Entertaining is more than just cocktails and crudités. Décor, ambiance and good company (of course!) are the secret ingredients to successful entertaining.
The style of the hostess’s tableware is influential in setting the tone of any given soirée. It’s an extension of the host’s personality. Would martinis be so popular if not served in the decadently iconic cocktail glass? I think not! The luxury of design is what draws us to classically elegant pieces. Like those designed by artisan Mary Jurek. I discovered Ms. Jurek’s tableware collections and was immediately drawn to her work. I reached out to her and she agreed to do an interview. Her experience is diverse–and like an onion, she has many layers. She’s a fascinating woman with incredible style and an eye for creating pieces adored by the masses. I hope you enjoy learning about this renaissance artist as much as I did.
Mary Jurek, the Early Years
Mary Jurek started her career with the aspiration of becoming a United Nations interpreter. She had “a flair for learning foreign languages and a love of international cultures.” When I inquired as to how many languages she speaks, her answer surprised me. None. She explained, “I loved studying languages and always felt I had an aptitude for learning new words. After so many years without practice, I speak no foreign language fluently now. When someone speaks French or Italian rather slowly, there is some comprehension. Recently finding a little extra time in my schedule, I began a class in conversational Italian. I think it will be fun to speak again or at least try.”
Her career path veered away from that of interpreter, but she doesn’t regret not pursuing a career at the U.N. As it turns out, her university professor advised her to not venture down that career path. She said, “He recognized my personality was not the right fit for the profession. I was very spirited as a student, and a good interpreter does not express personal emotions in translating. He did me a favor. Earning a degree in fine art suited me perfectly. It was creative, intense work with long studio hours. Happy to say, my passion for the visual arts has never gone away.”
Mary’s a Gem
Mary’s zeal for the visual arts blossomed when she acquired a position at Piaget, designing luxury watches. Her husband’s research required them to relocate to Geneva, Switzerland. She was already established as a jewelry designer with a solid reputation in New York City. When an opportunity to design watches for Piaget and the Baume Mercier division become available, she grabbed it, “It was a new challenge and very thrilling.” As it relates to the actual mechanics of creating a timepiece, I was curious as to her involvement, as she was on the design side. “Designers do not have much involvement with the mechanics of watchmaking. The technical expertise required to create luxury timepieces is a unique skill. A designer’s responsibility is to showcase the maker’s work with a beautiful design of understated elegance and wearability,” she said.
Mary Jurek Design Inc. Established 1997
In 1997, after working several years as a jewelry and watch artist, Mary Jurek established Mary Jurek Design Inc. She had been presented with four international awards for her work over the years, designing for notable brands such as Piaget Watch, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Wako of Tokyo, Gübelin of Switzerland and Gump’s of San Francisco. The time had come for her to step out on her own, and her medium of choice was stainless steel tableware. When you look at the refined designs from the Mary Jurek Design collection, the influence from her time spent as a jewelry artisan is subtle, but it’s there. I asked her about the connection between jewelry and tableware, and she shared this, “My experience working with luxury jewelry firms was invaluable training. The exposure to world-class artisans and fine materials set benchmark standards. Those values continue to influence my work today. The quality of design and fine craftsmanship of our tableware products are recognized by our customers. Attention to detail is what sets the average apart from the best.”
She tells me that nature is the inspiration behind her modern stainless-steel designs,“Nature in its purest form is the inspiration of our modern stainless steel collection. What nature creates naturally I try to interpret with stainless.” Her design style blends urban sophistication with organic texture. She says, “That unique combination is achieved only through the handmade process. Strong, simple forms and soft bodies–that is our design ethos.”
The Design Process
When Mary begins the process of working on a new product design, she starts with a drawing or sketch using pencil and paper. From several sketches to potentially hundreds “big and small,” the sketches “will accumulate on my drawing board and may sit for a while. I step away and review them later. With luck, one or two will stand out and be worth developing into finished renderings.” Once the the sketches are finalized they are submitted to the factory for prototyping.
Mary doesn’t produce limited editions. She wants as many customers to own her products as possible and to enjoy using them. Her style is classic and many items continue to remain popular year after year.
Southeast Asia Travel Inspired
All Mary Jurek Design products are handmade by Asian craftsmen. While on a trip to southeast Asia, Mary was moved to work with small, female-owned factories. “I was inspired (to) make a difference and in return, begin my home design business. It satisfied both passion and purpose.”
The business continues to work with the original women-owned factories in Thailand. Eight years ago she added suppliers based in India.
Tableware Trends & Advice
Mary has been inspiring the tableware market for two decades and says, “The luxury tableware market continues to change to meet the demands of a younger customer. Young brides prefer products that need less care and maintenance. Our lifestyle products are perfect for them. Stainless steel is food safe, dishwasher safe and never need polishing. It works for everyone.” She tells me that “casual elegance and simple sleek style” is what is trending now.
Up to this point we’ve cover a lot of ground. I can’t help but ask what she recommends when it comes to gifting a piece that will compliment anyone’s dinner service and love heanswer. “No one can ever have enough small bowls for the table. A set of small, elegant bowls make the ideal hostess gift. They are useful for dips, sauces, condiments, candies and nuts.” She confides she has at least 10 in her cupboard ready for her next party. The absolute one piece of tableware she says no one should be without is the unique pair of Miravella Stainless Steel Serving Tongs. They are handmade and incredibly practical.
From her own collection, the Omega Water Pitcher is her favorite piece because, “The form of the pitcher is zoomorphic, sensuous and graceful. The handle is strong and masculine. The design embodies the perfect union of yin-yang.”
Something About Mary
It’s always fun to round out an interview with some personal information. At the time of this interview Mary was reading Atlas Shrugged. Her favorite go-to during the cocktail hour is a glass of 2014 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Mary is currently working on stainless steel and wood combinations and she says the future holds for her, “Continued daily work as usual.”
Mary Jurek Design retail stores are the finest in the USA, and she says that celebrities shop in her luxury shops all the time. “The privacy of the customers is well protected and not shared with us. We do know that Halle Berry and Dr. Phil own many of our designs.”
For the rich, famous or everyone else, Mary Jurek Design are to be cherished and enjoyed. Entertaining for one or one hundred, her designs are sure to be a success.
Which is my favorite piece? It’s hard to decide. Her blend of stainless steel and wood designs are probably my favorite. If I had to select just one, I’m partial to the Sierra Round Tray w/Rosewood Insert 17″ D. It’s gorgeous!
Tell us what your favorite Mary Jurek design is below. To view her collections go to maryjurekdesign.com.