Peter Sheldon is a local ceramics artist and current Studio Artist in residence at the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) in Pomona, CA. A chance encounter last summer brought Peter and Vivian together just outside the Pine & Crane space in the Sunset Triangle, near the apartment where Peter’s girlfriend was living at the time. Fast-forward six months to Pine & Crane’s opening day, and Peter’s distinctive stamp could be seen throughout the restaurant in the form of our beautiful noodle soup bowls and condiment holders.
We caught up with Peter in between his visits to Pine & Crane to learn a bit more about his inspiration, creative process and—of course—his favorite Pine & Crane specialties!
P&C: Tell us a bit about your company, Peter Sheldon Ceramics.
PS: When my girlfriend and I started Peter Sheldon Ceramics, our main goal was to create functional art. Personally, I believe there is no greater creative satisfaction than knowing my work is being used and enjoyed. It’s important that my cups and mugs are comfortable to hold, my pitchers easy to pour, and my bowls sized to suite their purpose. Something can be aesthetically pleasing, but if it doesn’t function well you’ll never use it. Architecture, nature, and place all contribute to the color palates and shapes I work with. With a restaurant collaboration, like Pine & Crane, I also have to take into account the environment my work is going to be used in, and how I can compliment that space. I’ll first check out the design of the space, get a feel for the decor, and then discuss the food (that’s the best part!).
Talking about the food comes back to the functionality of the piece. It’s imperative that my pottery not only fit within the overall design aesthetics of a restaurant, but that each piece also delivers on its chosen function. In the case of a noodle soup bowl I need to think about the rim, the curve, the foot, the thickness… a wide, flat rim (like you may find on a pasta bowl) would be impractical if you are trying to drink broth from the bowl. Likewise, the foot needs to provide ample balance while being carried through a busy restaurant. Each aspect of the piece’s form must be informed by its function. They are small details, but important ones. There are a lot of fun challenges when it comes to designing pieces for a restaurant. Working out all the pieces to the puzzle inspires me everyday.
P&C: Where is your studio located? Where do you feel most inspired?
PC: I am currently a Studio Artist at the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) located in Pomona, CA. Attached to the museum is a 12,000 square foot studio complete with large-scale gas kilns, clay making and glaze materials. Since I make everything from scratch, from clay to glaze, it has been invaluable to be able to utilize the fantastic resources available at AMOCA. The collection there is an amazing source of inspiration.
P&C: What is your favorite thing about Silver Lake? About Los Angeles?
PS: My favorite thing about Silver Lake, and Los Angeles, is the diversity. There’s such a vibrant blend of cultures here (and awesome food!). I moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2013. I had lived in Montana for a number of years and spent 2012 living in New Zealand, in a ceramics residency. Both Montana and NZ are absolutely beautiful but not nearly as diverse as LA. I love to travel and experience new cultures and I feel like so much of that is right here in Los Angeles. Oh, and did I mention my girlfriend that I moved here for? She’s definitely on the top of my list of favorite things about LA!
P&C: How did you and Vivian come to work together on the serving ware for Pine & Crane?
PS: My girlfriend was living in the building behind Pine & Crane. It was summer of 2013 and I was visiting from Montana for the week when Vivian approached us outside the building with a petition to get an alcohol license for her new Taiwanese restaurant. I had actually stopped in Taiwan to visit some friends on my way back from New Zealand and instantly fell in love with the food. I was so excited to hear about her restaurant! When I moved to LA in the fall I contacted her and offered my services as a local potter. From there we started a dialogue about what items she would need and what they should look like. It has been so fun designing the pieces and seeing them on the tables, filled with delicious food.
P&C: What did you use as your inspiration for the Pine & Crane pieces you created?
PS: For the Pine & Crane pieces, I was inspired by my experiences in Taiwan. So many of the meals I had in Taiwan were located at casual spots that served amazing food. The dishes were never served with a lot of extra fanfare. It would be a delicious bowl of hand-pulled noodles served quickly in a simple bowl. Chopsticks and condiments would be within easy reach. But so good! I think Pine and Crane has done an amazing job of doing the same thing. The food speaks for itself. I wanted to create ceramic pieces to look handmade, to bring a special and unique feel to the meal, without drawing attention. It’s all about the food!
P&C: Self-indulgent question: what’s your favorite item on the menu at Pine & Crane?
PS: My favorite items on the menu would be the Spicy Peanuts and the Three Cup Trumpet Mushrooms. Love the mushrooms!
P&C: If you could see your work in use/on display anywhere, where would you choose?
PS: I like to see my work in use. It becomes most alive when it is put to work. A restaurant is the perfect showcase for that. People come to eat, to enjoy a delicious meal, and to socialize. If I can help to enhance that experience in a small way then I feel like I am doing my job.
To learn more about Peter Sheldon, his work at Peter Sheldon Ceramics and his studio at AMOCA, visit www.petersheldonceramics.com, or follow him on Instagram @petersheldonceramics.