When ceramicist Mary Mar Keenan makes a piece, she goes through the basics: She throws it on a wheel or free-forms it, coats it in a glaze, and fires it. Lately she’s also been having fun with texture, adding grooves and indentations into the backs of plates and bowls, and maybe adding a different glaze to the underside—she’s inspired by everything from “moss growing on a cement wall to the beautiful verdigris that's found on copper.” But Keenan never considers a piece finished until there’s food on it.
“My whole way of thinking about pottery is not so much about making the pot itself,” she says, “but about making the pot for the food.”
Keenan has been working with clay for the past 20 or so years, but for the past seven, she's been running her ceramics businessMMClayout of a little studio in the back of Blue Bottle Coffee's storefront in Hayes Valley, San Francisco ("You actually have to walk through Blue Bottle to access it"), where she focuses on tableware like platters, bowls for rice, various sizes and shapes of cups and plates. But it wasn't until just about five years ago that she became an in-demand ceramicist for some of San Francisco's most highly lauded chefs and restaurateurs.
“Chefs are more and more interested in pottery, and [serving is] becoming more about having collaborations with local potters to really embellish your whole eating situation,” she says. “I like to say that beautiful food really makes my work sing. That is when my pots find their voice.”