Jonathan arrived in my studio in Kennington in July 2016 with an enormous stoneware crock full of extremely potent red wine vinegar.
We hit it off immediately. Jonathan's passion for vinegar, food, wine and craft was infectious. Together we set about giving the rustic, old school design of the French farmhouse vinagrier a contemporary and radical makeover. We wanted to design a vessel which would be at home in a stylish contemporary kitchen and would trigger people's curiosity.
We explored the archetypal form of fermentation vessels. The more we dug deeper into the history of these ancient pots the more we realised that fermentation vessels and pottery go hand in hand. Before the era of the fridge all food had to be preserved. And to preserve food people since time began have been throwing their food into ceramic (and leather) pots with salt in order to preserve them. For more on this have a read of Salt by Mark Kurlansky.
When we reviewed all the shapes and patterns we were struck by how little has changed in the design of these fermentation vessels over the years. Each and every one had a circular form - dictated by the fact that most had been thrown by hand.
We loved some of the strong geometric designs. A stunning carrot shaped fermentation was a huge inspiration.
And another pot from 6c AD in African wouldn't look out of place in a modern interiors shop.
The key for us was to give these pots a contemporary twist - whilst staying respectful to the original form of the fermentation vessel.
The circular nature of the traditional fermentation pots poses a bit of a modern day conundrum - their round footprint means they take up a lot of space. While a square footprint could have worked, we loved the way that hexagonal tiles lock together.
This lent itself perfectly to the fact that we were designing a range of three vessels - one for red wine - one for white wine - and one for cider or sherry. Three interlocking vessels share the same footprint as the chemical formula for vinegar.
As a further update from the original rustic style of vinagrier we have opted to create a vessel with no tap. We found that these taps get very clogged up and dirty. Instead we are keen for people to use a wine thief or ladle to draw out their vinegar. It encourages more interaction with the vinegar and begs you to peak inside at the mother culture floating on the top.
And so the story of the Cult Ceramics Vinegar Vase was born.