The Origins of the Pearl Dish

It is well-documented that getting hands-on with craft, from pot-throwing to baking to life-drawing, can have a soothing and restorative effect on its practitioners. Interacting with handcrafted work and learning about the people and processes behind a handcrafted piece can also offer an opportunity to open up and reconnect with our senses.

A vital step towards embracing the wellbeing-enhancing effects of craft and design is recognising the sway technology holds over us. Technology has brought about truly incredible advancements and we wouldn’t be without them for a moment, but in our day-to-day existence, taking a step back from our tech and beginning to appreciate the little things is key.

Craft Design House’s interest in technological boundaries began a little over a year ago when founder Gillian Scott heard from an old friend, Eric, who had long since relocated from Edinburgh to San Francisco.

A graduate of Duncan Jordanstone School of Art & Design, Eric builds exceptional tree-houses along the West Coast and honours traditional techniques, attention to detail and provenance of the materials he uses, all integral aspects of expert craftsmanship. And yet, each night when he returned home from his workshop, he would face the reality of the digital age in his home and its effects on his family life. His teenage daughter Pearl could not be persuaded to part with her phone. Conversation was reduced to non-committal murmurs as her fingers tapped away furiously on her screen. Eventually, her parents came up with the idea of a designated place to house her phone during family time…the butter dish.

What was it about this story that sparked Gillian’s imagination?

“The inspiration behind the Pearl Dish came from Pearl’s story and the universality of this story.,” explains Gillian Scott, CEO and founder of Craft Design House.

“Sometimes it’s the teenager, sometimes it’s the parents, I’ve even seen toddlers glued to screens. It is getting increasingly difficult to switch off, to just be present, to enjoy one another’s company without a text or work email popping up. Personally, I am very conscious that I want to teach good habits to my twelve-year-old daughter, and that means that while I want to resist the lure of smartphones for her for as long as possible I must also be mindful of my own phone use.

Eric’s idea of using a butter dish was brilliant. It created a definitive space for technology, and a clear tech-free time. The physical act of lifting the lid on the butter dish was not only a physical barrier and reminder but also helped by shutting off the phone from sight: out of sight, out of mind. Over the coming days and weeks ideas flew around in my mind. I realised that this was something that I needed, that we needed, that all my friends needed, and if them then probably many more besides. We need a boundary, and I think it’s a physical boundary we need to manage our technology use.”

Why the Pearl Dish, why not just a butter dish?

“I wanted to honour the origins of the idea, and the girl who inspired the concept in the first instance, and I imagined that just as each pearl is unique, each Pearl Dish could be too. From the name came the semi-spherical shape, and the size was dictated by the fact that it is not only phones that we seem incapable of putting down but also tablets. I wanted to create something that could house both if needed. Some of our Pearl Dishes are large enough to hold tablets, others mini tablets, and others phones, but unlike the butter dish, the Pearl Dishes are capable of holding multiple phones, offering families, colleagues and groups of friends the opportunity to collectively put a lid on their technology and engage fully.”

Why was it important to you that the pieces should be handcrafted?

“Today everything is so slick and fast and smooth and mass-marketed. Phones and other tech devices in particular. I wanted to break away from that entirely, to juxtapose it with a recognition of handcrafted items, of the people and materials behind a piece, not just serial numbers and factories. I wanted pieces that inspired people to use them and to discuss them; Pearl Dishes would not only house technology but also spark conversation. The response we have had from designers and makers that we have approached with this project has been fantastically positive, they immediately understand the purpose and need for the Pearl Dish, and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Pearl Dishes come in all sizes and materials, representing a fantastic range of styles and disciplines, with more designers and makers getting on board and trying their hand at a Pearl Dish all the time. Each Pearl Dish is unique, made to order and a million miles away from the latest phone being released, but while phones come and go, the Pearl Dish will last you a lifetime, helping you manage your tech use, no matter what phone you upgrade to.”

Lastly, what is your hope for the Pearl Dish?

“One in every home would be great! Maybe even a few customers like me who fall for each new style or material and end up with one for each room in their house! I want the Pearl Collective and the Pearl Dishes to become a movement, a collective where designers and crafts people from multiple disciplines approach us to become a part of the Pearl Collective, and where their significance and their contribution to enabling us all to switch-off is recognised.”