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Smashing Success

Juliet Ames turns broken plates into art.

By Jane Marion - November 2016

Smashing Success

Juliet Ames turns broken plates into art.

By Jane Marion - November 2016

-Photography by Christopher Myers

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Juliet Ames has mastered turning lemons into lemonade—or, in this case, broken dishes into art. The 37-year-old Baltimore artist is the owner of The Broken Plate Pendant Co., a business in which she re-purposes dishware into jewelry and other one-of-a-kind pieces.

“When I break a plate, I don’t get upset, because at least I can make money from it,” cracks Ames, while sitting on the sofa of her 1926 bungalow with her 9-year-old son, Nolan. Ames, who graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary craft from Towson University, learned to turn trash into treasure while making a mosaic mailbox for her Govans home. “The shards were all so pretty that I couldn’t bear to throw them away,” she recalls, “so I made a necklace from them. At the time, I was working for the Howard County Arts Council and when I wore my necklace to work, everyone asked me if they could buy one.”

In the summer of 2006, Ames left her job to start The Broken Plate. She sells her wares in stores across the country, as well as locally, including Trohv in Hampden and JoRetro in Havre de Grace. Much of her business comes from custom work. (She also has famous fans, including Martha Stewart and Mario Batali.)

Recycling heirlooms has also helped Ames realize the power of the plates. “When you think about holidays and family celebrations, they are often over conversations you had while eating on those plates,” she says. “People get really attached to their plates and they take on a special meaning.”

For many, in fact, Ames’ art offers a piece of the past. “One of my customer’s moms had died in California and she had all her china shipped to Maryland,” she says. “When it got here, the entire box was completely smashed.” The woman searched the internet for information on how to fix a broken plate. Instead, she found Ames. “I made 20 pieces for the entire family, including a set of cuff links,” she says. “It made them feel so much better to give these pieces another life.”

Ames hasn’t always gone for broke, however. In the cobalt blue kitchen of her home, she has stacks of mix-and-match china on which she serves homemade sushi, roast chicken, and other dishes to Nolan and her partner, Jason Morrison. “I’ve always cooked, but after I had my son, I was stuck to the couch breast-feeding,” says Ames. “I got totally obsessed with The Food Network and cookbooks and food magazines. I couldn’t break plates with a new child, so this was a new outlet. Cooking was creative and allowed me to feed my family.”

Much like her artwork, Ames takes a mix-and-match approach in the kitchen. “I scroll through Pinterest all day long,” she explains, “and then mash all those things together. This recipe started as enchiladas, but then made it into shells because it was more fun.”

Clearly, her efforts are appreciated. Nolan, who reviews restaurants on YouTube (his moniker is “food dude”), is a big fan. “Her cooking is amazing,” says the pint-size critic. “The thing that makes her food so yummy is how well everything goes together. If the kitchen walls could talk, they would say, ‘Oh my God. It smells so delicious here.’”


Roasted Butternut Squash and Chorizo Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, cubed (about 5 cups)
1 pint crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground chorizo (omit for vegetarian recipe)
1 15-ounce can beans, drained
½ cup sour cream, plus a few teaspoons for garnish
1 15-ounce can enchilada sauce
1 pound box jumbo shells
½ cup cheddar
Optional: jalapeño and cilantro for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash, mushrooms, and onion on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, and roast for about 30 minutes. Let cool. Boil water, cook shells just shy of al dente, run under cold water, and set aside. Brown the chorizo in a skillet. In a bowl, combine roasted vegetables, cooked chorizo, black beans, and sour cream. Coat bottom of pan with cooking spray and ½ can of enchilada sauce. Stuff shells with veggie and chorizo mixture and place in pan. Drizzle top of shells with remaining sauce. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Top with a dollop of sour cream, jalapeño, and cilantro.





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