Guide to dinnerware, bakeware
August 13, 2019
From Courtly Check® enamelware tea kettles to Thistle & Bee porcelain plates to our signature hand-painted ceramics, MacKenzie-Childs offers a wide variety of ways to dress up your table and kitchen with color and charm. To help you learn more about these many products, here’s a guide to the materials (ceramics, enamelware, and porcelain) and the methods used to produce our dinnerware and bakeware.
Ceramic (dinnerware, bakeware, accent pieces)
We are so proud of the Aurora Artisanal collection that includes our ceramics, furniture, and lighting that are handmade and hand decorated at our studios in Aurora, New York. We love how each piece has its own personality that reflects the hands of the talented artisans who created it.
Ceramics are truly the heart and soul of MacKenzie-Childs, dating back to the company’s founding in 1983. Our ceramics begin as blocks of red clay or liquid clay called slip. Pieces with flatter surfaces, such as dinner plates, are pressed into shape with a machine called a RAM Press. Due to ram size constraints, our largest dinner and serving pieces are hand-pressed directly into a mold. For upright silhouettes, the slip is poured into a plaster mold that draws the moisture out, allowing the slip to form a shell. The excess slip is emptied, and after sufficient drying time, the mold is removed to reveal the slip-cast silhouette.
From there, pieces are further dried for ease of handling. Once the clay has dried to a leather-hard stage, the silhouette is trimmed, finished, and further dried before moving to the kilns for the bisque fire. Once removed from the kiln, each piece is inspected for any defects before decorating. In-glaze surface decorations, like our Taylor designs, are applied using traditional majolica techniques. Once bisque fired, the piece is glazed, hand-painted, and returned to the kiln for the final glaze fire. On-glaze decoration, like our Courtly Check designs, are fired to bisque, glazed and fired, then hand-painted and fired again. Pieces that are embellished with hand-applied gold or platinum lustre, which is made from precious metals, receive an additional firing.
Our ceramics, except for those with lustre detailing, are safe for the microwave, oven, and dishwasher. Pieces with lustre embellishment should be hand-washed only, avoiding lemon- or citrus-scented detergents, to preserve the quality of the finish.
Because of the materials we use and the handmade nature of our process, you may expect to see naturally occurring characteristics such as pinholes and white spots, variations in brushstrokes and color unique to each decorator, and differences in texture across the Aurora Artisanal collection.
Enamelware (dinnerware, bakeware, accent pieces)
In 1995, we began making enamelware in eastern Asia, using a time-honored and time-consuming process. Enamelware begins as sheets of heavy-gauge steel. Flatter items, such as plates, are stamped from the steel using a press. Upright items, including tea kettles, vases, and mugs, are formed when the steel is pressed and stretched against tooling while spinning on a lathe at a high rate of speed. Details such as handles on mugs and spouts on teapots are welded into place, completing those silhouettes.
After forming, each piece—referred to as blank ware—is acid-washed to remove any impurities that may have occurred during the forming process. The silhouette then receives a black ground -glaze coat and is fired. After firing, pieces are glazed to the appropriate background color (creamy white/green/black/lapis) and fired. Checks are hand-painted, or transfers are applied, and the piece is fired again. Finally, a clear glaze coat is applied, and the pieces are fired once again to ensure that all enamelware is completely food safe. Bronzed stainless-steel rims are added, and knobs and handles are assembled as the design dictates.
The high gloss of our enamelware comes from the glaze, which is made of frit (ground glass). When the piece is fired, the frit melts and fuses to the metal, creating a vitrified finish that is smooth, durable, and has long-lasting colorfastness.
Please take care with your enamelware—while the surface is strong, it’s not indestructible. Rough handling, banging or dropping a piece may cause the glazed glass surface to chip, and if this occurs, use should be discontinued. As with any enamel product, some scratching and dulling of the surface is likely to occur over time.
In general, you should hand-wash enamelware with a mild soap and dry immediately. Our cookware and bakeware, made from a heavier-gauge steel underbody, glazed twice, then hand-decorated with our signature designs, are oven-safe to 400 degrees but should never go into the microwave.
Porcelain (dinnerware, accent pieces)
While it’s common to think of porcelain as being strictly for special occasions, we want you to know that it’s strong enough to use every day. That’s because our porcelain, which includes our Pheasant Run and Thistle & Bee collections, is made in Portugal from white clay that’s fired to a high temperature, making it nonporous and durable.
The process of making porcelain is like that of ceramic, although flatter items are made on a machine that spins and presses the clay into shape. Upright pieces are slip-cast from liquid clay using a mold very similar to the process we use in-house.
From there, the piece is dried, then glazed and fired. Transfers are hand-applied and fired. Then gold lustre is hand-applied and the piece is fired once more.
Porcelain with gold lustre embellishments should be hand-washed, avoiding lemon- or citrus-scented detergents, which can damage any lustre accents. Designs including precious-metal accents should not be microwaved or placed in the oven.
To sum this all up, we’re pleased to offer so many options whether you’re setting the table or whipping up memorable meal. We know you’ll find pieces that are both pretty and practical and that are sure to add delight to your kitchen.