Serving Dishes

Serving Bowls, Platters, Pasta Bowls, Pitchers, Gravy Tureens, Teapots

We used to beg Grandma to tell us stories about the old country. She came to America from Slovenia as a little girl, and would tell us about growing up there, or about the old days clearing land and farming in the wilds of Wisconsin.

A favorite story, for its slightly scandalous tone, was about a butter pot. It seems there was an old woman in Grandma's village who made clarified butter to sell. She'd save the cream from her cows, churn the butter, then melt it on the wood stove and pour it into her old grey stoneware crock. Once a week, on market day, she'd go into town and sell butter by the scoop to all the housewives there.

Well, one day she sold all her butter early, before noon, so she had a little time to go looking at the other stalls in the market. In one booth she came across a lovely big pot, all painted in flowers, with handles on the side. She thought, "If my butter sells so well from my old grey pot, think how much faster it would sell from this pretty new one." And she bought the pot.

You know what's coming, of course. The next market day, nobody bought any butter. The city women just giggled and pointed, and wouldn't tell her why. It fell to the gatekeeper at the end of the day to explain to her what a chamber pot was, and why it wasn't the best container for displaying and selling her butter.

The moral of the story: It's best to use a serving bowl made expressly for that purpose.

Serving Bowls......$35-70

Our serving bowls range in size from small ones for side dishes to giants for potluck salads, movie night popcorn, or Frank's chocolate ice cream. (I jokes.) They have the same deep bowl, flaring lip and stable feet as our soup bowls, in a sizes ranging from 8 to 16 inches in diameter. We decorated them in some of our favorite patterns--hen, rooster, duck, elephant, cats--but also use them to experiment on new patterns, including bears, bunnies and a very striking tiger.


Well, there's platters and there's platters. Round serving platters are 13-14 inches across, flat bottomed for stability, and are typically decorated with tigers, tree frogs, hummingbirds, running roosters, and the occasional penguin or trouble bunnies. Hand-built oval platters are 11 inchees wide by 17 inches long, and usually feature the salmon pattern.

Pasta Bowls......$40

My friend Terrie is Italian-American, raised in New Jersey. No, I'm sure she has no connection whatsoever to the Sopranos. (I think she's actually an alto.) On the other hand, when she said she wanted to order fourteen pasta serving bowls to give to her cousins for Christmas, you can bet I tried really hard to get them right.

They're 12 inches wide across, and 3 to 3-1/2 inches deep. Terrie's were all painted with blue irises; I also make them in many other patterns now, it's one of my favorite forms to try out new images on.


Sometimes it seems everybody in the world has read that story. Even I read it, it was in the Reader's Digest when I was ten. The story of the family that bought a beautiful pitcher on their trip to Mexico, and used it to keep orange juice in. In a few months, their hair started to fall out, gums bleed. There was lead in the glaze, and the acidic juice was leaching it out into solution.

I bring this up again, just so I can tell you: There is no lead in my pitchers! That story has done more to scare people away from handmade pottery than anything else I know. And do you know the funny thing? None of the potters I know use lead glazes on their functional ware. And at least half of the manufactured dinnerware you eat off of in cafeterias, hospitals, diners, is lead-glazed. (But safely formulated. It's the formula and the firing process that makes the difference.)

I love making pitchers, so make them from tiny ones for honey or syrup through larger ones for cream or sauce to big ones to hold milk, iced tea or, yes, orange juice.

Gravy Tureens......$30

I started making gravy tureens after a delicious pork supper at Laughing Stock Farm. Paul Atkinson and Sid Baum have been friends and patrons for many years, and when I saw them using a Pyrex two-cup measure for gravy, I thought I'd try to design something better. I came up with a medium-sized, pot-bellied pitcher, and though I've sold plenty of them over the years, I don't know that anyone every actually used them for gravy.

Folksinger John Gorka has a song with a line that goes, "It may take me some time to understand / the rules of behavior here in Gravyland." Me too, John--I finally realized that the rules of Gravyland required a vessel that could both pour and ladle.

Et voilá. The new, hopefully improved Off Center Ceramics gravy tureen: a high-sided elliptical bowl, with a generous pouring spout and a pitcher handle, plus room for a ladle in the top. Capacity is about 3 cups, and patterns so far include bunnies, chickadee, baby elephant, hummingbirds, and, of course, running rooster and chickens.

Mmmm, chicken gravy...


I come from a long line of coffee drinkers, though the gene seems to have skipped over me. Denise, on the other hand, craves strong, black tea, three sugars. She's the only person I know who has caffeinated tea at bedtime to help her sleep.

So my teapots have to meet her standards. They steep well, hold heat, pour nicely, and have a built in strainer where spout meets body, so work for bagged or loose tea. Since I find cane handles a bother to use, I've stopped using them in favor of an English pitcher-style handle on the side. Each holds four 8-oz. cups, and can be topped off with more hot water to re-steep as needed.

And if you want really good tea to brew in them, may we recommend TeaSource? It's a lovely little tea shop, with on-line and mail-order service, based in Minneapolis and run by our friends Liz and Bill (who's even more fanatical about tea than Denise is).