A plate made from fish and chips, a dessert bowl made from fruit salad, a cup sculpted from coffee and cigarettes: these unusual ‘preparations’ are only a glimpse into this repertoire of crockery. In collaboration with the British seafood restaurant Angela’s of Margate, London-based Carly Breame, a graduate from MA Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, composes a ‘menu’ of locally produced ceramics. Tagged ‘Off the Menu’, the collection of ceramic designs embarks on a journey of investigating how a small neighbourhood restaurant can suffice for evolving localised production systems for ceramics. The project aims to bridge the gap between production and consumption levels in consumer dining and presents itself as a sustainable design solution to the consequential concerns of food waste. “This project began by developing a material directory that measured the potential environmental saving by replacing material and energy systems with alternative resources in ceramics,” says Breame. “Since design needs to consider the impact of materials, I believe sharing this information is key to creating change,” she adds.
The concept of degrowth steps in as the protagonist of the project. The act of prioritising social and environmental over economic growth–a choice unceasingly at one’s disposal but rarely ever made–becomes a model for future developments. The methods of degrowth aim to rebuild and reinforce circular economy product designs and processes that are co-developed, locally executed and managed by the communities in which they take form. Localised production methods are therefore scrutinised as a solution to Margate’s regeneration. Transmuting restaurant resources into future tableware, ‘Off the Menu’ is a case study of how local resources from restaurants can create closed loop systems to support regeneration.
The ensemble bears a symbolic resemblance to a regular restaurant menu with a slight tweak: in lieu of being on the plate, your favourite dish turns into an ingredient for the crockery pieces. When looking at new materials, Breame looks for a waste source to replace part of the clay body or glaze. The process for each dish varies depending on the materials used. The starter dish, for instance, is a product of seafood and wine–a combination of oyster, mussel, scallop shells and crushed wine bottle glass for glazing. The shells were calcined in a high firing kiln and then powdered similar to the glass. The Ash, already fine powder, was sieved and these components together became the recipe for a glaze. “The unpredictable nature of ceramics paired with creating new materials comes with many disappointments, happy accidents and a sprinkling of success,” says Breame.
The pièce de résistance is the ‘fish and chips’ plate - a blend of fish bone ash for the clay body and potato peelings for the glazing. After boiling off any residual flesh, the fish bones were calcined to replace a portion of the clay body. “The potatoes went through a similar process, fired at a low temperature and then ground into a very fine powder to be mixed with one other ingredient to make the glaze,” explains Breame. The dessert bowl is inevitably a fruit salad–an amalgamation of local clay, orange peel, banana peeling and mint stalks to brew the glazing. Lastly, the cup is a partnership of coffee and cigarettes with its glaze sourced from coffee husks and charcoal ash.
Through collaboration with other restaurants and organisations, the project seeks to expand its visibility and reach a wider audience while maintaining sustainability and an analysis of the environmental impact of materials. Embracing the unpredictability of material testing and innovation, Carly Breame’s ‘Off the Menu’ is a concoction of tableware that communicates provenance and broaches a much needed conversation relating to resource consumption. “The project serves as a manifesto for future restaurants - acknowledging the success of localism in food production and adopting methods for ceramics,” says Carly Breame. “With any hope, this is just the beginning,” she concludes.
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