Interview: Peter Hames of Falcon Enamelware
England's timeless cookware company resurfaces with a fresh, yet classic twist on its iconic pieces
by Richard Prime
As with almost any design segment or discipline, the classics never go out of style. Be it a line of design thinking like Bauhaus, the never-ending resurgence and reinvention of pastel tones in fashion and interiors or, in some cases, a material like copper currently enjoying a welcome comeback.
In the kitchen, enamel has always been a fond friend, albeit one that has taken more of a backseat during the '80s and '90s, given a less-than-salubrious image as a lesser form of ceramic. Truth be told, the process of enameling is one of the toughest in the design industries—both in terms of actually making it glossy and seamless during production itself, but also in the resulting hard exterior capable of being knocked about without a chip here and there to show for it.
So, we're not surprised that Falcon Enamelware, founded in the Black Country area in the north of England in 1920, is experiencing a favorable second wind. Falcon is now releasing its iconic tumblers in limited edition Spring Green and Porcelain Blue, and we caught up with director Peter Hames, whose work has lifted this brand back into the public's design consciousness.
What made Falcon Enamelware such a household favorite when it was first released in 1920?
Falcon was one of a number of enamel brands which emerged in the Black Country at that time, but Falcon's classic colorway (white with a blue rim) made it instantly recognizable, and mimicked more expensive crockery. Of course, the fact it's pretty much unbreakable played a part too.
Why you feel it has been experiencing a resurgence lately?
Falconware is perfect for today—it's affordable, durable, has a clean, no nonsense aesthetic and, due to its long history, is familiar and comforting.
Enamelware itself is an interesting manufacturing process. Could you talk us through the various stages?
Enamelware is porcelain enamel bonded onto steel, which is what gives it its unique qualities. The form is usually pressed out of a sheet of steel, which is then dipped in liquid enamel and fired in a kiln. The colour is not the result of pigment—rather a chemical reaction that takes place in the kiln, involving particular metal oxides in each mix. As such, certain colors are less stable than others, and differences in temperature in different parts of the kiln can create variations in colour and tone. Once the first firing is complete, the rim is hand-painted, the crest added to the base and the whole thing is re-fired.
The design of the products themselves has not changed so much over time. What's the difference between dining habits now and when Falcon Enamelware was first founded?
It's true that the iconic pie-dish hasn't really changed, but of course we are all far more cosmopolitain in our tastes than we once were, with a more varied diet and less distinct meal times. We think that the humble pie, and the communal eating that comes with it, offers an attractive respite from all that.
Who are today's Falcon Enamelware customers?
All sorts. We are selling an increasing amount overseas—to the US, Japan and Australia.
To a British person, enamelware conjures up warm, nostalgic images of drizzly family picnics, freshly-made pies and the clattering of school canteens—to name a few. How does it feel to be sculpting more of those memories at home and abroad?
Incredibly exciting. It's a real privilege to be able to develop a legacy that stretches back so many years, and give it meaning for a new generation.
What's to come in the future?
We have some exciting products coming out this year; our goal is to extend the range beyond cookware, into fabricware for the kitchen, and soon into areas outside the kitchen—like lighting and garden equipment.
To purchase pieces online or in shops, see all Falcon Enamelware's worldwide stockists on the website.
Photos courtesy of Falcon