How a Product Finds Its Way into the Food52 Shop

August  6, 2016

As you click around our Shop, you’re likely to be wooed by shimmering copper, artfully broken-in canvas and leather, and woods oiled to a deep, rich shine. A lot goes on behind the scenes (and behind the JPEGs) to get these products on the screen before you.

It’s a journey that begins long before you unpack a Food52 box in your home (and sometimes even takes place in a land far, far away). In honor of our Shop’s 3rd birthday, we’re giving you a sneak peek of how our Shop-favorite gold-dipped pinch bowls came to be.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Act I.

A pottery studio in Brooklyn, New York. Shelves are lined with hand-formed, simple bowls and cups in muted, earthy colors.

Jojo Feld, Food52’s Director of Buying and Merchandising, is at Kim Gilmour’s studio. Kim has been making pottery for 14 years, first as a hobby, and then selling her earthy, nature-inspired designs on Etsy. On the hunt for the perfect soup bowls to add to the growing collection of dinnerware on our Shop, Jojo had found Kim’s designs on the crafty commerce site. (Spoiler: She found them.)

During her meet-and-greet with Kim, Jojo spied a selection of adorably small bowls, pinched in on the sides with a ragged, wavy edge. She was instantly drawn to their seashell-esque design and, with the holidays fast approaching, had visions of sugar plums in these bowls (with a little bit of added shine) dancing in her head.

This is often how it starts—Jojo (along with our other buyers Kristina, Jackson, and Meghan) see a bowl, a tablecloth, a vase, or the like out in the wild, and and start a conversation with the designer or artist. They also visit gift fairs where designers from all over the country set up booths with their latest and greatest, and stay plugged-in to the design community, trading tips with fellow industry creatives, introducing each other to new products and makers.

Jojo has even confessed to sneaking glances under the dishware at restaurants, when the plate in front of them seduces them as much as the food. “We constantly have our eyes open, looking at our surroundings,” says Kristina.

Act II.

The Food52 offices, New York City. Team members, including Food52 founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, are crowded around a wood farmhouse table full of kitchenwares, home decor, and table linens.

Jojo picks up one of the unfinished pinch bowls that Kim has made for Food52, and expresses her sentiment that they could be great for the holidays. After some discussion, Kim agrees to do a cream-colored version for our Shop—and one edge will be dipped in gold glaze for a semi-circular wink of metallic, perfect for the holiday season. That's the feature that's exclusive to the pinch bowls Kim makes for us—not a splatter of gold, or an edge of it, but a winking dip. Jojo tells Kim’s story to Amanda and Merrill and the rest of the team, and puts forward the reasons why she thinks these bowls would be a great addition to the Shop, why she thinks our community will love them.

Everything—and we mean everything—you see on the site is reviewed by our founders. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), our buyers assemble new products on our kitchen table for the best version of window shopping ever. Each potential product is discussed, held, touched, and—when called for—tested. Each and every product goes through this same process.

So how does a product pass the test? “Aesthetic is huge. It’s our number one. It’s the gateway,” says Kristina. We look for unique and beautiful. We look for super-functional and high quality. We ask ourselves, “Will anyone actually use this?” and then “How will they use it” and “Why will they use it?” We consider if it would be easy to store and clean, its lastingness and durability, and whether the proposed cost aligns with the size, heft, and production method of the design.

In the case of Kim’s dear little pinch bowls, it took only a few seconds for their approval to go through with flying colors.

Act III.

The Food52 photo studio, Kim’s workshop, your home.

After approval, the pinch bowls are photographed by our crackerjack creative team, led by our Art Director Alexis Anthony. They’re shot to communicate not only their looks, but the myriad ways they can be used. They’re often shown in a context that isn’t so obvious—to inspire you to use them in your home in an original way.

Kim’s bowls are photographed filled with curly chocolate shavings, aside an ice cream sundae. They’re pictured as a salt cellar for your table. Shown as a to catch pistachio shells, and as a dainty sugar bowl for tea time.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

And then, boom, Kim’s bowls are live in our Shop, ready for you to click “Add To Bag.” We’ve been selling these pinch bowls since the first cream version launched, introducing a new exclusive color every holiday season. Last year, we launched a pink version of the pinch bowls. Pink is not a member of Kim’s typical palette, and one that she “probably wouldn’t have used on [her] own." But she ended up loving it. It tickles us (pink!) to know that we helped one of our makers stretch their creativity, especially when it results in something so beautiful.

The fact that our designs stick around in our Shop for so long is not an accident: We stand behind what we put out into the world. Our classics are our classics for a reason. And we’ll continue to tweak them, make them better, and introduce new colors and new sizes.

Above all, our Shop is built around our relationships with the designers, artists, woodworkers, and ceramicists whose work populate our virtual shelves. We bring attention to small-scale artists whose work you might not see otherwise. And in some cases, we help them grow. Kim herself started out doing pottery on the side—today, she’s a full-time potter, thanks in large part to her collaborations with Food52.

[Working with the Food52 Shop] been a really, really great experience for me. It’s gotten me out there more, which I’m really thankful for. It’s pushed me to do things that I honestly never thought that I would be doing.

I think we can safely say that the story behind our glinting, water-color glazed pinch bowls ends with a happily ever after.

Shop all of Fisheye Brooklyn's designs in our Shop, and tune in on our Facebook page later today for a glimpse behind the scenes at a Food52 product review.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Olivia Bloom

Written by: Olivia Bloom

Has a soft spot for string cheese.

1 Comment

Laurie P. September 25, 2016
What an insightful read, thanks for sharing! The amount of care put into the selection process is very apparent considering all the things I want to add to my collections every single day! lots of appreciation xx