As Baron applies glaze and fires clay, the sun passes from the left windows to the right. The sun’s transit is one of many deeply considered elements that shapes Baron’s dinnerware. And just as they shape the dinnerware, these elements, through the dinnerware, reach the food.
But this south Scottsdale ceramist partners with the sun in other non-obvious ways as well. Some 65 percent of the energy she uses is harvested by the solar panels from her roof, an admirable percentage when you consider how much juice it takes to keep kilns between 1,700 and 2,300 degrees. She uses clays from places like the Colorado River, a wide-open place ruled by sun. And the colors of our daytime desert sky and flowers even make their way into her work.
Baron shapes smooth roundish dishes, glossy centers speckled white to twilight-blue.
She crafts red plates inset with white porcelain, wheel-thrown tequila shooters with the faces of desert animals, stackable bowls like fluted aquamarine clamshells.
She molds square plates that aren’t square and look like a desert night sky, a slashing band in one corner the color of your favorite hiking trail during rain.
“Eat real food from real bowls,” she says, reciting her motto and smiling. Baron practices what she preaches, as she keeps chickens and a garden of everything from artichokes to chiltepines, spilling from her backyard and into the dirt suburban lane behind her house. She also has an old culvert and roof-drainpipe system rigged in her backyard, allowing her to store 400 gallons of rainwater, some used in ceramics production. “Use more clay, less plastic,” she says, reciting another.
“Hiking is huge for me,” she says, explaining plate design. “Just seeing the patterns and how a slight change in elevation will change the rock formation, and then you’re walking through a motherlode of rose quartz. And then it switches, you go around a curve and now it’s black slate. Or you see where rocks have tumbled down from the latest rainstorm.”
There is a rough elegance to her work that mirrors that of the Sonoran Desert. Jutting lips and edges. A robust, surprising minimalism. Asymmetry and earth tones.
These tendencies seem to lengthen in her pointed, four-sided plates. “You might wonder how these angular, very modernistic pieces were informed by nature,” she says. “Well, slate material is very angular. Big pieces of shale will come off, and then you get to see the interior boulder, and it’s layers and layers and layers of this angular piece of material … that informs the shape.”
The blues of the Sonoran sky above the boulder and the Western Blue Flag flower peppering around trickle into plates, too.
Other pieces, like bowls for a single ice cream scoop, have "feet" designed purely to lift them off the table. “It elevates the piece,” Baron says. “So the same way that it’s lifting itself up, it lifts us up. It’s another brain connection in how things can make us feel if they’re designed with intention.”
For all of the visual gravity that food has, for how hungry our eyes have become in the digital age, not many chefs pay much attention to the vessels that carry their food to you. It’s an understandable element to overlook, considering the more pressing concerns of profit margins and ordering ingredients and orchestrating the kitchen.
“I don’t want it to be precious,” she says. “I want it to be used and enjoyed. So what if it gets a little chip on the corner? If it’s fired properly, then it’s just as good on the edge.”
Baron even designs the underside of her plates: furrows, color swirls, creamy porcelain inlays. Just like the inscription on the inside of a knight’s breastplate — not necessary, but the kind of next-level intention that adds something vital.
“You always want to provide surprises for people,” she says. “They pull your spirit up.”
Note: You can learn more about exhibits and events on Baron Studio’s website. There, in the coming weeks, you will be able to see and buy dinnerware.