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‘An affinity for color’

Homer Laughlin executive discusses the evolution of a new color for its dinnerware

March 17, 2013
By STEPHEN HUBA - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

NEWELL - Finding a new color for the world-famous Fiesta dinnerware line has always been more art than science - whether it's the old ivory of yesteryear or the lapis of last week.

"For me, it's more instinctive. I'm always on the prowl ... looking for colors that are right for the Fiesta brand," said Rich Brinkman, vice president of sales and marketing for the Homer Laughlin China Co.

"I have an affinity for color," he said.

Article Photos

HEART BOWL — The Fiesta medium heart bowl is expected to ship June 10 and be available in stores July 1. Contributed

Brinkman, the Newell company's chief color developer, is largely responsible for the new, highly anticipated lapis color announced last week at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.

Brinkman said lapis, named for the intense blue lapis gemstone, was several years in the making.

"As the color emerges and starts to define itself, we narrow into the color and say, 'That's the color I want,' " he said.

At Homer Laughlin, Brinkman has to be a trend-setter and a trend-spotter. As he's going about his day, conceptualizing the next Fiesta color, he's noticing things - like trending colors in fashion, jewelry, makeup, high-end home accents and interior design.

Brinkman said he is attentive to shifts in color in the culture and noticed that blues were ascending.

"It happened about three or four years ago, when turquoise started to come on really strong," he explained. "That took us into peacock blues. They were perfect for the palette. Then lemongrass and sunflower became part of that palette."

Next, he considers how the color will look next to all the other Fiesta colors - the color palette.

"Some trending colors may not be right for the brand," he said. "We needed the medium-blue hue. This is the year of the blues."

From its inception in 1936, Fiesta has been known for bold colors that go well together and are easy on the eye. It's also easy to spot, so much so that finding Fiesta dinnerware on TV shows such as "The Big Bang Theory" has become somewhat of a cultural pastime - at least among Fiesta collectors. The current Fiesta palette comprises 15 colors, including lapis, which takes its place among the blue hues: cobalt, peacock and turquoise.

Brinkman said he also wants a color that will wear well in the home and especially in the kitchen during dinner time. Lapis, he said, "is easy to eat food off of. It's one of those colors you only get every so often."

When Homer Laughlin introduced its flamingo color last year, for example, it was because the Fiesta line needed a pink hue but one that's "not going to offend you when you're eating something. ... The food surface has to be easy to look at," he said.

When Brinkman knows he has the right color, he shares it with management and relies on the color team at Homer Laughlin to make it a reality. Because of the proprietary nature of color development, the company does not do research with focus groups.

"It really all starts and ends right here," he said.

Also this year, Homer Laughlin is introducing a Fiesta Dancing Lady cookie jar and a medium heart bowl.

Brinkman describes the cookie jar as the first three-dimensional version of the trademark dancing lady by Homer Laughlin in the history of Fiesta.

"The dancing lady got a huge 'wow' by the marketplace. Nobody knew that was coming," he said.

The cookie jar mold was hand-sculpted by Homer Laughlin ceramic artist Jose Gimeno. Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Gimeno worked for years as a designer at Hispania in Spain. He moved to the United States in 1980 and began designing for Hall China, which is now owned by Homer Laughlin.

"Vitrified ceramics are very strong and sound once they are fully completed," Gimeno said. "However, the process leading up to the completion can be challenging."

Despite the vagaries associated with a three-dimensional piece, Gimeno said he was able, through modifications, to give the cookie jar both strength and beauty.

Brinkman commissioned the cookie jar after learning of Gimeno's skills.

"We are very proud to have a talented artisan like Gimeno as part of our design team," he said. "The possibilities are endless as we explore the process behind items like the cookie jar and others that we have in the works. The Fiesta community may be able to look forward to many new developments in the future."

In development since 2009, the same year the square Fiesta shape debuted, the dancing lady cookie jar was held in abeyance until after Fiesta's 75th anniversary celebration in 2011, Brinkman said.

The medium heart bowl follows on the heels of the small heart bowl, which was introduced in 2009, and will be available in the following colors: sunflower, scarlet, turquoise, lapis, lemongrass, shamrock, tangerine, cobalt, peacock, ivory and flamingo.

The dancing lady cookie jar will be available in scarlet, turquoise, sunflower and lemongrass in May and lapis in July.

"While the basic dinnerware serves as the foundation of the brand, it is unique items like these that Fiesta enthusiasts are drawn to," Brinkman said. "These are the pieces that become highly collectible in years to come."

 
 

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