travel to Europe,” the ceramicist Cara Janelle says, explaining how she ended up in Barcelona.

She adds, “I didn’t have a plan, only a three-month tourist visa and a desire to explore new places.”

That was five years ago.

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Cara Janelle

On a lark, Cara had taken a “hand-building” clay class in SF before she boarded a plane for Spain to begin her adventures. Like so many first steps, this one led her on a journey to an entirely new life.

“I chose Barcelona to be my base because I wanted to finally make a real attempt to learn Spanish,” Cara explains via email. “It was here that I took a ceramic class to meet some new people and to practice my Spanish.

“I didn’t know I would end up creating a business from a ball of clay.”

Made of porcelain and stoneware, Cara’s bowls, plates, spoons, and other culinary errata are delicate and curious, biomorphic and loose, touched with deeply hued glazes that surprise the eye.cara janelle

Having sculpted more traditional art pieces in the past, Cara used the courage she took from her Spanish ceramics class to begin to explore kitchen ware.

Considering that both clay and food are transformed by heat, it seemed a natural match. She created a small sample of work and showed it on a table at a local neighborhood market in Barcelona.

In a 2016 interview with lamonomagazine.com, she described what ensued.

“This Argentinian chef and his partner came around and went crazy for my plates. The next week they were in my studio ordering nearly 100 pieces for a tasting menu they were preparing in Norway.

“They barely gave me enough time to finish the project, and ended up flying me to Norway to deliver the order directly to the restaurant. That was the moment I decided I should be working with chefs.”

Today, Cara not only sells her nesting bowls, ceramic spoons, and other clever wares, she also creates for such luminaries as chef Simon Davies at Chicago’s acclaimed Alinea restaurant, among others.

Her work is imperfect and effortlessly elegant, marked by small surface surprises in the clay and unusual colors in the finished pieces.

“My work is predominately hand built using slabs, coils, and pinch pot techniques,” Cara says. “I don’t generally throw on the wheel anymore, therefore my current work is full of intrinsic imperfections that lend themselves to organic often biomorphic forms.”

Some pieces look just like rocks until you pick them up and discover that the forms are hollow. Others resemble sliced crystals, dappled with stunning blue marks

All of her pieces possess a  grace and delicacy that is difficult to achieve working with stoneware — particularly if you’re building something that appears to be a rock. It’s just her touch.

“Before I started working with chefs and restaurants I was creating sculptural work for art galleries, inspired by anemones, coral, and sea urchins,” she says.

“These days I’m mixing glazes to find combinations that take me back to the crystal blue and rocky coastlines of the Balearic Islands,” she says, referring to a group of islands on Spain’s Eastern coast.

“The sea is still a novel and mysterious source of inspiration for me.”

Because her interpretations of tableware are so swift and imaginative, Cara admits that she sometimes has trouble knowing when a piece is finished.

“I try and keep continuity in most of the forms, but once in a while I get carried away and somehow a piece that I am working on has an unintended metamorphosis,” she told lamonomagazine.com.

“Sometimes I end up with a very happy accident.”

Keep up with Cara Janelle’s work and travels on Instagram.

Meet the Makers

Coutellerie Ceccaldi Keeps Tradition Alive in Corsica

On the mountainous French island of Corsica, situated in the Mediterranean just north of Sardinia, the Ceccaldi family has been making knives for 40 years. The family trade started with patriarch Jean-Pierre Ceccaldi, but in a way, it started centuries ago. Corsican knives have long been admired for their craftsmanship and utility. One classic style, the elegantly curved shepherd’s knife or curnicciulu, is said to date back to antiquity.

But with the advent of industrialization and mass production, these traditions became endangered. Jean-Pierre studied Corsican knife-making under Paul Santoni, who was one of the last remaining Corsicans who knew the ins and outs of traditional craftsmanship. In 1978 Coutellerie Ceccaldi began production out of Jean-Pierre’s home in the village of Zoza.

Jean-Pierre got his start making traditional shepherd’s knives. Demand for his exquisitely crafted curnicciulu led to expansion—both into new lines of knives, and into a larger workshop in the town of Porticcio. That’s where Jean-Pierre continues to make knives today, and where his sons Sylvestre and Simon have learned the family trade.

The Ceccaldi family’s knife-making practice is still rooted in creativity and craftsmanship today. In addition to traditional shepherd’s knives, they produce kitchen knives, table knives, pocket knives, and cleavers. Ceccaldi knives are hand-forged, then placed in an incredibly hot oven and immediately cooled, a process called quenching. The quenched blades are heated in a low oven to strengthen the steel, then ground and polished. These traditional methods not only lend sharpness and durability, they imbue the knife with character and soul. Their handles are crafted from a wide variety of natural materials, including wood, horn, and precious metals, and often engraved as a special touch.

Ceccaldi’s pursuit of excellence dovetails with our mission to offer high-quality, thoughtful, and beautiful products that will last a lifetime. We consider ourselves fortunate to carry their horn, olivewood, and walnut knives on our website. Ceccaldi’s knives exemplify one of our core beliefs at SHED: that the objects we bring in our home should not only get the job done, they should inspire us every time we use them.

Meet the Makers

McGarva Pots, a Modern History

Andrew McGarva has been making pots at La Tuilerie in France since 1990. Born in Scotland, he worked in England with famed potters Mick and Sheila Casson before moving with his wife and partner Clare and their children to live in rural France around the turn of the century.

The family settled in the Nièvre, a rural area steeped in the local stoneware pottery tradition, where Andrew still buys his stoneware clay. The Nièvre is the most western part of Burgundy and La Tuilerie farmhouse that the McGarva family occupy is built of and on local limestone and clay.

According to their biography, the McGarvas have an idyllic existence in an 18th century tile works surrounded by organically farmed land set next to a forest. The drying building is a stellar example of local timber frame building styles. The oak from the forest and the clay for the tiles from the ground all around. The old kiln with its pyramidal roof is now their shop.

Andrew McGarva

The workshops are in the old farm barn. Andrew throws on a traditional flower pot-makers’ wheel from England. Once the pots are dried and biscuit-fired, the decoration is painted directly on to the unfired glaze.

The two work in tandem. Andrew paints the outline and Clare does the coloring. The original inspiration for the decoration came from historical 18th century English delftware but the pieces are modern enough to weather both the dishwasher and the traditional oven.

The McGarvas hand-throw and hand-paint each of their pieces. Their land, farmyard, and the local wildlife provide the subject matter.

We recently emailed the McGarvas a few questions to learn more about their work. Clare handled the correspondence and Andrew wrote the answers.

SHED: What draws you to older styles and motifs? We’re thinking particularly of the medieval-style tiles and 18th century slipware. What is it about those motifs or techniques that you find interesting to continue?

ANDREW MCGARVA: At art school we were encouraged to draw inspiration from history, [and] I see medieval tiles and 18-century slipware dishes as the highlights of English pottery.

Living in an old tile works with red clay on site, I had the opportunity to make my own version of historic ceramics which I have always admired.

The painted stoneware was originally inspired by English delftware but has continuously developed over the years into our own style. Making it in stoneware gives a more practical product for cooking and eating. It even goes in the dishwasher!

English delftware makers were copying the Chinese export porcelains but made low-fired tin-glazed pots, many were exported to the Americas. We have added another layer to the story by making stoneware pots with blue and white painting that reflect the history and the countryside around us in our life today.

SHED: Your work is extremely hand-intensive, with pieces hand-painted and one-of-a-kind. Why is that an important element for you and what satisfaction do you derive from it?

MCGARVA: We live in industrial society where things are made by machines. Making and using things made by hand is a different choice. People can choose to use a piece of usable and affordable art.

SHED: In the fine arts, we talk about “process pieces,” work that is imbued and given importance in part because of the work that went into creating it. Is that part of what you are making with your pottery?

MCGARVA: Tricky question! You don’t get the end result without the process. In a way, the customer is buying a reflection of the maker’s personality. It is satisfactory to make something usable from start to finish.

Meet the Makers

Mitsuko Siegrist’s Living Works of Art

Ceramicist Mitsuko Siegrist says that she aims to create “living works of art” that have a soul clearly palpable to the user. She is not speaking in metaphors.

“It comes from my childhood,” Mitsuko says. “I grew up in a small village near a famous Japanese pottery village and most of our stuff was handmade. It’s an every day practice. My mom and grandma made food for the family and every day they thought about how to serve the food. We even talked about it at the table, so it’s really natural for me to think of the maker.”

Mitsuko specifically creates work for the table, for desserts and tea, and for special moments when clarity accompanies the act of eating and drinking.

Mitsuko is mentored by the artist Richard Carter, whose Pope Valley studio is where she wood-fires her pieces. Richard and his studio created our line of proprietary dinnerware. Clearly, Richard has an eye for talent!

Mitsuko is an artist who creates work intended for everyday use which have a quality of thoughtfulness and intent that reach far beyond their mere use as a tea vessel or a platform from which to enjoy dessert.

In order to learn how to make a correct vessel for matcha tea, Mitsuko studied the Japanese tea ceremony, a lifelong practice that she draws upon for her craft. In Japan, she says, sweets for the ceremony are readily available in shops. Here, of course, they are not, so she taught herself how to make them. In Japan, plates for displaying the sweets are easy to find; living here, she learned to make them for herself.

In addition to being for sale through SHED, Mitsuko’s work is used in service at the highly acclaimed Single Thread Restaurant as well as at San Francisco’s Salt House and Berkeley’s Bartavelle Coffee.

“I basically try to make something that’s useful,” she explains. “I talk to the chef-owners and do it how they want it. I have more person-to-person contact and communication. Through my work I try to connect with the maker and the server and the chef and the customer.”

For Mitsuko, it comes back to family and hearth. She saw a circle of connection as a child that has stayed strong within her and understands its value even today.

“We had a garden and a farm and a rice field,” she remembers. “Everything was so connected. That’s how I grew up. And then the culture changed to quick and cheap and disposable. I want to keep doing what I believe and what I like through making ceramic art. When I’m making food vessels, I always think of the user.”

She gives a soft exhale.

“I think of the family in the kitchen; it really makes me happy.”

Meet the Makers

Inspiration to Table: Story of Our Dinnerware

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Placed on 85 wild acres of land adjacent to the Seventh Day Adventist community of Angwin in rural Napa County, sculptor Richard Carter’s home and outbuildings probably don’t look that much different than they did when the property was originally homesteaded around 1903.

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Richard Carter’s welcoming porch.

Restoring the property with an exacting eye to maintaining the dwellings’ original charm while slightly updating for modern efficiency has allowed Carter to create art from his home as certainly as he creates art in the studio.

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The screen porch makes for a serene dining area.

Educated at the famed Kansas City Art Institute and mentored by sculptor Ken Ferguson, Carter is a nationally known artist who works in clay. His pieces, which incorporate stone and metal, rocks and nails, often tell dark narratives from the front lines of the LGBTQ community’s struggle to attain ordinary civil rights.

Fortunately for us, Carter still dabbles in the core practices of a ceramic craft and his kilns and studio also put forth the occasional gorgeous template for ceramic dinnerware.

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Richard at one of his kilns.

To that end, SHED co-founder Cindy Daniel commissioned the Richard Carter Studio to develop a line of dinnerware that could be used both in the kitchen’s restaurant and purchased for home use.

Working with ceramicist Chelsea Radcliffe, Carter and his studio mate, the artist Kelly Farley, have created a suite of plates, bowls, and even roomy mugs that will soon be used in the SHED Café and perhaps — your own dining room.

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Chelsea Radcliffe at the wheel.

Cindy explains that choosing to work with Richard was a “natural” decision given a history of friendship and support. SHED has carried Richard’s iconic butler trays, as well as bowls, cake stands, and other pieces from associates of Richard’s since its doors opened in 2013.

While creating a proprietary line of SHED dinnerware had always been an idea, Cindy says that it really sparked for her when chef Perry Hoffman came on staff as culinary director.

“We really wanted to create a special line for his beautiful food,” she says. “It evolved with the more eclectic offerings, tastes, and textures that Perry brought to the kitchen.”

“I wanted the dishes to set off the food, and so we designed them to be simple, elegant but casual, and just a bit rustic.”

The SHED dinnerware line provides a basis for exploration, featuring an 11″ dinner plate, a 9.25″ salad plate, a 2″ high and 8.25″ wide pasta/soup bowl, and 4″-tall mugs.

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Lightly speckled, the SHED dinnerware line has a soft gray-white luster.

Chelsea Radcliffe developed the original prototypes with Cindy, and once the heft and lip and weight and shape were right, solidified the design. Richard Carter and Kelly Farley utilized a 3D printer and a CNC mill to create molds that could be perfectly replicated.

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Kelly Farley glazes a mug at Richard Carter Studios.

Perfecting the glaze — which is a true stoneware effect attained by firing with gas to 2,300ºF — is an art all of its own, and one for which the Carter Studio is renowned.

“Of the prototypes, we went with the color most towards white with a cool, grayish tone,” Cindy says. “It has a soft luster to it, with just a little sheen, not completely matte.”

Chelsea adds, “Cindy wanted something utilitarian but elevated — something sturdy that functions very well, but also beautifully proportioned and detailed.”

“The mugs have a nice oversized look,” Chelsea says. “Toby Hanson, who assisted Cindy, advocated for a full hand handle, a voluptuous shape that was fun to hold and generously sized so that it wasn’t dainty. It’s the kind of thing that most people don’t think about but appreciate subconsciously.”

As simple as this dinnerware line sounds, it marks a profound change. Cindy consciously chose not to have the Carter Studio create matching serving vessels or other dishware. The dinnerware serves as a base point for everything else offered at SHED, all of it able to work together and apart. It also marks a transition for Cindy’s vision with SHED.

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A hand-pressed chop mark illustrates each plate in the collection.

“While I’ve always appreciated setting a beautiful table, in the store I originally emphasized cooking and all that happens around that, starting with the act of growing the food in the first place,” Cindy says. “But this is about having people gather around the table to share a meal. That’s a big component of what we want to do, too.”

“Beauty can also help bring people together,” she adds. “It has a way of making us feel cared for and appreciating the moment.”

Our thanks to Seth Smoot and Kendra Smoot for photographing our dinnerware journey.