Plate expectations: Behind the beautiful plates at these Auckland eateries

by Kate Richards / 30 August, 2017

The days of eating out off plain white plates are over: custom-made restaurant dinnerware is all the rage. Here are five worth knowing.


Richard Naylor X Welcome Eatery

Ceramicist Richard Naylor says the plates he makes for restaurants are often “a lot less decorative and slightly duller” than he’s used to making – accepting that his art was no longer the star of the show has been an interesting challenge. He sees his restaurant ceramics simply as “a surface that combines with the food to produce a visual delight for the diner when it arrives on the table”. Naylor acquaints himself with fine dining trends, putting his own twist on them, but says ultimately, “some people will notice the plate’s contribution and some won’t.” It doesn’t really matter to him – he just enjoys making them.

181 Grafton Rd, Grafton


Peter Collis X Cassia

For the grandaddy of restaurant pottery, it’s about working with the chef to create a canvas for their food. Collis uses mixed clays, usually with a Manawatu base, alongside different firing temperatures and glazes to make each set unique. Form is central to his style and he throws every Cassia piece by hand. Collis says of the collaborative nature of this work: “It’s more of a design process than complete creative freedom. I’ll make a sample, the client says yes or no, then between us we refine the work and come up with a final piece.” Very occasionally, Collis takes on an apprentice. Here, the bottom left plate is made by Rachel Clark, Collis’ first protege. If you want some of these for yourself, his Bayly Collis range – made in collaboration with The Grove’s Ben Bayly and used at Baduzzi – is available at Stevens at reasonable prices.

5 Fort Ln, central city


Ben Pyne X Pasture 

Ceramics newbie Ben Pyne says making plates for restaurants is the hardest test for a ceramicist because everything has to be consistent, “although there is inevitably some variation being made by hand”. He continues: “Everything has to be strong and durable as the plates get used way more than in a normal domestic setting.” Ben’s work was discovered at Karangahape Road boutique Tür by Pasture’s owners, Ed and Laura Verner. Together, Pyne and the Verners have created a bespoke range of natural, minimalist plates and bowls, glazed only on the top side – a reflection of Pasture’s stripped-back approach to food.

235 Parnell Rd, Parnell


Felicity Donaldson X Major Sprout

Felicity Donaldson of Wundaire ceramics in Wellington spent her formative years working at Karangahape Road favourite Coco’s Cantina, so she knows first-hand how restaurant plates need to be functional as well as stylish. Her collaboration with David Lee of central city cafe Major Sprout has resulted in thick-rimmed, deep vessels with striking and unusual glazes – all cracked and marred, almost cosmic looking. They’re heavy pieces, and sturdy when full, which makes for both easy transportation and durability.

21 Graham St, central city


Bob Steiner X Azabu

Bob Steiner has been a potter all his life and says his “early training was in wheel-thrown traditional pottery with a Japanese influence” after which he moved to making slip-cast colourful work with a more sculptural direction. After noticing an increased interest from chefs in handmade bowls and plates, he began to do one-of-a-kind commercial commissions. When he started, years back now, Steiner was one of only a handful of potters making for restaurants. “It has been a great feeling to return to my roots and explore work made for food and the table,” he says. It’s a process that has allowed him to refine his style and glazing techniques, too.

26 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby


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