In an era of mass-produced products and instant gratification, the art of craftsmanship often takes a backseat. Stiliani Moulinos, the owner of the ceramics studio Noble Plateware in Gowanus, Brooklyn, is working to revive this art through each piece her company creates.
Born in Athens, Greece, Stiliani moved to Queens at the age of eight, where she learned ceramics in art classes at her school. She went on to study ceramics at SUNY New Paltz. But it was the sense of community she derived from the art classes as a young immigrant that helped her along the way. “I went to a New York City Public School and was afforded the privilege of learning ceramics,” says Stiliani, “which not many people from my background are able to do.” With school budgets being cut and arts programs suffering the brunt of that on her mind, she’s developed her own way to provide access to the arts. Soon, Stiliani will be offering ceramics classes out of Noble’s studio and hopes to give back to a community of young artists in NYC.
Her journey to becoming the owner of Noble Plateware is both serendipitous and inspiring. In 2017, Stiliani began freelancing for Wynne Noble, the previous owner of Noble Plateware. When Wynne passed away in 2019, her husband offered Stiliani the chance to continue the business. She accepted, despite having “no money” and just “a plan.” This chance led to a new chapter in Stiliani’s life, with a passion for ceramics propelling her forward.
Stiliani believes that there is great value and accomplishment to be extracted from the act of creating with no interference from a screen interface. In contrast to machine-finished tableware, she approaches pottery with the philosophies of rugged construction and wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty in objects that are imperfect. The ceramics carry distinct characteristics that come from the artisan’s touch—no two pieces are identical. “I think that one of the great things about working at a place like this is that you’re making these really special objects,” says Laura, an employee glazing bowls. “And when each one is handmade and each one has all this time behind it, it kind of gives this power to the pieces.”
Noble’s main clientele is restaurants and the team enjoys working with chefs to create bespoke dinnerware that complements their culinary artistry. Given the variety of shapes and glazes, chefs get a chance to choose from around 1,800 combinations of customizable plateware. Stiliani hopes that through her work at Noble, people come to value the artform of slow, ethical, human-made, durable serveware over “designer” products with inflated values.
Next for Noble is a direct to consumer strategy. But for now, on occasion, Stiliani will take to Instagram and drop news about a pop-up sale at their studio. She is still surprised at how people have become repeat customers. “At this point I recognize everybody’s face and we have a lot of people that just love the brand, love the work, and it feels sort of like family, like you’re seeing an old friend at a reunion, every time you meet them.”
In the future, Stiliani plans on creating new designs and potentially expanding the line to include lighting fixtures, cool vases and home decor. She sees Noble staying put in New York City. “I’m from New York, I love New York,” says Stiliani. “We’re small and nimble enough so we don’t need a massive space and have a great landlord.” Stiliani also believes that Noble’s durable but delicate plateware is like a quintessential New Yorker—tough yet lovely.