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The changing world of tableware design Denby design director Richard Eaton shares his insights

around the home. All of these factors help us to understand what people want from their tableware. The intention is to design a product  use every day and says a lot about their character and the way they lead their lives.

Over 30 years ago when I joined Denby from University, the launch plan for new products was straight-forward. Denby usually introduced one product or pattern a year for world-wide distribution with a fanfare at the Spring Fair

Denby made more bowls last year than plates Richard Eaton, Design Director, Denby

Designing for the tableware market has evolved greatly over my time in the  designing tableware we ate dinner off plates and dessert out of bowls and now we eat dinner out of bowls and dessert from plates.

There are so many aspects that go into the creation of any new product, not only the  simple need in a brand’s portfolio for a particular colour, pattern or style etc. Lifestyle and food  part of any design brief; particularly in shape development. Then layer on top the brand’s credentials or attributes, there is a lot to consider before a designer has a ‘vision’ for a new concept.

When designing for a recognised brand what you create has to be a marriage between what is right for the integrity of the brand but also relevant for contemporary lifestyles. I believe Denby has achieved this balance over the decades and it can be said that everything that leaves the Design Studio has an ‘essence of Denby’ written all over it. This can be seen in products from 50 years ago through to what we are creating today.

As a design team we consider how restaurants use tableware, how people lead their lives, what people want to cook and serve at home, as well as trends in leisure, hobbies and, of course, what we view on TV. Also tableware and ceramic items which were once just for the kitchen or dining room are now being seen in other rooms

on the table and moving away from totally plain white ware of the 1990s and 2000s. There is a trend to layering in different materials, mixing textured white porcelain with artisan stoneware and glass or slate etc. The whole eclectic feel has grown making it very exciting for designers and for consumers who now feel empowered knowing it’s perfectly acceptable to have dinner plates that don’t match side plates and decide that a colour or texture is their theme.

New Statements is handcrafted and hand-decorated Serveware - both

practical and makes attractive display pieces around the home

(NEC). Nowadays we launch between 10 and 20 products a year – various ranges designed for different price points, some bespoke for different customers, others for different overseas markets, along with complementary products in the form of Cast Iron pans, Cutlery and Bakeware.

Some changes have evolved naturally such as the number of bowls we now use to either eat or serve from, or ‘Bowl Culture’ as it is often referred to. When I look back at the launch of Imperial Blue in 1989, there were just three bowls in the range, today there are as many as 15 in any one collection. This is down to the types of food we we eat, how we are eating it, and the way we are cooking and serving. Tea and Coffee is another culture that has evolved rapidly - coffee pots made way for percolators, then the French press  under coffee pod machines.

How food is presented in restaurants and how we eat when dining out continues to   enough to mix their tableware ranges and brands

A big consideration today for any manufacturer is their digital presentation of a product – everything needs to look great photographed, whether it’s an image for customers to use on their websites or for social media. Twenty years ago when a product was launched it would have been photographed very little after initial introduction. Now most of Denby’s patterns are photographed numerous times throughout the year showing products in use during different seasons and dining occasions.

The design process itself was, until 15-20 years ago, very much a case of sitting down with a sketchbook, a set of pencils, a ruler and a rotring pen. After some initial ideas we would work with a thrower producing samples on a potter’s wheel or the modellers as they produced moulds; there were no computers. Today we still use these techniques, but with the additional aid of CAD and rapid prototyping. Digital technology is helping us to design and research and, like our consumers, we are all researching trends and interests across the world through Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs and Trend websites etc. But with all of this information and technology around me,  the right job and sometimes there is nothing like throwing a pot.

Tableware and ceramic items are used around the home not just in the kitchen or dining room 38 | •

Tea & Coffee Culture - Studio Grey • October 2020

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