Interview: Caroline Pople of Ink Dish!

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Have you taken advantage of our June Ink Dish sale yet this month? Ink Dish brings fresh and graphic designs to the sometimes-boring world of dishware design. They are clever and creative themselves, but also incorporate the designs of artists and illustrators like Alyson Fox and Paul Timman. For June we’ve been running a sale on their lovely mugs, bowls, plates and more, and you’ve only got a few more days left to find your favorite Ink Dish items at a discounted price! We asked design director and talented lady Caroline Pople some questions in honor of the last few days of our Ink Dish June sale:

2Modern: So, it sounds like Ink Dish got started because you just didn’t see another company out there producing the cool, contemporary designs you guys loved, is that about right?
Caroline Pople: My family and I have been in the ceramics industry for a long time. The companies I was working for at the time weren’t producing enough patterns that appealed to me or my contemporaries. Don’t get me wrong there was some exciting cutting edge stuff out there but usually at about $100 a plate so there was no chance of us actually owning any of these patterns so the alternative was always just plain white.

2M: And what about your background? It says you had already been in the business for years before starting Ink Dish…how does one get into dish design?
CP: Well I was lucky in that my mother had been in the ceramic design business since the moment I was born and I’d always admired her talent, particularly at botanical painting. She started in Staffordshire and then went on to Limoges and finally she had success in the States. I actually went to art school in East London and studied Silversmithing and Jewelry but it turned out what I wanted to do had been staring at me in the face the whole time!

2M: You guys design patterns, but you also produce designs from other artists. What constitutes an Ink Dish design? Do you guys have criteria that you look for when looking at potential designs or art?
CP: We try and have a variety of styles, as pattern is our focus, and we use porcelain to turn the artist’s work into a new functional and affordable direction. It terms of how we select the artist to work with we have to tick a lot of boxes, the biggest being ‘do I love it?!’ It also has to be something I haven’t seen on dinnerware before and it has to translate well into a decal. If there are too many subtleties that are going to be lost in the manufacturing process, then the artist isn’t going to be happy and neither are we. The dinner plate shouldn’t have too much going on, so artwork that packs a punch with a lot of negative space around it and is still recognizable as that particular artist’s work, is what we’re looking for.

2M: For many traditional designs out there, they have on their side the element of timelessness; many are designs or patterns that have been around for a long time, and will always be in fashion. Do you think Ink Dish’s contemporary designs can be timeless, too?
CP: Well we would like to think so but one thing the ceramic industry as a whole has learnt is that patterns do not get the same kind of shelf-life they used to. As a kid I remember seeing my mum’s designs in department stores year after year but these days ceramics companies are thrilled if they last more than a season. It’s an interesting topic I’d like to discuss with people from other segments of the housewares industry. It could be down to a faster pace of life, a shorter attention span or maybe advances in the manufacturing processes that have made it quicker and easier to turn over new product, I’m not sure.

2M: Who are the kind of folks that go for your products…do you see customers with a variety of home styles that buy your stuff, and not just modern or contemporary design lovers?
CP: We have a surprising array of customers, mainly people who are interested in contemporary design. Some of Paul Timman’s tattoo designs are great crossover patterns and the florals for example appeal to soccer moms who would never dream of setting foot into a tattoo parlor.

2M: What challenges do you yourself or your business face on a daily basis?
CP: The usual challenges of running a small business, managing inventory and cash flow etc. One of the hardest things is predicting which designs are going to sell well. We have to order and manufacture all the dinnerware upfront, we do some market research but you never really know if you’ve backed the right design until it’s out there on the shelves.

2M: What book is on your nightstand right now?
CP: Right now it’s “Leviathan or The Whale” by Philip Hoare. It’s the most fascinating non fiction book about the history of whales and the whaling industry. I’m a bit obsessed with natural history but even if you aren’t this is a really brilliant book.

2M: Anything new and exciting that you want to share with the 2modern readers?
CP: We are currently working on developing a range of napkins to accent some of our existing designs and we are in the sampling stage of some new patterns by Alyson Fox and Dana Oldfather.

Check out 2Modern’s Ink Dish Sale!

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  1. hena tayeb

    Jun 25, 2011 at 7:18 am

    gorgeous work!

  2. architectural hardware

    Jun 28, 2011 at 3:56 am

    fantastic design. so full of life!

  3. David Clarke

    May 15, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Caroline great to see the new work… after so so long!!
    All the very best


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