Peek inside the Sharon, CT, ceramics studio of dbO Home’s Dana Brandwein Oates, where her line of handmade porcelain wares celebrate both the artist’s touch and the importance of simple everyday luxuries.

Photography by David Kimelman
Interview by Melissa Andersen

At BURKELMAN, we believe that usability and stunning design aren’t mutually exclusive, and Dana Brandwein Oates of dbO Home’s place settings, platters, and other serveware are a testament to that ethos. Ensuring that no two pieces are alike, the artist lets her hand show in her porcelain tableware, marrying subtle textures with moody color washes to create modern one-of-a-kind heirlooms. Whether it’s an intimate candlelit meal for two or a raucous dinner party with friends, dbO Home brings high-quality craftsmanship and terrestrial allure to all of life’s table gatherings, big and small.

We’re so enamored with Dana’s elegant, yet durable wares that we commisioned a white version of her Kashmir collection, exclusively made for and sold at BURKELMAN. Like her Indigo Kashmir and Honeycomb collections (also available at BURKELMAN), Dana’s White Kashmir is dishwasher-safe, oven-friendly, and built-to-last. Thank your host with a set of dipping bowls; warm a loved one’s new home with a cheese plate; celebrate the newlyweds with place settings that will serve up a lifetime of romantic dinners; and don't forget to pick up a few pieces for yourself, too.

Click To Shop The Full Collection

Dana predominantly works with clay slabs in a process called ‘handbuilding,’The beginning of the process starts here, where a large piece of clay is rolled through a roller to form a thin slab.

The canvas used to roll the slabs leaves behind a subtle imprint on the surface of the clay, which Dana leaves on the bottom, but wipes off the top to create a clean surface on which a texture or pattern will be added. She then cuts the slabs into different shapes using templates.

Melissa: What attracted you to clay in general and porcelain specifically?

Dana: Once I had my own apartment, I started to collect ceramics, vintage in particular. I was inspired by designers who work in clay, like Klein Reid and Jonathan Adler. After September 11th, I finally stopped coming up with excuses not to try my hand at it and take a class after work. I don’t know what it is about clay, but it is so much fun to work with that I just stuck with it. And porcelain, well, it’s beautiful; it looks delicate but it's strong.

“I don’t know what it is about clay, but it is so much fun to work with that I just stuck with it. And porcelain, well, it’s beautiful; it looks delicate but it's strong.”
When creating the Kashmir Collection, Dana intentionally puts different levels of pressure on to the wood block, giving each piece a vintage look. When tapping the wood block into each slab’s surface, Dana plays with various angles, points of overlap, and white space so that no two pieces are exactly the same.
The Kashmir collection was born when Dana’s friend and textile designer, John Robshaw, gave her a bag of his vintage Indian wood blocks, traditionally used for block-printing textiles. She focused on three of the blocks, shown here: a floral, a bird, and one that reminds her of tile. The worn mallet was a gift from Dana’s husband and business partner, Danny.

Dana’s original collections were inspired by natural textures. Here, Dana presses a honeycomb pattern into a slab that will be used to create a piece in her Honeycomb collection.

Melissa: You did what so many only dream about and made the seemingly impossible leap from the corporate world (as a record label executive) to working for yourself as a designer/maker. What's been the most rewarding part of that transition?

Dana: When I see my work in use, that’s the most rewarding part of the transition. It could be a chef, a floral designer, a stylist, or someone posting an image on Instagram. Seeing my work in someone else’s context, how they incorporate it into their style, making it their own, that’s really a great feeling.

After the piece is cut and the texture has been applied, Dana lays it over a hump mold to form the basic shape, then cuts it once more to ensure a clean edge. Here, she shapes a slab into a large oval platter.
“Seeing my work in someone else’s context, how they incorporate it into their style, making it their own, that’s really a great feeling.”
After nearly 20 years as a record label executive, Dana shifted careers and launched dbO Home from her studio in Sharon, CT.
Once the labor-intensive steps of rolling, cutting, and applying texture are complete, the pieces are left to dry slowly to prevent cracks or warping.

For her Kashmir collection, Dana places the pattern sporadically to create plenty of white space with touches of delicate texture.

Melissa: In the age of machine-made and mass-produced, dbO Home stands apart by celebrating the little 'imperfections' of handmade goods. Why is it important to you to show your hand in your pieces?

Dana: I think that handmade pieces that allow the imperfections to shine are the most beautiful. They give you a sense of the person who made it. Perhaps that’s considered soulful. It’s a lot like my favorite music - I’ve never been into pop music. I like [music that’s] more quirky and unique. To me, it’s like a Taylor Swift song versus Alabama Shakes. I’m working towards Alabama Shakes.

Color, though understated, plays a large role in Dana’s collections. Here, she glazes an Indigo Kashmir Tile Oval Platter. She’s drawn to indigo for its ability to be both modern and rustic, and create a clean, neutral surface ideal for serving food.

Melissa: What inspires the patterns and textures in your collections?

Dana: The textures and patterns have come from a combination of looking around my environment and friends sharing suggestions. For example, a friend at a nearby farm gave me the beehive starter she uses in her hives. She thought I might be able to use it… and that’s how we got our signature honeycomb pattern.

Melissa: Do you have a favorite part of your process?

Dana: My favorite part is opening the glaze fire to see the results. It can either be a very happy little party in the kiln room or a big disappointment - you never know.

To achieve her moody color washes, Dana rubs the darker of two glazes into the pattern of a bisque-fired piece. She then wipes out the glaze, leaving color behind in the texture. Then the whole piece is dipped into the lighter base color and fired again.

Glaze is wiped from several pieces of dbO Home’s Honeycomb collection. The color allows a hint of texture to shine through.

Melissa: Nature plays a large role in your designs. Why is it important to you to bring a piece of the outdoors inside?

Dana: Bringing the outdoors inside makes me feel good and I think home should be where you feel happiest, particularly at the table where family and friends come together.

Melissa: What's next for dbO Home?

Dana: We are working on expanding our line to incorporate additional materials like bronze, glass, textiles, and leather to combine with porcelain and wood. We also have some collaborations with other artisans in the works.

Dana uses a special stick to make clean edges on pieces from her Kashmir collection, all under the watchful eye of her adorable studio mate, 10-year-old Reuben the Gordon Setter.

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