Last spring, Renee McKitterick thought about different ways for ceramic artists to better connect with the Corvallis community.

"I started to think maybe we could collaborate with local chefs, where the chef would write a menu, and for each course of that menu an artist would hand-make the serving ware," she said.

McKitterick pitched the idea to del Alma Restaurant and Bar owner Kinn Edwards and Chef Conor Claffey-Koller. They instantly got on board, she said.

She and fellow mid-valley artists Ted Ernst, Lynda Farmer, Jeff Gunn and Susan Pachuta met with Claffey-Koller and his staff to create ceramic dinnerware inspired by the menu of a special five-course meal.

Thursday night, the culmination of that artistic and culinary partnership, "Made by Hand: A Collaboration of Local Artists," will be unveiled to 30 patrons at del Alma in Corvallis. It is a five-course meal by the chef, served on handmade ceramics by the artists, and paired with wine from Lumos Wine Co.

In the beginning, McKitterick said she wondered if anyone would want to come to such an event.

Reservations went so quickly for Thursday's event, a second dinner was added for Friday night.

"It sold out twice over within 48 hours," she said. Tickets were $75.

McKitterick, an art instructor at Linn-Benton Community College, said the idea isn't that the artists would simply make plates and cups for the dinner, but create them specifically for the menu.

After conversations with del Alma chefs and fellow potters, each artist chose a course, which helped guide the shape, color and decoration of the ceramics they made.

Ernst, a potter and ceramics instructor at LBCC, made a specific style of bowl to fit the first course, Pumpkin and Chile de Arbol Sopa, a spicy pumpkin soup. The bowl has a wider flat rim, so the garnish can sit on the same piece, McKitterick said.

"Lynda (Farmer) created an oblong plate for albacore tuna. She was inspired a lot by the nature and aesthetics of tuna," she said.

Pachuta, a Corvallis potter, contributed two pieces to the menu. She made a small square tile plate out of red clay for the Amuse-bouche, a small appetizer, McKitterick said. She also created the dessert plate for the Vanilla Torrija, a Spanish-style bread pudding. Pachuta used red clay in homage to Spain's Moorish influence.

Gunn, a retired science teacher who is represented at the Teal Coop Gallery and participates in the Philomath Open Studios Art Tour, made dusty white porcelain plates decorated with long, thin leaves and abstract flowers. His plates were made to accompany the third course, Pavo Relleno, turkey breast rolled with turkey chorizo verde and more.

McKitterick said she made plates for the fourth course, Lamb Albondigas, lamb meatballs, and a Mesoamerican-inspired cup and saucer.

McKitterick said it was a positive collaboration between the chefs and artists, and of great benefit to the artists.

"A lot of the artists have talked about how it has helped push our work forward and helped us use different forms and levels of making," she said.

McKitterick is optimistic the art and meal combination is one people will enjoy.

"We're hoping they enjoy this heightened experience where the aesthetics and function really come together to create an experience they haven't had before," she said.


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