Ryan Fletcher: Tableware as Art

April 21, 2014 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

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.

Arash: When you think about sauces or chicken or beef or a dessert what is going through your mind?

Ryan: I usually let the chefs think about that part. The last food item that I actually considered was when a chef asked me to make a dish for what he called “edible dirt.” I’d never heard those two words together. I instantly started fantasizing about the plate because the concept was so original.

Arash: What are your thoughts about tableware design that you think heightens a meal?

Ryan: The most important thing to me is to help the chef create a unique experience for the guest. A well-designed piece of tableware will change the way the guest sees and interacts with the food. I try to create a moment when the diner has to stop and rethink how they will react to what they have been given. These moments of mystery are what the guest will remember along with everything else.

Arash: I’m imagining a time when diners will tap on their plates to discern the material of the tableware, “such a shame, this is a clay composite, you can tell by the muffled chime. My duck a l'orange (too 1980s?) is ruined!” Are you imagining a time when we’ll pay more attention to our tableware on a more discerning level versus a simple “like it” or “don’t like it” attitude.

Ryan: I’m not sure yet. I think it’s going to take more designers tackling this type of idea to accomplish that level of desire and awareness. I welcome it. “A rising tide raises all ships,” as they say.

Arash: I love that you’re thinking about how to take the tailored components of your designs to create something different, unique and useful on a more massive scale. What are some things you would change about tableware immediately if you were in charge of factories and tableware designers? In other words, what drives you crazy about a lot of the tableware you see and experience?

Ryan: I would like to see more of a trend toward small efficient ceramic production with the ability to customize. If all the production remains in large factories we will always be stuck with generic forms.

I do, however, realize the importance and necessity of these generic forms because I understand how factories work. I’ve worked in factories in Eastern Europe and spoken extensively with factory employees about manufacturing difficulties. The problem with customization is the cost of creating a new form. In the production of porcelain around 50-60% of everything that comes out of the kiln must be thrown away for warping and surface defects. Factories usually require a 5,000 -10,000 piece minimum order to cover their costs.

These difficulties translate directly into my studio. My clients will never need that many pieces, which means I have to make every piece myself. Last year I manufactured around 800 pieces of porcelain by hand in my studio. I wish there were another way, but ceramic manufacturing is always extremely labor intensive and very costly for that reason.

Arash: What are some trends in tableware that you are relieved to see making headway?

Ryan: There are some really nice forms coming out of European factories these days. I am really glad about that. People are getting excited about food with all the new trends revolving around health and eating local. People are becoming more willing to spend more money on a unique experience at a restaurant. These are all good things for someone like me.

Connect with Ryan Fletcher:

website: ryanfletcherdesign.com
email: ryan@ryanfletcherdesign.com
instagram: @r_t_fletcher

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