The great thing about my job is working with and meeting so many fantastic people. Jane Schaffer our potter from York is one such person. It was in unusual circumstances that I first met her. I had spent the afternoon having a few drinks for a friend’s birthday and as I strolled merrily through York’s Parliament Street market I stumbled across Jane’s stall stacked with the most wonderful pots. I instantly liked her style – it felt earthy and natural but at the same time refined and sophisticated. I could not wait to see what our food would look like on her plates.
Jane has worked in Sweden and Japan and you can see these influences in her work. I felt an instant connection with her pots and was determined we would use them exclusively at the Black Swan. It soon became clear we were on the same wavelength and we began designing new plates together. Jane is always keen to hear our ideas. The first new item we designed was a beautiful turquoise plate on which Jane applied ripples through the glaze. I have always been fascinated by the shapes on a beach left in the sand when the tide goes out. I wondered if that could be recreated on the plate and how good it would look with our shell fish dishes. Jane has made wonderful mugs and saucers, side plates and even plant pots for the herbs on the tables.
Jane has become a friend and our 3-weekly visits are always a highlight. We work together and design plates for specific dishes – which is great. This means while we are developing an idea for a new dish that might come on the menu in a month or so, Jane is perfecting the crockery. At the moment I am working on a Honey and Flower dessert for the summer. We hope to be making our own beeswax candles and Jane is to create some beautiful plates and candle holders for the dish. Yesterday I was talking to a bee keeper who will be able to give us plenty of advice as we venture into keeping our own bees. Last week Ken planted the edible flowers for the dessert. It will be five months before all the parts are ready. With so many people working on this dish I hope it will be a real spectacle.
As we continue to widen our connections it seems the more talented creative people we have involved with the Black Swan the more interesting things have become. This year I have not only spent time with Jane and Ken but also other chefs, suppliers, artists and scientists. All these fantastic people seem to understand our philosophy and are helping us to drive forward in many ways. I am excited to see where some of my other meetings will take us but in the meantime I cannot wait to pick up our next batch of plates.