UPPER WEST SIDE — A high-end Swedish ceramics company will transform the artwork of Upper West Side elementary school students into handcrafted plates to be sold in the area, with all profits benefiting a local literacy program.
The 20-year-old pottery company Mateus has offered to pay for 12 designs created by local students to be made into custom plates, said Theresa Lundahl, the company's owner and founder. The finished plates will then be auctioned off and sold locally, with all of the profits benefiting the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan's Gift of Literacy program, she said.
The $85,000-a-year program pairs adult volunteers with 45 kindergarten-though-third-grade students from P.S. 84, P.S. 75 and P.S. 163 to work on improving their reading skills, said Erica Werber, senior director of institutional communications at the center.
Second-graders from P.S. 84 and P.S. 75 set to work creating designs this spring, and 12 of the most creative were chosen, Weber explained. After they're made by Mateus and shipped back to New York, they'll be sold at the JCC's annual benefit auction this January.
Down the road, more of the kids' plates donated by Mateus may be sold at Gracious Home and La Terrine, which have both expressed interest and said they would donate the profits, Weber added. The exact details are still being worked out.
The inspiration for the collaboration came from seeing the literacy program in action, Lundahl said.
"I got so touched by the effort that these people do, putting their time and love into teaching these children," she said.
But the idea of encouraging the kids' creativity also sparked her investment, Lundahl added.
"It makes me happy to think that these will give confidence to the child itself to see that his or her art is on a plate," she explained.
The company's dinnerware is designed by Lundahl at its headquarters in Stockholm and sent to a production site just outside of Lisbon. The dishes are molded with clay, painted and fired in a kiln, all by hand, she said.
Recently, Mateus has made inroads in the U.S. market, starting to sell items at Bloomingdale's and Gracious Home about a year-and-a-half ago, Lundahl noted. Plates run from $20 to $40 each, with platters going for as much as $300.
The price of the children's plates has not been set yet, but it will likely be much higher in order to provide the program with a meaningful boost, Lundahl added.