Ceramic students displayed at Oxford City grocery store

UM’s advanced ceramics students enjoy a meal at City Grocery served on dinnerware they created for the restaurant. The group includes students (left to right) Reagan Thames Spreafico, Will McComb, Samara Dallaire, Cassidy Franz, Julie Coleman, Brianne Powers, Adriane Honerbrink and Alex Yu, and ceramic technician Andrew McIntyre. Photo courtesy of Matt Long

OXFORD, Mississippi – Last fall, one of University of Mississippi ceramics professor Matt Long’s students suggested a collaboration with City Grocery, an iconic Oxford restaurant, to combine handmade objects hand with handmade food.

Recently, this suggestion has become a unique and memorable partnership.

“Last spring we started a project with City Grocery, chef Andy McCown, Reagan Thames Spreafico and myself that incorporated the handmade object with handmade food,” Long said. “While Chef Andy prepared all the food and the students made all the objects for service, the real point of it all was the recognition of food preparation at its highest level and the collaboration of the object made at the hand.”

Eight students from Long’s advanced ceramics class made the pieces, guided by Long, McCown, and Spreafico, a Jackson graduate student. The other students were Adriane Honerbrink, from Minneapolis; Samara Dallaire, of Jackson; Julie Coleman, of Saltillo; Brianne Powers of Brandon; Maddie McHugh, of Cornelius, North Carolina; Alex Yu, of Greenville; and Cassidy Franz, of San Antonio.

“Chef Andy met with the students, talked to them about his approach to food, his preparation and his own clever approach to plating food, and how an object can amplify his delicious creations,” said declared Long. “He also touched on serving dish variations/options, as well as functional eating items, some with specific settings, others that can have a wide range of uses.”

The students made plates and bowls that were not only high-quality, handmade utilitarian items, but also related to their own concepts of utility, design and craftsmanship. The final products were evaluated by Long and Spreafico, who ensured that all aspects of the objects met the required standards of utility and craftsmanship.

A slice of chocolate cheesecake from City Grocery is served on a plate designed by UM ceramics senior student Alex Wu. Photo courtesy of Matt Long

“I’m proud of the bowls because I felt I was able to successfully glaze the bowls in a way that wouldn’t be competitive, but rather enhance food addition and create great interaction,” said Honerbrink. “Knowing that someone is using something I’ve done and benefiting from it tells me I’m doing something right.”

Powers said she was very happy with the plates she made.

“It was almost surreal to be served dishes on my own work,” she said. “It gave me a glimpse of the opportunities my career in ceramics could offer. I love knowing that my work is shown and used by so many people.

Following their final review, each student selected 10 items of their work which were donated to City Grocery, where the items are used to serve customers. Each student provided a short biography with an image of themselves and an image of their creations.

Every room description and student biography was added to the menu, prompting servers to tell guests about the project.

“Most importantly, it was about raising awareness, getting the community to understand the importance of handmade, and hopefully bringing some confidence to the student’s vision,” Long said. “After all, who wouldn’t want their pans used by a chef in a big restaurant?”

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