Monika Dalkin began making ceramics as a pastime. As a bodily therapist primarily based in Seattle, Dalkin says, “working in clay and utilizing my fingers was an extension of my occupation.” It wasn’t till over a decade later, when her daughter Gaby Dalkin was ramping up her cooking weblog, What’s Gaby Cooking, that her pastime turned professional. Gaby had employed skilled to do the pictures and meals styling for her web site, who relied on a number of props. So she turned to her mother.
“I requested my mother if she may make us some props that had been completely distinctive,” says Dalkin. “She was doing all kinds of different ceramic work on the time — so she mentioned, positive, why not, and began making us bowls and plates and boards.”

The tableware was shortly observed on Instagram, the place it discovered an trade viewers; with so many meals blogs and cookbooks on the market, there’s a marketplace for distinctive customized props. So Dalkin formalized her ceramics pastime into an organization, selecting the title Fifty One and a Half (“at the moment, I used to be 51 and a half years previous, therefore the title”) and opening an Etsy retailer. Progress has been sluggish however regular, helped by appearances in cookbooks by Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Yang and mentions by What’s Gaby Cooking. With every point out, says Gaby, “there’s a flurry of orders that then appear to continue to grow.”
Fifty One and a Half items are additionally now in eating places, notably Subsequent in Chicago and Edouardo Jordan’s Lucinda Grain Bar in Seattle, which Dalkin says was a serious enterprise milestone because of the order measurement.
“Edouardo discovered me on Instagram,” says Dalkin. “He’s native, so he got here to my studio and chosen types of bowls he was fascinated about and chosen glazes as properly. As a result of the restaurant is a grain bar, he needed one thing progressive and distinctive, so I created imprints for the bowls that exhibit the grains they serve.”

Some eating places, like Alstadt in Seattle, use her items particularly for picture styling and model promotion slightly than every day service, since they’re lovely however dear. Dalkin doesn’t think about herself “an actual manufacturing potter”; every bit is exclusive, and she or he’s at all times altering her choices so clients “get one thing they gained’t discover elsewhere.”
She attracts inspiration from nature, in addition to a sheer want to experiment with the chances of clay itself. “One week I’d wish to simply play with totally different edges, the subsequent week it could be utilizing totally different textures to imprint the clay,” she says. “One other time it could be exploring a sure coloration palette.” Current items embody scalloped plates good for a cocktail party and polka dot bowls that beg for cereal. Gaby additionally provides suggestions — “on the sizes we’d use most in our shoots, the forms of glaze (matte shoots higher than shiny), and the colours that carry out greatest on social.”

All the things is proscribed version by nature, however you don’t have to be a chef or a meals stylist to get a couple of items for your self. Monika sells the majority of her ceramics on Etsy, the place she finds “blue, teals and turquoise colours, in addition to numerous shades of white, appear to be well-liked.”

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