December 07, 2015

Creating Your Rustic Home Décor: Handmade Dinnerware is the Key!

The current trend toward simpler, more rustic home décor is a welcome one for all who had grown weary of the streamlined, sanitized modern interior designs that have held sway for several decades. Those designs – born in the last century and seen as desirable by a society that sought to disassociate itself from its less technologically proficient past – had long since outworn their welcome. Thankfully, more and more people have discovered that houses with sparse furnishings often fail in the one test that really matters: feeling like a home. If you’re having trouble creating your own rustic look, however, we might have the solution: handmade dinnerware!


Now, you might be wondering how handcrafted pottery dishes could possible help you in your quest to create that perfect rustic ambiance, but bear with us. You’ve probably already decided to strip your home of those cold, sterile steel furnishings that somehow managed to become all the rage over the last several decades. Maybe you’ve even started to incorporate more natural wood and softer materials throughout your home. That’s a great start! Still, there’s likely something that just seems to be missing.


Pottery is the answer. The fact is that pottery has been a part of virtually every home since the birth of human civilization! Ancient potters made the dishes people used for their meals, the urns they used for washing themselves, and even the pots in which many cultures buried the remains of their dead. There were no giant factories spewing filth into the atmosphere as they churned out countless duplicates of the same old plates and cups. No, each piece of pottery was made by hand.


As a result, each piece was unique in its shape, texture, color (even when part of a collection, there are tiny differences in the glazing effects), and overall appearance. That’s still true today. When dishes are made by hand, they are not just utility items that need to be stored away in hidden cupboards after each meal. They are works of art that can be proudly displayed for the entire world to see – or at least those select people you invite into your home.


And here’s another thing to consider as well: while modern trends in décor can often seem either dazzling or dismal, depending on what’s in style at any given moment, the natural look provided by rustic interior decoration themes always looks good. That means that once you decide to incorporate those themes into your home décor, you won’t find yourself having to update your interior design every few years in an attempt to stay trendy.


So, as you pursue your rustic ambiance, consider how handcrafted pottery items like those found in the Gaia Collection can contribute to that décor. Natural products can add to that “hearth and home” feeling that you’re trying to create, and the range of earth tones available with those handcrafted items can be diverse enough to complement any color scheme. Yes, handmade dinnerware and other pottery items can be the answer to your home decoration dilemma!


December 04, 2015

Using Your Handcrafted Pots in the Oven

Once you start using handcrafted dinnerware and other products made by man, it can be difficult to avoid the desire to incorporate other artisan pieces into your kitchen ensemble. That helps to explain why manmade pottery dishes are not the only handcrafted kitchen items that are enjoying a period of resurgence in popularity. Clay pots are also drawing new attention, as more and more people report on just how useful they are for their kitchen adventures. Many are now even using them in their baking efforts, but others have some concerns about putting clay in the oven. The fact is that there are a few things you should know about using your handcrafted pots in the oven.


The first thing to know is that cooking with clay pots, roasters, and casserole dishes is safe. For some who are unfamiliar with these cooking tools, the notion that you could bake something in a container made by hand might seem somewhat dangerous from a health standpoint. Keep in mind, however, that mankind has been cooking with these pots and pans for many centuries. Moreover, you can put them in the oven regardless of whether or not they are glazed!


Of course, there is also the concern about the high heat in an oven. Many people who are fairly unfamiliar with how pottery is made might find it counterintuitive to place a kiln-fired piece of pottery back into a high-heat environment. After all, they might ask, won’t that simply cause the pot to collapse and lose its form – or shatter?


While that might make sense in some respects, the fact is that the heat in your home oven doesn’t even begin to approach the temperatures used in kilns. These pottery pieces are typically fired at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees! As a result, they can easily handle the much lower heat contained within your oven.


With that said, there are always risks associated with any handmade items. For example, you never want to take a handcrafted dish directly from the refrigerator and place it in a preheated oven. The sudden and dramatic change in temperature can cause the pot to crack. Instead, do one of two things:

  1. Allow the dish to come to room temperature before placing it in a preheated oven (something that is usually not possible when the dish contains cold food; or

  2. Place the refrigerated dish in the oven before you turn it on and allow it to warm up as the oven warms. Simply add another ten minutes or so to your timer.

Clay cookware offers a variety of benefits that other materials can’t even begin to match. Food tends to warm more evenly, and stays moister than it will when cooked in a metal dish. The best part is that using these oven dishes is far simpler than most people imagine. That makes them a great complement to anyone who owns handcrafted dinnerware that includes plates, cups, bowls, and other products like those contained in the Gaia Collection.

December 02, 2015

Handcrafted Dinnerware and the Dishwasher Dilemma

One of the main areas of confusion for people who own and use handcrafted dinnerware is the issue of whether or not those dishes can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some people are worried about the glazes being affected, while others are simply concerned about their fine handmade dishes cracking or being otherwise damaged. Those concerns are obviously understandable, especially when you consider the emotional connections that we can have with those pottery pieces. Unfortunately, when it comes to dishwashers and handcrafted dinnerware, there seems to be quite a bit of debate and little certainty.



There are different schools of thought on the subject, often flowing from differing experiences from pottery owners who have used their dishwashers for cleaning handcrafted pottery. Those collective experiences can provide us with a roadmap to better understand when we can safely rely on dishwashing machines and when it might be best to just wash them by hand. What follows is some commonly accepted wisdom on the subject.


That old worry about whether the heat in the dishwasher is sufficient to destabilize your handmade dinnerware is pretty much baseless. The fact is that kilns are many times hotter than even the hottest dishwashers, so you don’t need to worry about your fine dinnerware melting or cracking due to the heat – unless they are poor quality items, of course.


However (and you knew there would be a “however”, right?), the same cannot be said for the glazes used on many dinnerware pieces. Extremely hot water combined with the abrasive chemicals used in many dishwasher soaps can cause fading over time, and may do other damage as well. Earthenware can be particularly susceptible to these effects, and most people who own it try to avoid placing these items in their dishwashers.


It’s also important to remember that it’s difficult to really test these items in the dishwasher, since dishwasher damage can also be cumulative over time. Obviously, your potter isn’t going to run each item through the dishwasher hundreds of times before you receive it! So, even many of the people who claim that their private collections are dishwasher safe probably haven’t washed them often enough to really be sure that no ill effects are occurring.


On the whole, though, it would seem that most handcrafted dinnerware is probably safe for the dishwasher. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at the issue anyway. Given the inherent value of these pieces – and the fact that they managed to avoid contact with factory machines while they were being crafted, isn’t it almost disrespectful to even want to wash them that way? Don’t such meaningful pieces deserve more care and attention?


So, while artisan dinnerware like that found in the Gaia Collection might very well be suitable for the dishwasher, the bigger question is this: why wouldn’t you simply want to wash them by hand? In the end, that’s the best way to continue the unbroken human chain from creator to user, while ensuring that your handmade dinner dishes are safe from any potential damage.

December 01, 2015

Handcrafted Dinnerware and Lead: Managing the Risk

So you’re thinking about finally making the move away from machine-manufactured dishes and plan on getting a great set of handcrafted dinnerware? Congratulations! You’ve joined millions of others around the world who have turned their back on those sterile factory products and chosen instead to enjoy the more traditional benefits associated with pottery of the sort used by most humans throughout history. As you do so, however, be sure that you choose your pottery carefully to ensure that you avoid any risk of overexpose to lead.


Now don’t misunderstand that. The fact is that most handcrafted dinnerware is made by artisans who are committed to using safe, lead-free glazes to ensure that their dishes are as safe to eat from as they are beautiful to look at. With that said, however, it would be foolish to overlook the fact that there are some potters for whom that is less of a concern. And while their wares may be every bit as attractive as the safer dishes, they are nonetheless not suitable for the dining table.


There’s a reason you don’t hear too much about this issue in the United States or Europe, as the governments in those parts of the world are extremely focused when it comes to regulating lead content and the types of materials that are considered safe for these dinnerware items. Recent studies, however, have identified two main areas of interest when it comes to pottery that contains unsafe levels of lead: Mexico and China. Some of the pottery imported from those countries has been found to have dangerously high levels of that toxin.


That might not seem like an issue if you’re just displaying those dishes on the wall, but if you plan on actually using them at the dinner table you might want to reconsider. According to the Food and Drug Administration, those dishes have an unacceptably high risk of contaminating food with toxic levels of lead. This can happen when you use them for cooking, storing, or serving your food and drinks.


The main issue appears to involve many family potters in Mexico, where they continue to use the same glazing techniques that their ancestors used. And though there has been some success in the effort to get those families to switch glazes, many continue to use the same lead-contaminated kilns. The Chinese problem with pottery is not as surprising. There have been numerous instances in recent decades where imported toys contained unsafe lead levels, so this has been an ongoing problem for that nation.


The important thing to remember is that it is not so much the glaze, as the method of firing that determines whether lead content is dangerous. When properly fired, a dish will be safe for use at the dining table even if it contains a lead-based glaze.


Consumers should always be wary when buying handcrafted dinnerware from unknown artisans, or at flea markets, swap meets, or garage sales. At the very least, they should avoid using those items for dining unless they can reasonably verify that it is safe to do so. Remember, you can only be absolutely sure about the quality of any handmade item when you’re buying items like those found in the Gaia Collection from reliable suppliers.

November 28, 2015

From Handcrafted Dinnerware to Clay Pot Cooking

With the increase in interest in handcrafted dinnerware items, many people are becoming even more adventurous in their quest to return to more traditional dining techniques. Now, you might be wondering how they could do that. After all, once you’ve cast aside those machine-made dishes and replaced them with fine handmade artisan dishes like those found in our Gaia Collection, what left is there to do? Well, it turns out that there are quite a few more things you can put on that “to-do list.” And you can start with clay pots!


If you’re any sort of cook at all, chances are that you’ve seen or heard about clay pot cooking at some point in your life. Even if all you’re ever used are steel skillets, pots, and pans, you’ve almost certainly seen ceramic casserole dishes or similar items in other people’s homes. Have you ever wondered why people would want to cook with those seemingly old-fashioned instruments when there are so many more options available to them? Here’s a hint: they do it for the same reason that you have your handmade dishes! There’s a world of difference between cooking in a metal sauce pan and using a clay pot.


Let’s start with the most important feature: the cooking process itself. As you might know already, clay has a porous quality. That’s one of the reasons why so many people are so intent on ensuring that their dishes are properly glazed: you don’t want that moisture seeping into the pores of the dish where it could allow bacteria to thrive. With pots, that porous quality enables moisture to move around through the pot’s structure during the cooking process. At the same time, that same porous quality permits heat to better circulate as well.


Here’s why that matters. When heat is allowed to circulate like that, the food cooks more evenly, and can thus cook more slowly as well. That enables you to achieve the results you want without subjecting your ingredients to conditions that can sometimes strip them of nutrition and taste.


And then there is the fact that clay pots tend to neutralize some of the acidic qualities inherent in certain foods. That permits you to use really strong ingredients that would normally be too acidic for many dishes, and end up with a final culinary creation that has a far more enticing taste than it might otherwise have if cooked in a steep pot. Also, many cooks prefer the earthenware variety, and also tend to choose pots that are left unglazed. The glazing process can diminish these effects somewhat, so try to find pots without that finishing touch.


You can also find many other clay cooking pots, pans, and skillets, and that means that you can finally do away with those metal instruments forever. You’ve already made the choice to utilize more natural products when you dine, so why not take it a step further and start cooking with handcrafted pots and pans as well?

November 25, 2015

For the Love of Food and Art: Your Handcrafted Dinnerware

If you love food and art in anything close to equal measure, then it’s probably well past time for you to consider how handcrafted dinnerware can impact your life. In recent years, millions of people have been leaving behind the modern factory-produced dishes they’ve known all their lives and they’ve started to use plates, bowls, cups, and other implements made by human hand. In so doing, they have adopted a new way of life that synthesizes the best aspects of traditional living and modern sensibilities.


For a food lover, there can be no greater joy than a well-prepared dish served on dinnerware that enhances the dining experience. Those factory-produced dishes add nothing to that experience. Instead, they’re just there, and serve only to keep the meal you’re eating from touching the table. There is no ambiance created by a machine-made product – no sense of intrigue, history, or emotion. There is nothing other than utility. Are they effective for your dining needs? Yes, but only in the same way that a sleeping bag can serve as a bed when needed. They get the job done, but nothing more.


Handcrafted dishes are more than just utility pieces. They are quite literally unique works of art that can alter your entire dining experience on a fundamental level. If you’ve ever eaten or drank from a dish made by human hands, you know the sensations that you experience. There is a special feeling attached to that form of dining – a sense of security and warmth that you can feel embracing you as you embrace that dish and the food it contains.


The reasons for this are many and varied. The first may involve the actual materials. There is energy in all things from the earth, and it is an energy that cannot be stripped away when dishes are made by hand. That elemental force connects you at a deeper level to the earthiness of the dish in your hands, and by extension it connects you to the person who crafted it. But those connections are just part of the experience.


There is also the fact that many people just find that their food smells better and has a richer taste to it when served on handmade artisan dishes. The aroma has an earthier feel to it, perhaps due to the earthen origins of the item. The food seems to embrace you with its aroma and its taste, caressing your senses and comforting you in the way that you may have never experienced before when dining on factory dinnerware.


And, of course, each piece is as artistic as anything you’ll find in a museum of modern art. Every nook and crevice in these imperfect dishes tells a tale of an artist’s labor of love at his or her potter’s wheel. Each delicate indication of grain or subtle change in the hue of the glaze speaks to us in ways that sterile machine-made products never can. If you love food and art, then handcrafted dinnerware is the best way to experience both on a daily basis!

November 22, 2015

Caring For Your Handmade Dinnerware Collection

When you buy artisan dishes such as those you can find in the Gaia Collection, you know that you’re making an investment in a way of life. Like any other investment, you need to make sure that you nurture it and preserve its value over time. That requires you to take care of each dish to ensure that the entire collection is treated as it deserves. Of course, to truly care for handcrafted dinnerware, you need to pay special attention to a few key areas of concern.


The first involves the dishwasher. Some people feel perfectly comfortable washing these dishes, and never hesitate to put them in the racks alongside any other dining instruments that need cleaning. On the surface, that is a perfectly reasonable approach to cleaning. The fact is that most pottery won’t be structurally damaged by the high heat of the water or the chemicals used during the process.


On the other hand, though, those chemicals can affect some glazes. They can end up causing the coloring of your pieces to fade or just lose their luster. More importantly, there haven’t really been any serious studies to determine the effects of multiple washings a week over the course of many years. We just don’t really know how dishwashers impact those beautiful dishes.


Because of that, it might make more sense to wash them by hand. There is an added benefit to that personal approach, of course: dishwasher detergents can be notoriously harsh. When you wash this dinnerware in your sink, you can better control the type of chemicals that each dish comes into contact with. You can even opt for organic dish soap that completely eliminates any worries about those abrasive toxins.


Beyond keeping them clean, there is also the matter of storage. The best option is to store them in cupboards or display cases away from direct sunlight. Remember, sunlight can cause almost anything to lose its color over time! Many people prefer to keep these dishes in special cases where they are prominently displayed for visitors to the home. They thus become part of the décor as well!


If you have small children in the home, it is important to teach them from an early age just how important it is that these dishes – or any dinnerware, for that matter – be treated with respect. Ancient cultures understood the importance of food, as well as the plates, bowls, and pots used to cook and serve that food. As we instill those values in our children, we impart to them an ancient wisdom that the world still needs even in these modern times.


Finally, use your handcrafted dinnerware. It is one thing to own beautiful pieces of artisan work, but to truly care for these items you need to allow them to fulfill their purpose. They all have a reason for existing, and deserve to be allowed to fill that intended role. So clean your dinnerware with care, display them properly, and teach the entire family how to appreciate them. But above all else, let that plate be a plate. Treat that bowl like the bowl that it is. And drink from those mugs and cups.

If they could talk, they’d agree.

November 21, 2015

The Many Advantages of Handcrafted Dinnerware

You already know how comforting it is to hold a piece of handmade pottery in your hand and admire the texture and patterns it displays. Even its imperfections are interesting in ways that draw your attention and leave you wondering what the potter was thinking as he crafted that work of functional art. With your handcrafted dinnerware, you are in touch with the natural world, just as your ancestors were throughout all of human history.



Apart from binding you to the past with connections that traverse thousands of years of history, that handmade dish is also a source of many advantages. It brings benefits to your life that no machine-made product could ever hope to match. When you understand these advantages, then you begin to appreciate just how important these pieces can be in every aspect of your life.


Of course, the most obvious advantage is the fact that this dinnerware is meant to be used. When an artisan sits down to craft pieces like those found in the Gaia Collection, he or she is not merely creating a plate or bowl to sit in a display case – though all are artistic enough in their own right to actually serve in that capacity. But no, the artist is creating something that is not only beautiful, but inherently functional as well. Dishes are made to be used, and handmade dishes are no exception.


When you dine with your dinnerware, you discover very quickly that there’s a different feel to the experience. For many, food just tastes better when it is served on dishes that were made by human hands. Maybe that has something to do with that unbroken chain that ties us to the past, or perhaps it just has to do with the more natural sensation of eating from a dish with more natural origins. Whatever the reason, these dishes do seem to make the food seem richer and more inviting.


Because they are made by hand, each dish has its own distinct character as well. Everyone has subtle differences from its brethren, making each a special member of the collection. That enhances the artistic aspect of your dinnerware ensemble, and makes every single plate, bowl, and mug seem just a little more personable and inviting.


The fine craftsmanship, weight, and earthen tones that characterize many of these dishes make them more precious as well. While you might buy new machine-made dishes on a frequent basis, you’ll want to keep your handmade set forever, even passing them down to the next generation. Your ancestors would have understood that these are keepsakes, worthy of living on through successive generations in your family.


Finally, there is the matter of aesthetics to consider. Your manufactured dish sets may have served you well in the past, but they were good for nothing more than the dining experience. You never would have dreamed of displaying them when not in use. Because these handmade dinnerware items are so artistic, you’ll want to showcase them in your home, as part of your overall décor. Together, they’ll bring that rustic appeal to your house that will make it feel even more like a home!

November 18, 2015

Handcrafted Dinnerware: Economical Again!


If you pay any attention to dining trends, then you may already be aware of the fact that many people are once again expressing interest in those handcrafted plates, mugs, cups, and other types of manmade dinnerware that were once commonplace. For several generations now, those pottery pieces have been less popular as they were replaced with cheaper, mass-produced commercial products made by machines in factories. Pottery – a craft that has followed civilization since men first graced the planet – was all but extinguished by the relentless drive of modernity.


But there’s an old belief that effectively says that nature will always find a way. In this case, it was human nature and its desire to reconnect to the natural world. Evidently there remain some lengths to which modern man will not go when it comes to surrendering completely to the impersonal world of the machines. In defiance of the trend towards greater uniformity in kitchenware, many in society are once again demanding those artisan crafts that have served humankind so well over the millennia.


For some time now, that desire for the simpler comforts that pottery can provide has been building. However, the inexpensive costs associated with manufactured goods, and the relatively higher costs involved in handmade items made the pursuit of that desire impractical for most. That left many potters struggling to make ends meet, while many others resigned their craft to being little more than a hobby.


The world changes constantly, however, and those changes eventually caught up with the dinnerware market as well. Over the last few decades, those finer serving sets flowing out of the factories have increased in price to the point where handmade dinnerware is now once again competitive in price. That makes this the ideal time to buy handcrafted dining sets!


Of course, you’re still probably going to pay a little more than you would for a fine set of manufactured dinnerware, but handcrafted is well worth that minor added cost. Face it: the value you receive when you buy dining pieces like those in the Gaia Collection far exceeds anything you can find produced by machines. The pieces are weightier, more durable, and more individualized. In short, they’re filled with exactly the type of personality you want in your home décor.


It’s also easier than ever to find the dinnerware you want. For many years, it was virtually impossible to find a resource that could put you in touch with a collection or with the artisan who crafted those pieces. Today, the power of the internet has altered that dynamic and provided the type of platform that potters need to ensure that this revival of their craft has real staying power.


So yes, it is a great time to buy handmade items again. Some of the finest artisans in the world are busy every day creating masterpieces that would be perfect for your home. And with the new trend toward equilibrium in the cost of machine-made and handcrafted dinnerware, you can have those pieces without breaking the family budget.

November 16, 2015

Cooking With Clay Makes Everything Taste Better

If you told someone that cooking a meal in a clay pot made the food taste better, they’d probably look at you like you lost your mind. Or perhaps they would suspect that something from the pot’s surface made its way into the food and somehow scrambled your sense. Of course, you know better – but you can forgive them for not fully appreciating the impact that natural surfaces seem to have on the foods we eat. The simple truth is that, for many people, the food prepared in handmade pots and pans really does seem to taste better.


But why is that? Well, if you’re the proud owner of a set of handcrafted dinnerware such as those pieces found in our Gaia Collection, then you may have already noticed how food seems to taste better when it is served on those manmade dishes. And since we know that our sense seem to connect those dishes with enhanced taste, why wouldn’t it make sense that cooking in handmade pots would result in enhanced flavors and a different culinary experience?


Of course, there is no definitive scientific evidence that any of this really matters, but does there need to be? There are some things – perception, for instance – that we don’t need science to interpret for us. And it’s not as though there are scientific processes that could offer that kind of explanation anyway. What we do know is that our sense of smell and taste are often tied to our moods and emotions, and that an untold number of things can subtly alter those senses.


And there’s the heart of the matter: each person has his or her own reason for enjoying the food from these handcrafted pots, plates, and other dinnerware and cookware pieces. Some can swear that the earthen materials used in the pots tend to create an aroma of natural earth and minerals while on the stove. Others will declare that their handcrafted plates make them feel more in touch with the earth – the source of all our food. Some just believe that the fact that those pieces are made by human hands powerfully alters the cooking and dining dynamic.


And if you think that your clay cooking is limited to what you can put in a pot, think again. There are artisans crafting bean pots, cazuelas and other casserole pans, stew pots, and skillets. All of them can bring an added dimension to your food preparation and enhance the flavor of any meal. More importantly, they can alter the way you feel about the cooking process, instilling in you a greater appreciation for the rich history of both cooking and mankind itself.


So, whether you believe in such things or not, many of us do find that food prepared with manmade pots and pans and served on handcrafted dinnerware far outshines anything we create using machine-made products. Of course, that could very well be all in our imaginations, but imagination isn’t necessarily a bad thing either – especially if it seems to make everything taste better.