Potter's Workshop Collaboration
At west elm, we make a commitment to artisans to take their high-quality products to a wider audience while helping to empower their local communities. With our Potter's Workshop Collaboration, we work with artisans in South Africa to bring you beautiful dinnerware sets for your dining table. We pay a premium on each purchase that goes straight to a workers’ fund for each artisan so that they can spend it in their local community and empower their neighbors. Each handcrafted piece tells a story of globally inspired social responsibility. You’ll love using these dinnerware sets while telling the story of their origin to your guests.
Set in the Cape Town suburb of Muizenberg, Potter’s Workshop is a collective of homegrown artists founded by Chris Silverston more than two decades ago. Through our collaboration, we have translated their historical designs into tableware, linens and throw pillows. This globally inspired collaboration follows each piece from its creation in Africa to China where each piece is hand-painted by local artisans in signature bead-like patterns. Now a creative team of 23 people from varied backgrounds, these artisans produce functional unique works of African designed serveware so you can entertain in style. Training for the intricate designs can take up to two years and each purchase goes directly to supporting this continued tradition.
Potter’s Workshop bowls are available in a variety of colors and style to match your existing decor or to serve as the backdrop for a complete redesign. Colors include black, yellow, blue and white dots to create stunning patterns that make any table a centerpiece. Made of stoneware, these bowls can be used indoors and outdoors and are sturdy enough to withstand years of daily use. Each one is dishwasher and microwave safe so you can enjoy leftovers in a jiffy and cleanup in no time.
Potter’s Workshop serveware and salad plates include a pioneering philosophy that goes against tradition. Traditionally, women are the painters of pottery and goods in South African society, but in the creation of these pieces, Silverston trained Xhosa men to do the job. With no creative background, they were provided a safe and secure environment, where they could develop their painting skills. It is these artisans that create their distinctive style of tactile, bead-like painting on ceramics, for which The Potter’s Workshop has become renowned. Twelve artists now comprise this multicultural team making it a truly global effort focusing on hand craftsmanship.
Each of these Potter’s Workshop dinner plates and serveware is created through a detailed eight-step process starting with slipcasting and ending with packaging. Once the liquid clay slip is created using a plaster of Paris mold, each piece is placed on a jigger machine that rotates and presses the clay into the desired shape as it spins. After removing the piece from the mold, it must be cleaned and sponged for proper smoothness. From here, the painting and glazing process begins and each piece begins to take on a gorgeous shape and lustrous colors.
Plates and mugs are painted with underglazes and 3-D colors that make the traditional raised dot. Once painted, each item is bisque fired in a kiln reaching temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Potter’s Workshop artisans then remove the product from the kiln, dust it off and dip it in a transparent glaze, paying close attention to keeping the base free from glaze that can stick during the next process. After glazing, the plates are repacked in a kiln and fired to 1170 F in a process that takes three days. The product is then removed and checked for any faults and carefully packaged to arrive at your home in glorious fashion. We are proud of our commitment to working with artisans around the globe and think you’ll love their stories and traditions as much as we do.