For our latest dinner, we decided to break out the good stuff. Match Pewter's Convivio dinnerware and Gabriella flatware came to mind immediately. For us, it's the perfect combination of clean design and fine, quality materials. And it has just the right amount of European flair to sit well on a table inside an antique store. We called up David Reiss, who founded Match in 1995, to ask him a few questions. As a designer, with a passion for Italy and the Italian tradition of artisanship, he has an intelligent and poetic perspective that carries through into every last piece of pewter Match makes. We're happy he was able to shed some light on his products and process.
Our latest dinner featured your pewter-rimmed Convivio plates. Tell us a little about them.
Convivio is the functional cousin of a decorative series of plates first produced by one of our factories thirty years ago, that had a pewter rim held in place by clips and a ceramic center hand painted with various floral designs. They were meant to be hung on a wall, whereas Convivio is designed to be used at the table. Convivio is very important to us and has really helped to focus our design energy on the tabletop, instead of just producing gift items.
Could you describe the design and manufacturing process?
We started with a blank piece of paper and designed the ceramic center to fit the pewter rim and vise-versa, without the use of glues, bonding materials, or clips. We exploited the natural physical characteristics of the material to fit them together. When you heat something it expands, when you cool it contracts. No one else takes the time to do it this way because it's very difficult to do. The execution is much more complicated than the elegant simplicity of the concept.
Pewter dinnerware has a long history in Europe, you can see it in 17th century Dutch still lifes. Where do Match products sit in this history and how do you match history with contemporary style?
I find the still lifes you mention really inspiring and I've looked at them for years. There's a contemplative nature to them that helps me focus on designing pewter. Many of our designs come from the period between the 17th and 19th centuries. Some of them are replications of antiques we own. For instance, we'll take a piece from 1750 and make a very detailed mold. Our casting process is able to reproduce all of the character that the years of use has imparted to the original piece.
When I design a piece in 2010, I design it so that it can easily share the same table surface as a piece designed in 1750 or 1850. For me, it's not a matter of matching history with style, it's a matter of staying true to the soul of the material. Every material has a soul and pewter has a very old soul. I think that's one reason people respond to it the way they do.
The table was also set with Gabriella flatware, which has some pretty distinctive markings on the handles. Could you decode these for us?
Gabriella has three hallmarks. The first is the mark of the factory. The second is our mark. And the third declares the tin content of our pewter alloy, 95%. For an alloy to be considered pewter it has to to contain at least 92% tin. Some of the mystery metal out of Mexico contains very little, or no tin. People don't realize tin is an extremely valuable metal, the third most after silver. It costs three times as much as copper.
These days, most of us have a "toss it in the dishwasher" mentality and something like pewter can be a little intimidating. Is pewter difficult to care for and is the dinnerware suitable for casual, everyday use?
Caring for pewter is not difficult at all and no one should be intimidated by it. It's very low maintenance compared to silver and silver plate. It's simple to dress up or down. If you had changed all the table linens to white at the dinner, the table would have looked completely different and much more formal
I use the Convivio, the flatware, and the stemware everyday. It's best to wash the stemware by hand, but the Convivio and Gabriella can go into the dishwasher, although I'll mention a few caveats. Pewter and hard water don't like each other, so in homes with hard water, the dishwasher should be avoided as it can tarnish or pit the pewter. If there's a water softener in the house, things will be fine. When using a dishwasher, the pewter should be washed and dried at the lowest temperature settings available on the machine. And, in the case of Convivio, we recommend people let it cool down inside the dishwasher before handling it.
Visit Didriks' Match Pewter care page for more information.