Ceramicist and Chef Fernando Aciar Likes to Set the Room
Breaking bread with Fernando Aciar, the designer behind Fefo Studio in NYC.
Welcome back to Breaking Bread, Brightland's editorial series that fosters dialogues with creatives, makers and artists who inspire us. Our latest installment features Fernando Aciar, a New York-based Argentinian ceramicist and chef who is the founder of Fefo Studio, OCAFE in the West Village and OSTUDIO - a shared work space for creatives in Brooklyn. His ceramics feature a variety of neutral clays paired with vibrant glazes to create designs that blur the lines between function and artistry. We had the pleasure of visiting Fernando at his gorgeous New York home and spending some time with him over a Ghia spritz.
How do you describe what you do?
I like to set the room. This could fall under lifestyle, decor, design, entertaining, you name it. The idea is to live in a bubble of things that makes one happy, safe and supported. To create community is big for me. I am surrounded by creativity, and designing is part of my work, but really I consider myself a craftsman; it is important to be HANDS-ON.
What drew you to the world of ceramics? When did you make your first piece?
Between 10 and 12 years old I got obsessed with making ceramics. It wasn't until 30 years later that I felt the need to go back. I was in between food businesses and needed a creative outlet to release pressure and explore. The first thing I created was a platter for olives for my wife, who, like me, loves to eat and entertain. Then I started to make coffee cups too and, to my surprise, they sold very quickly at my café. Now they are an essential part of my food business.
Where do you find inspiration for your ceramics?
I find inspiration in shapes coming from nature from my childhood in the Andes, as well as the day to day - colors coming from anything graphic surrounding me. I am self taught and I really try not to look into other ceramicists' work. Rather, I’m inspired by how the mundane can be transported into the ceramic work and be repurposed into art. This manifests as different objects in the room from tableware to lamps.
What brought you to start OCAFE and OSTUDIO?
I am a former chef, and in 2010 I opened OCAFE in the heart of the West Village, and it instantly became this vibrant, happy place to be in. Year after year we have attracted the most incredible community of artists, families, foodies and locals looking for conscious eating and escaping trends for a more simple, honest place. Since I started Fefo Studio, 5 years ago, I was struggling constantly being in between the studio and the cafes. I really wanted to create a common space and thus OSTUDIO was born. OSTUDIO is 2 years old now and we are a community of artists, creatives, makers, and food lovers - sharing passions under the same roof. Today we are 24 studios; Fefo Studio ceramics, a carpentry studio, textile artists, fashion designers, writers, poets, journalists, illustrators, interior and graphic designers, branding, painters, visual artists, creative technology and production agencies. Our next addition will be a kitchen event space and the opening of our winebar-cafe in Fall 2021!
What dishes currently nourish you?
When I’m working in NY, I feed off OCAFE food - wholesome grains, fresh veggie salads and spreads. When traveling, I often look for the countries’ popular classics - the simple food cooked by home cooks for centuries that are unpretentious and generous yet superb. I just discovered this classic chicken cooked in clay, a classic of Alcobaça in Portugal where I traveled to see ceramics. I really love all food as long as it carries those virtues: fresh, generous, humble.
Where do you get cooking inspiration (certain cookbooks, sites, people on Instagram, etc)?
I always improvise and cook with leftovers - that is my big thing. I only plan when I have to buy a fish or a good piece of meat (Marcelo, the butcher at Foster Sundry in Brooklyn, always gives great ideas), but other than that no plans. Everything always happens in 20 minutes max.
I don’t follow cookbook recipes unless they are desserts and cakes (I love Claire Ptak cakes from Violet Bakery, Liz Prueitt pastries from Tartine, the River Café for desserts as well as Le Grand Livre de la Patisserie cookbook).
I also love sourcing from all sorts of farmers markets, and always make my way to them whenever I am at home or traveling.
What does “living in a golden state” mean to you?
To do what you love and be fully authentic to yourself.