It was the combination of a leftover 10kg bag of porcelain, a rolling pin, a small dishwasher and the Christmas holidays that got Angela Francis started on making one thousand plates. While clearing up after Christmas dinner at her beach house, Angela’s husband commented that none of their plates fitted in the funny little dishwasher. In an ‘aha’ moment, Angela remembered a bag of porcelain left over from a jewellery project. “I began rolling out plates using a rolling pin on the tiny bench at the beach house – it was probably on Boxing Day,” she says.
“In February at the Whanganui Open Art Studios I meet a woman who had made one thousand tumblers so I decided that to keep me focussed, rather than flitting off to something else. I would begin The 1000 Plate Project, not really having any idea how long it would take.”
It turns out it takes a little over two years and the 1000th plate was rolled in April 2019.
“All of the 1000 Plate Project plates were numbered using a little rolling library stamp (I always wanted one of those). The rule was once a plate was rolled and numbered it was counted even though they are terribly fragile before they are fired – just like very thin sheets of dried mud – so consequently many, probably 20%, didn’t survive.”
Indeed it’s the delicate, whisper-light appearance of Angela’s creations that catch your attention. Spring-flower pastel tones, rims of gold and subtly smudged marbling hint of the daintiness of grandma’s tea set. But unlike the mass-made sets of old, each of Angela’s plates is unique.
“I wanted to make plates that looked and felt fine and light and that really felt hand-made, where you could see and feel the hand of the artist. They are all hand rolled and shaped using moulds, but being porcelain and being so fine they move and distort in the firing of 1240 degrees. This drives real potters crazy, but for me I love it.”
“Occasionally, for no particular reason, one (and sometimes many more) develops a crack, sometimes tiny, sometimes centimetres long. I personally love a tiny fault. These are the ones we eat off every day – I find them charming.”