When author Sara Dahmen wanted to recreate cookware she researched for a book she was writing about the Pioneer days of America, she got to work. She sourced local goods, found local companies to help with her venture and learned how to create cookware by hand.
Now, as the Maker Movement is spreading across the U.S. and reverberating with consumers, Dahmen is establishing herself as an artisan in the field of cookware with both Housekeeper Crockery and House Copper. GOURMET INSIDER managing editor, Emily Cappiello, recently spoke to Dahmen about what it’s like to be a true maker in the cookware industry.
Gourmet Insider: The cornerstone of your business is locally-made and handcrafted. How does that give you a unique selling point to talk about?
Sara Dahmen: Using local artisans — and my own tools — to create the cookware for House Copper and Housekeeper Crockery brands has been a major point of discussion with both consumers and wholesale/retail partners. Our society is just starting to hit the tip of the discussion beyond transparency in our food source, and understanding the provenance of our cookware is one of the next steps in that discussion. So, being able to visit a family owned and operated business who makes a piece of the cookware is a really helps to explain and sell the wares. The props to being able to quote exactly where in America everything is made for the lines allows for people to really get a feel for that age-old, nostalgic, built-to-last mentality, and participate with it.
It’s also really great to be able to say that everything is touched, multiple times, by human hands, and by purchasing the piece, you’re supporting small, local artisans. That’s a really powerful message and not hard to explain to the general consumer.
GI: What are some of the challenges of being a maker in the cookware industry?
Dahmen: Being a maker in the cookware industry is difficult and exhilarating. There is such a huge, deep well of knowledge, especially making metalwares and working with copper, that I feel as though I will never know or understand everything, so the constant learning is both fun and more than a little challenging.
And, of course, making everything here in America has its own challenges: Price and dealing with always having to re-invent the wheel whenever I want to make a new product, since the only examples of early American copperware are rare and were typically handmade.
GI: What do you love about being a maker?
Dahmen: I love the hands-on, try-hard, go-for-it vibe you get once you decide to become a maker. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have an apprenticeship under a master tin and coppersmith, making reproduction vintage wares with tools from the 1700 and 1800’s. The cracks in my hands are constantly filled with leftover grease or flux and I now have resigned myself to wearing flannel and discarding any white shirts I used to own. But the extraordinary confidence one gets as a maker is overwhelming.
GI: What’s next for your business?
Dahmen: There’s going to be more copperware — the skillet is just taking shape now. I’m really excited about this because it is a truly American style, reproduced by the fabricators to mimic how the coppersmiths in early colonial times would have created them. We’re also looking to bring more of the fabricating in-house, which means I get to buy a lot more tools.