On Thursday, November 17th, we held a small party to celebrate the launch of our limited edition collaboration with ceramic studio Felt + Fat. Helmed by artists Nate Mell and Wynn Bauer, Felt + Fat is a collaborative ceramics studio dedicated to material exploration and the art of making. They have close ties to the local restaurant scene, and have built a reputation for beautiful work designing tableware for different chefs throughout the country. Like us they're based in Philadelphia, and after years of mutual admiration, we were eager to collaborate together. The result? A series of five ceramic pieces for your home, all in Felt + Fat's signature marbled finish and a Rikumo-approved neutral palette. To celebrate the launch, we invited a few friends over to our concept store with wine and music. Co-founder Nate joined us to talk about how the company got started, his relationship with his coworker, and how he went from waiting tables to running his own ceramic studio.
After graduating from Tyler School of Art with a degree in glassblowing, Nate shuffled around a few different studios before settling back in Philadelphia. To pay the bills he waited tables, working his way through restaurants that valued quality, professionalism, and dedication to the craft. He became fascinated with the way that chefs would "design" a meal, mixing ingredients as an artist would use pigment on a canvas to create a work of art. With talent and creativity, chefs could make art out of mere food, elevating something mundane (we all have to eat food) into something special and memorable. He began getting the itch to create something himself.
It occurred to him that the tableware he carried back and forth from the restaurant kitchen to the dining room didn't just have to hold food- ceramics could be the canvas where food could become a work of art. His "kernel of an idea" soon took root, and before long he was working out of the Clay Studio alongside Wynn Bauer, an acquaintance with a reputation as "the guy you called if you needed something built." Together, they made a few plates and experimented with neutral glazes and tactile textures while they worked their day jobs. Nate was still waiting tables at Fork when Chef Eli Kulp, who was about to open a new restaurant called High Street On Market, prompted him to design tableware for the new restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history.
After launching a Kickstarter and asking a ton of people for advice, Nate and Wynn set up their business as a "collaborative studio" with a goal to just make good stuff. With a primary focus on restaurant tableware, Felt + Fat eventually grew to made-to-order pieces and began making special collaborations with friends across the country. Their studio has been active for three years now and employs a team of ceramists, whose wares are sold in Europe and Japan. Things have been moving steadily ever since, with some memorable coups including a collaboration with mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar and commissions for acclaimed Philly restaurants like Laurel and Restaurant Ambra- and now, our very own pieces.
Although ceramics is their preferred art form, the true heart of Felt + Fat is collaboration. From working with chefs to develop tableware that reflects the identity of each restaurant to consulting with their own team to fine-tune every order, this passion for cooperation keeps them in constant evolution. Making- physically settling down and working on something with focus and dedication- is ingrained into their identity. Most of their wares are made in their Kensington studio using slip casting and plaster molds, and finished in their signature semi-matte, satin glaze. Although their neutral marbling technique has become their calling card, they often experiment with finishes and textures to keep their work fresh and exciting. Felt + Fat makes all their glazes and clay in-house, ensuring that they're involved in the making process from the very beginning. This interest in materials and the making process is even reflected in their name: Felt + Fat is a direct reference to sculptor Joseph Beuys, who would use those two unconventional materials in his work. Instead of using their own names or even the word "ceramics", "Felt + Fat" represents their core values of materials and process first, ensuring the collaborative spirit of the studio doesn't get lost in a single person's vision. Instead, Nate likens running a ceramic studio to running a successful restaurant: without a great team working together, there is no success.
Thanks to Nate and his team for joining us! You can shop the Rikumo x Felt + Fat collection exclusively at our concept store through the holiday season. Pieces are limited and sure to sell out, so stop by today to get an early start on your holiday shopping!
WORDS BY MAGALI ROMAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS SETTY