“There is great pleasure in eating food off beautiful handmade plates,” says Shelley Simpson, owner and founder of Mud Australia. “By adding something that has a thumb print, it adds warmth and personality to your table.”
Handmade tableware is having a moment. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Why Handmade Ceramics Are White Hot, writer Tim McKeough says handmade ceramics have a special appeal for “creative-minded millennials” who want to reject our fast-paced world and get back to basics.
The sentiment resonates with Simpson. “In a time of mass-produced products and hard-edge interiors, there is a growing appreciation for handmade objects,” she says.
Simpson started Mud Australia in 1994, making earthenware in her garage. Today Mud’s handmade porcelain wares are sold all over the world, including Mud Australia stores in Sydney, Melbourne, London, New York and Los Angeles.
Each plate, bowl and platter is hand-moulded, trimmed, glazed and fired for twenty-four hours in Mud’s Sydney factory. It’s a time-consuming process at odds with fast-paced modern life. The result is sometimes imperfect, but always beautiful.
Of course a stylish dinner-setting doesn’t rest on tableware alone – there’s also mood lighting, interesting artwork, eye-catching wine bottles like Henkell’s all-white Blanc de Blancs, and the music to consider. But the right tableware can tie it all together. We asked Simpson to share her tips for styling when you’re entertaining at home.
Get the lighting right
First, set the mood. “Candles give a warm soft light which makes everything look great,” says Simpson. “I love using small, light-coloured vessels with tealight candles for a soft glow at the table.”
Play with colours, styles, textures and design elements. “Consider how the colours of food will work with the colours of your tableware,” says Simpson. “I love adding texture with natural table linens, timber boards and different serving utensils – wooden, resin and metal. Playing with height is a great way to style your table and points of interest. Mix up round salad bowls with rectangular platters – don’t stick to one shape.”
But don’t forget it’s all about the food. Simpson has made many associations with top chefs over the years, and Mud Australia tableware’s designs have been refined to showcase the dishes being served. “Allow the food to speak for itself,” says Simpson. “Less complicated dinnerware allows the food to be the hero on the table. Dining is such a sensory experience and you really eat with your eyes first, so consider fresh ingredients and the variety of colours they have to offer.”
Stock up on essentials
On Simpson’s list of must-haves are dinner plates (“for obvious reasons”) and serving pieces including a big serving bowl and smaller pieces for dips and sauces. “We also love a good salad bowl for casual entertaining,” she says, “and a handmade water jug, to take plastic off the table.”
Mix and match
Don’t feel you have to coordinate your tableware. “Variety adds personality,” says Simpson. “Floral bone china pairs beautifully with Mud, or glass bowls with porcelain plates. We have 80 shapes and 20 colours in the Mud range, so I love seeing the different dinner set combinations our customers create. Some select a rainbow of colours while others choose one tone but create variety through shapes.”
Escape the kitchen
If you’re playing host, don’t spend all your time in the kitchen. “Bring the food to the table and let people serve themselves,” suggests Simpson. “We design our platters to fit on the table, so they don’t need to be cleared ‘til the end of the meal.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Henkell Blanc de Blancs. Made from premium white grapes, Henkell Blanc de Blancs is the ideal table wine to enliven the palate. Follow @HenkellAU
*This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Henkell Blanc de Blancs.