FELT+FAT is a collaborative design and manufacturing studio based in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Designers Nathaniel Mell and Wynn Bauer strive to seek out individuals with a passion for their craft who want to explore new possibilities through creative partnership.
I connected with Nate & Wynn of FELT+FAT through social media after landing on their page where I instantly fell in love with their beautiful, hand crafted wares. We quickly connected and joined forces for my recent Food Styling & Photography workshop that took place here in Portland, Oregon. This event post will be released in only a few short days! Make sure to check it out as it will feature some beautiful photos of Nate & Wynn’s work.
Their contribution to our event made it an absolute success. Through their sponsorship we were able to have an elegant sit down meal with our entire class and special guests. I am such a fan of their work and it’s an honor to showcase their story here on the Portland Fresh Provincial series.
I hope you enjoy hearing more about their story! Make sure to check out their Kickstarter which is only live for a few more days. By supporting their fundraiser, you’ll receive one of a kind pieces to add to your kitchen collection. For all you stylists out there, they have an incredible package set specifically for you, the The Beginner Food Stylist Set which includes
a mix of three one-off Felt+Fat products from their test archive. In their words, “This eclectic set is perfect for food styling or someone who likes a little variety in their wares”.
All photos by Neal Santo of Neal Santo Photography.
What inspired you to start Felt + Fat? Was there a specific instance that sparked the idea/concept, or was it a collaboration of a few things over time?
Felt+Fat started out as a single project. I (Nate) was working at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia while at the same time serving at Fork Restaurant, under chef Eli Kulp in 2013. Eli knew I worked at The Clay Studio and approached me about some custom table ware for a new project he was starting called ‘High Street on Market’.
My background at that point was more as a jack of all trades than specifically as a ceramicist. I had majored in glass at the Tyler school of Art and since had been getting my hands dirty in a variety of materials; foundry work, ceramics, glass, rubber molds, etc. So when Eli asked for a ceramicist I knew I was going to need to partner with someone who was more of a purist in the material.
That’s where Wynn comes in. Wynn had been working in the gallery of The Clay Studio at the time that I was there, but before that he had been studying ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design where he was experimenting with mixing custom glazes and clay bodies while working on design-heavy sculptural objects and functional ware.
Wynn and I teamed up with nothing more than a 300 square foot studio, a mixing drill as far as equipment and space was concerned. We rented time in the kilns at The Clay Studio and we paid for everything, but we got that first job done and the results were great!
What are some of your highlights and happenings with your company in the past year or so? Is there anything in particular that’s felt like a success in your journey?
This whole last year has been a whirlwind! Aside from having the opportunity to work with some really amazing chefs (Eli Kulp, Matt Lambert, Nick Elmi, to name a few) we were fortunate to be included in a variety of publications such as Food &Wine Magazine, Dwell, Bloomberg News, Luxe Interior Design, Details, and to cap it off we were named as one of the 30 under 30 in Art & Style for Forbes’ January issue!
When your day-to-day is spent in studio just trying to keep up with what’s in front of you it’s really gratifying to have someone pat you on the back in such a big way like that.
Your work is beautifully crafted and custom made. What’s the heart behind providing such beautiful wares?
Wynn and I both really fetishize the every day interaction with the simple objects in our lives. The curve of a bowl, the thickness of the lip on a mug and the feel of a satin glaze vs. a glossy glaze vs. a matte glaze can have the power to make one pause and appreciate the time and love that was put into that object. We strive to bring more of those little transcendent moments into the lives of those around us.
What makes Felt+Fat stand out from the other ceramic companies out there?
One thing we value is our focus on working from the ground up. We do not purchase a single commercial clay or glaze. So that means every clay body, every glaze, every detail of our work is proprietary. We are constantly coming up with new recipes, tweaking existing recipes and figuring out how to make our work better. That means we make a lot of mistakes.
Just the other day we had en entire kiln load of wares (maybe $3,000 worth of work) that were all experiments with a new glaze base that ended up needing to be tweaked, so in our mind it was un-sellable. We don’t count that as a loss though, that is where we grow and learn and how we improve.
Where do you personally pull your creative inspiration from? And are there any people you admire because of where they’ve gone in their own creative journey?
I get really excited by raw materials, spaces and atmospheres. So, for instance I went on a trip this January to Iceland and was just completely blown away by the enormity of the landscape and it’s totally alien nature. I took a bunch of ziplock bags on the trip and would continually grab handfuls of volcanic sand or little stones I found while hiking. That trip inspired these new experiments we’ve been doing with some of those materials I brought home from the trip. It reminds me of those vast, lonely black beaches and the chunks of glacier washing up to shore.
I also have a love for materials, not just the ones used in ceramics. Growing up I had nature as my playground. Please, no action figures. The home I grew up in was built from stone in the 1730’s; the simple and solidness of the farmhouse started my appreciation for architecture and things that stand the tests of time. Later in life I traveled through out Asia extensively focussing on buying handmade goods with my father for our family business, housed in a 5000 square foot Scandinavian style bank circa 1714 German. Since the age of ten, Asian culture and aesthetics, more so with Japanese, have influenced my life extremely.
If you could go anywhere in the world and explore one creative “avenue” in that culture, where would it be and why?
My middle name is a somewhat common Swedish surname (Nyman) and comes from my mother’s family who emigrated from there several generations back. I have always been pretty enamored with Scandinavian culture and the far north so I would really love to spend some extended time studying design there.
Funny coincidence, I have also had the desire to travel in Scandinavia from a young age. Ever since learning about the similarities in simplicity and minimalism with Japanese design, I knew I had to get there somehow. There is a quality and attention to detail that I value and have seen proof of in Japan that I want to investigate in Scandinavia.
Future goals for 2015/2016? Where do you see your company going?
Our goal this year is to be able to make our wares more available to people across the board. With that in mind, starting on Monday April 20, we launched a Kickstarter with the aim to elevate our manufacturing capacity and take on more personnel. We strive to grow in size but retain our focus on the hand-made and working from the ground up.
Where would we find you on your day off? Are there any local shops or attractions you’re in love with in Philadelphia?
Lunch, dinner or just a loaf of bread to go is always amazing at High Street as well. If I have a free afternoon my girlfriend and I might take our dog Rufus to one of the great parks in the city as well, Philadelphia has a lot of green space if you know where to look for it.
Agreed, days off are not a reality these days. I have been impressed with the continuously growing number off places to visit, hang out, and eat, in Philadelphia, since moving here in 2010. The only place I can think of is The Clay Studio, which has been responsible for every job and connection I have made in this city in some way.