Ask the Expert: Entertaining at Home with Christopher Spitzmiller

Ask the Expert: Entertaining at Home with Christopher Spitzmiller

Christopher’s iconic ceramic lamp designs draw inspiration from classical forms and traditional gem like glazes. He began his career in 1996 in Washington, D.C. then moving to New York City in 1999, where he now creates his one of-a-kind lamps with his crew of skilled artisans. The lamps are of timeless appeal and luxurious quality. Christopher has expanded his designs to tableware and other ceramic accessories.

Christopher’s work is often featured in celebrated publications such as Architectural Digest, Town and Country, Elle Décor, Veranda, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has had the honor of making lamps for the Oval Office, the past four White House Administrations, as well as the Blair House and other distinguished American homes.

When not in the Studio, Christopher can be found at his farm in Millbrook, NY gardening, bee keeping, making jam, cooking for friends, or tending to his flock of heritage breed chickens.

 

We asked Christopher to discuss his aesthetic vision with us and share his tips for entertaining at home.

Von Gern Home: How are you planning to celebrate Labor Day?
Christopher Spitzmiller: We’re at home for Labor Day. A friend from Rochester is visiting. Hoping for a quiet weekend…The following weekend is my 50th Birthday so we’ll be getting ready for that.

VGH: Your book, A Year At Clove Brook Farm, brings the reader through a full year of entertaining at your beautiful Millbrook farm. As an artist and ceramicist, what is the most inspiring thing about the summer months?
CS: The succession of flowers: snow drops, tulips, camassia, peonies, roses, sweet peas, lilies, and lastly dahlias. The garden inspires me all year long!

VGH: How does your artistic process change with the season?
CS: I spend more time in the garden in the summer, so I am less prolific in the studio during these months. The fall and winter are when I make the most. Thankfully the studio operates at full speed at all times of year.

VGH: How does your entertaining style change with the season? What is the most exciting thing about entertaining in the summer?
CS: Eating outside as much as possible. We have a roaming table, moving it from garden to garden. Two weeks ago we ate by the lilies. It was just like the John Singer Sargent painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

VGH: What’s on your table this season?
CS: Woven Fringe Placemats are fun with my blue and white marble plates. We use a lot of my Peony, Sweet Pea and Dahlia plates in the summer. I favor tall photophore hurricanes and tea lights to light the table at night. There’s nothing worse than eating in the dark.

VGH: When you set your table, where do you start in your tablescape design?
CS: I usually start with a tablecloth that reflects the mood of the table I’m setting and then work in the plates and whatever flowers are in season. I try to keep the flowers low so I can see my guests.

VGH: Tell us a little bit about your ideal dinner party. What’s the perfect setting, your signature cocktail, and what’s on your party playlist?
CS: Pretty much what I have described above. My fiancée, Anthony, is our bartender. He offers wine—red and rosé—and an Aperol Spritz. We play jazz or some other non-intrusive music.

VGH: What is on your dinner menu?
CS: I grill steaks, roast chicken and often serve lobster in the summer. Fresh tomatoes and burrata. Corn when it’s in season. Anthony is the baker and makes most of our desserts. He does a great Rhubarb tart and a fall-over key lime pie.

VGH: What’s your go-to host/hostess gift?
CS: I give homemade jams, eggs from the farm or flowers from the garden depending on what’s in bloom.

VGH: You’re an artist as well as an expert at entertaining. How is designing a ceramics collection different from and similar to curating a beautiful home?
CS: I want my pieces to be used. I like to say each day is all we have. I want my plates to be able to go from your Thanksgiving table to dinner for two to your Tuesday night dinner with family!

VGH: And you’re also a beekeeper, cook, and farmer! How do you think your sustainable lifestyle at Clove Brook Farm has influenced your artistic practice?
CS: We photograph my favorite flowers and have transfers made from them. They fire into the plate and become part of the glaze. My rule is that the flower must be grown here at Clove Brook Farm to make it on the plate.

VGH: Describe your artistic aesthetic in five words or less.
CS: Clean, classic, timeless.

VGH: What sets artistically designed tableware apart?
CS: We make everything by hand and that shows. Traces of the hand are present in every single piece we make. No two marble plates are the same.

VGH: What projects are you currently working on?
CS: We’re always making new lamp shapes. There are new faux bois dinner plates I’m working on and a few other collaborations that will be coming out soon.

VGH: And finally, who would you invite to your dream dinner party – dead or alive?
CS: My friends—Martha Stewart, Bunny Williams, John Rosselli and Carolyne Roehm. No party here is complete without dear Ashley Whittaker and her family!

Images courtesy of Christopher Spitzmiller  Visit https://christopherspitzmiller.com/ to learn more about Christopher’s work. 

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