If you’ve eaten at one of Salt Lake City’s newest fine dining restaurants — think HSL, Pallet or Table X — Clark Marshall’s ceramic art has likely been placed in front of you.
Marshall’s sturdy, earthy-looking plates and bowls could stand alone as sculpture, but they are best used as a backdrop for serving salad, steak, sushi or a scoop of ice cream.
“It’s unique for something to be both a piece of art and also a canvas,” says Shandra Benito, executive director of Salt Lake City’s Art Access.
The downtown gallery will showcase Marshall’s work — sans food — during the monthlong “Of Stone and Sustenance” exhibit. It opens Friday, Sept. 15, as part of the monthly downtown Gallery Stroll.
Marshall, owner of CM Ceramics, hand-throws each utilitarian piece on a potter’s wheel. After firing, he hand sands them to achieve interesting stonelike textures.
The plates, bowls and platters are made of “naked” or unglazed clay and come only in gray, brown and black matte. They are food-safe and can be put into the dishwasher. After some use, they gain a distinctive patina, Marshall said.
“I like how they look more after three years of use,” said the 35-year-old, who by day is a ceramics teacher in the Jordan School District. On the weekend, he sells his dinnerware at the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park. His pieces start at $75.
In March 2016, Food & Wine magazine used Marshall’s minimalist plates to showcase delicate salads and zucchini noodles. The national food magazine also purchased a piece for the studio kitchen’s permanent collection.
For the Art Access show, Marshall will display some of these signature hand-thrown pieces, as well as unveil a new designer dinnerware line made with molds. The technique — called slip casting — allows pieces to be replicated and produced quicker, making them more affordable for home cooks.
Among the new pieces are a round plate, copper-brown in color, with a square indentation in the middle. Marshall envisions it for sushi. Another is a dark gray rectangle with three bowllike compartments, something that might hold an ice cream tasting.
Guests can see how the chefs at Table X use the new pieces during a special pop-up dinner Oct. 1.
POP-UP DINNER • Food will be served on Marshall’s new designer dinnerware during a pop-up dinner at Table X on Sunday, Oct. 1. Cost is $89 and includes the restaurant’s tasting menu, tax and tip. Drinks and wine pairings are additional. For details, visit cmceramicart.com/.
It’s no surprise that Marshall is an avid gardener and cook and regularly uses the plates he makes. “I’m passionate about food and passionate about clay,” he said. “I’m fortunate the two met.”
The convergence took years. After a brief stint as a cook in high school, Marshall realized he couldn’t be happy working in a professional restaurant kitchen.
His high school ceramics class, however, felt like home. The youngest of five children, Marshall had older siblings who had taken the class “so I knew I would like it,” he recalled. “But I didn’t think it would be a career.”
He earned degrees in art and art history from Utah State University, then worked as a ceramics assistant at Provo High School before heading to Europe for graduate school. While living in Italy and Germany, he became inspired by ceramics with print text.
He worked on those decorative projects until 2012, when he dined at Salt Lake City’s now-closed Forage restaurant.
Chef and co-owner Bowman Brown’s commitment to local produce, complex preparation and simple flavors marked a turning point for Marshall. He was a regular customer and one day threw out the idea of making original, hand-crafted plates to match Forage’s award-winning food.
Brown agreed. Since then, other Utah restaurants and chefs have sought out Marshall’s minimalist plates and bowls to showcase their hand-crafted food. Besides HSL, Pallet and Table X, Marshall’s plates can be found at Provisions and Stoneground in Salt Lake City, Tupelo in Park City and Friday Harbor House in Washington state.
“We are always looking for beautiful ways to present our cuisine other than a white plate,” said Table X co-owner Nick Fahs. “The natural colors that Clark creates fit our aesthetic and our style.”
Marshall hopes the new line will inspire home cooks and gardeners. “You spend time growing and cooking your food,” he says. “Shouldn‘t your dinnerware reflect that?”
OF STONE AND SUSTENANCE
Ceramic designer Clark Marshall will display his hand-made plates and unveil a designer dinnerware series.
Where • Art Access Gallery, 230 S. 500 West, Salt Lake City
When • Opening reception, Friday, Sept. 15, 6-9 p.m. as part of the monthly downtown Gallery Stroll; show continues through Oct. 13. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
Details • accessart.org