Ryan Fletcher is developing a niche, creating custom tableware for chefs and aficionados. He is a Jacksonville native that is taking his craft all over the world.
I fell in love with clay as a means of artistic expression 13 years ago as a sophomore at Bartram Trail High School. There I met Bob Kirk, a professional potter and dedicated teacher who showed me how a career as a ceramic artist could look. He taught the necessity of craft and the importance of function in object making. This gave me a huge advantage as I began conceptualizing my role in art-making during undergraduate school at the Kansas City Art Institute.
About four years ago, I began collaborating with chefs, designing custom dinnerware. My exhibition style manifests in the form of private dinners in restaurants. Held during off hours, these dinners are a type of “test kitchen.” Guests are invited, a special menu is created by the chef, and a coursed meal is served using my dinnerware. I call it “the restaurant as art gallery.”
I want to provide chefs with unique tableware that is custom suited to specific foods or types of food. The reason for creating a custom plate is the same reason a chef spends extra time on the appearance or presentation of the food itself. It elevates the status and importance of what has been created. The plate is a vehicle for the food, and a direct connection between the chef and the diner. It has the ability to manipulate the entire dining experience.
Collaborating within a specific set of boundaries, I can create something new more easily. Chefs offer inspiration for the dinnerware and the plates then inspire new types of food, or at least new ways of presenting them. The food completes the dinnerware, fulfilling its purpose for existing.
The dinner projects are an experiment for the larger purpose of having my designs produced by a factory in order to offer them at lower prices to the consumer. Within each body of work is a set of smaller investigations testing which designs work the best and if not, determining the reasons why. I collect variables at every level from chefs, servers, dishwashers, and patrons. Because of this, my designs are constantly evolving.
My next dinner will be in September in Minneapolis, MN where I will be on a fellowship from the McKnight Foundation working for three months at the Northern Clay Center creating a new body of work in collaboration with a yet to be determined chef in the Twin Cities area.