Ink Dish, David Harding, Caroline Pople, San Diego, California, CA, Dinnerware, Designers, Tattoo Artist, Artists, Original Art, Paul Timman, Alyson Fox, David Palmer, Dana Oldfathe




Q. How did you begin Ink Dish?

A. We started Ink Dish when Dave [Harding, CEO] was an MBA student and I was designing for tableware companies and we realized there was a gap in the market for more edgy fashion focused patterns at an affordable price, so we started doing some research and the next thing we knew we were working with tattoo artist Paul Timman!

Q. How did you decide to collaborate with Paul [Timman of Sunset Strip Tattoo in LA.] and other tattoo artists?

A. Tattoo artwork is still decoration, so we wanted to be playful and change the media from skin to plates. Tattoo imagery is very striking and iconic, but people who are scared to go under the needle might not normally be exposed to the artistry. First and foremost, the best tattoo artists are no different from other artists who go to art school, study design and then come out of art school thinking 'hhhmm how can I apply this and make a living?' It really wasn't as big a stretch as some people assume.

Q. What is the criteria for selecting the artists you work with?

A. The artist’s work has to tick a lot of boxes, the biggest being 'do I love it?!' It also has to be something I haven't seen on dinnerware before and it has to translate well into a decal. If there are too many subtleties that are going to be lost in the manufacturing process, then the artist isn't going to be happy and neither are we. The dinner plate shouldn't have too much going on, so artwork that packs a punch with a lot of negative space around it and is still recognizable as that particular artist’s work, is what we're looking for. 

Q. What are the backgrounds of some of the other artists you work with?

A. We try to keep our artists as varied as possible, so they can all bring a fresh perspective to tableware decoration. Alyson Fox is from Austin, Texas and is a fine artist and illustrator; she has degrees in photography, sculpture, and installation art. Her work is very imaginative and figurative and she creates dream-like worlds with her characters and landscapes.

Dana Oldfather is a self-taught oil painter from Ohio, who was a finalist in the National Young Painters Competition. She began as a figurative realist but has found success in abstraction and her work is very contemporary.

David Palmer is a fine abstract artist based in Los Angeles, and his work is in galleries and museums across the US. He works in oil and cut linoleum and he also creates digital effects for Hollywood movies.

Q. Tell us about your newest collections — Kites and Poem:

A. Poem is inspired by the central coast of California and the fields and woods David explored as a child in upstate New York: and I'll let him describe it in his own words: “Within Poem there are suggestions of wind and water currents, light waves, the nuclei of cells, flight paths of birds and insects, and sounds at frequencies too high to hear.” Nature is an endless source of surprise and inspiration for David Palmer.

Dana Oldfather's first collection of dinnerware, Kites, is a reflection of the aesthetic and design ideas most important in the artist’s studio painting practice. Representing grace, motion and the environment, abstracted kite forms distinguish softer circle forms.


Q. What are some future projects / new artists we can look forward to?

A. Well we are currently in talks about which direction to go next, but I am working on something exciting and a little bit different with Alyson Fox...but that's all I can tell you right now!

Q. Will you branch out to beyond tableware?

A. Porcelain and ceramics in general is a very challenging medium, as anyone in the industry will tell you, so our time is monopolized right now. We have had a few discussions about adding some glass and textiles so fingers crossed and watch this space! 



Q. Who else in your field do you respect for their work and why?

A. There is a company called Bailey Doesn't Bark run by a talented lady called Re Jin. Her ceramics are made with small independent domestic manufacturers and her designs are very delicate and beautiful with a great sense of humor, which is so important to me. My favorite item is probably her 'Ants on my Mug' design.

I'm also a fan of another artisan maker called Pigeon Toe Ceramics out of Portland, Oregon for their gorgeous bright glazes!

In the mass-market sector, there are still people doing beautiful and interesting designs. I have a lot of time for the companies in Limoges like Philippe Deshoulieres and Medart de Noblat, very refined and elegant.

On this side of the Atlantic, I have a lot of respect for the classic American brand Lenox who create very elegant simple patterns which are clearly very carefully considered and the result is always very high quality.

Another American icon worth mentioning is Corelle, and collecting their vintage patterns in antique stores has become very popular. They are still making their plates in the US, which is rare these days, and with such a rich history of being a part of the American meal time people are very nostalgic about the brand. I think it's a bit of a 'watch this space' with that company and I’m really looking forward to their new products.

[See details.]

Q. What are some other tableware designs you’ve discovered lately that you found inspiring and what do you like about the designs?

A. I really love the vibe of UK tableware firm People Will Always Need Plates. Their city scenes are really distinctive and even feature my hometown – Liverpool.

[See details.]

Q. Are there housewares or home design stores around the world that you love?

A. One of the first design stores I remember was Vincon in Barcelona; I was a little girl and was really in awe. I didn't understand a lot of what I was seeing but I knew I wanted to be a part of it!

Back in the UK, I always go into Habitat; it's a chain that does design well at mostly affordable prices, something I haven't yet found here in the States.

When I was living back in the UK, I used to make the short trip to Paris for inspiration. The Rue Du Bac on the Left Bank is filled with wonderful design boutiques including a Conran store, which is also a design must visit in London. In fact, I would recommend visiting both Marylebone High Street and Kings Road in Chelsea when in London.

Over here in the States, Velocity is always my first port of call for something well designed and a bit different and they have been really supportive to Inkdish. Even when we first started out and had one pattern they were very encouraging.

Unica Home has been similarly supportive to small design companies like us and is a great resource for beautifully designed products.

[See details.]

Q. Any interesting products that should be on our radar that you’ve come across... and what makes it interesting?

A. While in NYC recently, we discovered a fantastic designer called Melissa Borrell who has created these really decorative large etched bulbs that also cast beautiful shapes onto the walls, I'd love to get my hands on a couple of those!

I also am dying to get some 'Herds' fabric by Skinny LaMinx, I love that it manages to be a striking modern pattern, but also such a reflection of traditional African folk art and cave painting.  

[See details.]


Q. Which restaurants inspire you because of the tableware they use or their design?

A. One of the most beautiful places to eat in San Diego is Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy, it's like being in a gallery it's so beautifully feminine and then the cakes themselves are little pieces of art they are so lavishly decorated.

Neighborhood is definitely a good place to hang out if you are in downtown San Diego. It’s very cleverly designed with a large mosaic of the city and very provocative religious imagery. I would say the Pasilla Steak Frites alone make the trip worth it... not to mention the secret speakeasy. It’s called  ‘A noble experiment' and it's behind a secret door disguised as beer barrels inside Neighborhood. It's a small lavishly decorated bar with gold skulls adorning the walls and lots of neon lighting, very pretentious, but very cool!

Bankers Hill Grill, as well as making great food, have a fantastic 'vintage industrial salvage' look to their restaurant; the cool surroundings makes their truffle parmesan fries taste even better.

[See details.]

Q. Any restaurants / bars in San Diego that shouldn’t be missed? 

A. Hodads is a San Diego staple, but definitely worth every bit of the hype - best burger I have ever eaten and their bacon patty, which is almost like a caramelized confit, is a very special thing. If you go, get the bacon cheeseburger with a side of their amazing onion rings; I have no idea how they get them so crispy.

Our latest obsession though is Lucha Libre Taco Shop. If you come to San Diego, you would be a fool not to visit here. The gourmet tacos are amazing and the different salsas are so powerfully good! The kitsch pop art and gold Lucha Libre decor is very cool too.

[See details.]

Q. Any locals / off-the-beaten track places you’d recommend?

A. I'm not sure how off the beaten path this is but one of the best things about living in Southern California has to be all the locally grown produce. The farmers markets became an obsession for us when we first arrived in San Diego.

The avocados I used to eat back in the UK pale in comparison to the rich buttery nutty specimens we are lucky enough to have year round here. Occasionally the farmers have Reed avocados, which are a giant variety and happen in my opinion to be the most buttery decadent things nature has to offer. It's like eating foie gras but with none of the guilt!

Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sunday. Visit Farmer Steve who sells a small amount of seasonal fruit all grown on his property in Ramona and everything tastes amazing.

Little Italy Mercato on Saturday.

And the laid back rock and roll themed Wednesday night market in Ocean Beach probably being the best. The honey guy at the OB farmers market is worth a visit, he'll tell you how he gets his bees to collect the pollen from specific plants on his land and then you can try the results. Flavors include an intensely minty honey or a really sweet raspberry honey, it's hard to believe it's all natural.

[See details.]


Details of Caroline and David’s recommendations for where to shop for designs around the world and where to eat in San Diego.



Caroline and David’s recommendations for where to shop for designs around the world and where to eat in San Diego.

847 21st Street

San Diego, CA 92102

T: 619.512.2465