New York’s Top Restaurants Love Jane Herold’s Ceramics
Herold has made one-of-a-kind stoneware pieces for restaurants all over town, including Semilla, The Dutch, Betony, Navy, The Peninsula's Clement, and Bâtard, to name a few. She manages this production alone, in a former machine shop in Palisades, N.Y., with a mechanical kick wheel and a wood-burning kiln.
Her other key tools include the long, thick spine of an African porcupine (for popping the odd bubble) and a rib carved from a piece of redwood off Herold’s childhood picnic table. “Pottery tech hasn’t changed in thousands of years,” she told me over the phone with a laugh.
Herold, who started selling her work in 1980, and built her own kiln in 1984, once apprenticed with the famous English potter Michael Cardew. She sold much of her work out of a small showroom in Palisades, until the Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius was cycling through town in 2012 and spotted her ceramics in a local coffee shop. Aska (R.I.P.), his Brooklyn restaurant, became the first of her many major restaurant clients in New York City—and that’s where I first spotted her plates.
Like the food they transported, these dishes were simple, natural-looking, and very beautiful. The surface was matte, slightly textured, in colors like bone and wheat, barely decorated at all. The plates and the presentations seemed to speak the same language: warm, elegant, and informal. Her plates, bowls, and pourers can now be found in 11 restaurants, with more on the way.
“The first thing I do is ask to see pictures of the food,” Herold told me, explaining how her chef collaborations work. “Freddy [Berselius] was arranging food like a painting in these absolutely beautiful arrangements, so I made blank canvases that were quite flat with a finish that wasn’t shiny.”
Herold mixes her own glazes using the washed ashes from her kiln. This adds a sense of texture, and makes each piece feel slightly different, even when they’re part of the same run. “Working with restaurants, I think it’s a mistake to focus on uniformity,” she says.
For large projects, Herold orders stoneware clay by the ton, and for some of her experimental pieces, she digs natural clay from the river where she rows each morning, then wedges it into the stoneware clay for depth. A bowl made with this technique is lined and marked like a beloved face, grown old. It’s stunning, but I want to use it, not tuck it away on a shelf for special occasions.
"I always wanted to be the village potter," Herold says happily, "not so much the gallery queen."
Learn more about Jane Herold's work at janeherold.com; plates retail at around $48 a piece.