When Nick Moen goes out to eat, he notices something most diners probably overlook.
“I like going to The Admiral,” he says. “It's a great restaurant, and as soon as you walk in, you see the stacks of porcelain plates there, and I think about that every time.”
Moen is a resident artist at Odyssey Clayworks in the River Arts District. He mostly makes functional pottery — plates, mugs, bowls and the like. But he noticed there's something of a disconnect between the gallery, where he sells his wares, and the table, where they're used.
To bridge that gap, he's teaming up with several other artists to produce tableware for a dinner at Knife & Fork, chef Nathan Allen's acclaimed restaurant in Spruce Pine.
Handmade ceramics aren't often used in restaurants because chefs need their dishes to meet certain requirements. “A lot of chefs don't even think about that potters could make a cohesive, consistent set that could stack,” Moen says. “They need them to stack. They have to be sturdy and light for the waiters to move them. They can't chip. They have to be white.”
But at the dinner, cleverly titled Cup & Plate, the artists will work with Allen's requirements for plates, saucers and bowls. In turn, Allen will take inspiration from the pieces the artists create, which he won't see until just before the dinner.
“It's also a collaboration — it's a total art piece — between the artists, materials artists and then with Nathan [Allen] as well because he's going to be choosing what colors go on what plates,” Moen says. “I don't know if I like using this analogy, but it's kind of like jazz. There's a standard. We have limitations. He knows he has to cook something, and he gets the produce that's there at the market, and we know we have to use porcelain. It has to be white. And that's it. We all get to be creative and figure out what that means and what we get to play around with.”
Ceramic artists Elisa Di Feo and gwendolyn yoppolo will also prepare pieces for the event, and glass artist Kathryn Adams will create the wine goblets and water glasses in collaboration with Moen. Those pieces will be glass-ceramic hybrids. After the dinner, guests will be able to purchase the pieces.
The dinner takes place Monday, July 1, at Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine. There will be two sittings of 30 guests. Tickets cost $70. For resrvations, call 765-1511.