“I find that the artisans that are most in touch with themselves often understand their work’s relationship to history,” ruminates designer and event producer David Stark. This philosophy harmoniously resonates throughout Stark and fellow designer Jane Schulak’s new tome: At The Artisan’s Table. The duo paired the work of contemporary artisans who specialize in tableware, textiles, ceramics and more with antique decorative pieces that span five centuries to create magnificent and inventive tablescapes photographed around the globe. Coming off the heels of the book’s November 1 release, Schulak and Stark brief us on the genesis of the project, their design ideologies and the dinner party accessories they’re currently eyeing.
The pairing of high-design tabletops with high-art pieces is ingenious. What moved you to approach this project through that lens?
Jane Schulak: Before we had the idea for the book, I would often bring David to some of my favorite artisans’ studios in Paris because I knew we shared a love for craft and art; these experiences inspired us to come up with the concept for At The Artisan’s Table. We began our process by visiting the library at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris and carefully selecting major periods and styles that served as our inspiration points for each chapter.
At The Artisan’s Table pushes the boundaries of table setting. How did you conceptualize such non-traditional yet immensely successful tabletops?
David Stark: This project is less about decorating and more about storytelling. We are both deeply inspired by visual connections and have open minds when it comes to materials. When you realize that you can have more than just a bouquet of flowers on a table, the possibilities are endless. Throughout the book there is a constant dialogue between the environment and the objects.
What are some important factors to consider when setting a table for guests?
JS: I love having people sit close to each other. I like the ease of conversation and the feeling of intimacy.
DS: Sightlines. No matter how fabulous a centerpiece is, if it blocks the view of your dining guests, it’s probably not a great addition to a table.
What pieces would you curate for the ultimate table setting at your dream dinner party?
JS: I currently have my eyes on Puiforcat silver. I’d love to mix the patterns so that each piece of cutlery displays a different design.
DS: Salvador Dalí silverware comes to mind first. It would be fun to have something that extravagant when you least expect it.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from At The Artisan’s Table?
JS: I think that we need to give ourselves permission to sit down together, break bread, exist in the moment and think about our quality of life.
DS: In this very fast-moving, technological time we live in, the things we make with our hands tell us so much about our commonality on this planet. There’s a lot of value in that and it’s something to genuinely celebrate.