At first sight, the new Norwegian restaurant Under seems to have sourced its tableware from a nearby shipwreck: It features cracked edges, patterns that look like the work of ocean currents, and colors that appear almost Cretacic. In reality, the 18-course tableware set was designed and produced by Ment, the ceramics company founded by two sisters, interior stylist Ingvild Hemma and product designer Sidsel Forr Hemma.
And according to Ingvild Hemma, the inspiration wasn’t a shipwreck, as I imagined it–it was nature. “It’s the texture, color, and feeling of rocks, seashells, sand, and seaweeds that is the inspiration and reference for the collection,” she says over email. “But it is all shaped and formed by the saltwater through time, so in a way you’re right!”
Ment was founded in 2012 under the roof of an old ski equipment factory in Fåberg, Norway. The sisters started working with Under’s head chef, Nicolai Ellitsgaard, in June 2018, when Ellitsgaard came to them to ask for 18 unique pieces to match his 18-course menu–and the unusual restaurant’s architecture itself, designed by Norwegian firm Snøhetta, which also had a hand in the tableware collaboration. In addition to those pieces, Ment developed other accessories for Under, like water jugs, a toothpick holder, salt and pepper containers, coffee cups, tea mugs, bowls for snacks, and many other pieces. In total, they developed 500 items, designing, researching, testing, and producing each piece themselves.
The materials they ultimately chose range from porcelain to stoneware to wood to clay. The colors, Hemma says, are the product of Norwegian minerals, many obtained from the site where the restaurant was built. “We have researched and developed our own recipes where we use iron pigments, iron oxides processed from natural magnetite, from the area of Nordland in Norway,” she says, which created the subtle color variations you can see in many of the dishes. They also used sand from the beach at Lindesnes to give it the rough surface. Their goal with the series, Hemma says, was to “educate the public about the quality of handmade products, and the work and knowledge that goes into making them.”
While Under is now taking reservations, Ment’s collaboration with the team won’t end with this first batch of tableware, which will be used when the restaurant seats its first guests this spring. The studio will keep working with Ellitsgaard in an ongoing creative collaboration–all the more excuse to book a yearly trip.