When American College of the Building Arts students were asked to come up with locally-themed lid designs for a rare collaboration with Le Creuset, they developed motifs based around marshes, swamp life and architectural details. But with the cookware company preparing to promote a Marseilles Blue hue, a lid featuring a compass symbol emerged as the obvious choice.
“We went backward and forward,” recalls Stephen Jones, Le Creuset’s marketing vice president. “It’s a very beautiful design, and has the resonance of linking two port cities.”
Le Creuset doesn’t frequently work with outside artisans, although it has previously commissioned designs from well-known names. Jones says he thought the ACBA would be a “good fit” for the lid project because its emphasis on traditional craftsmanship aligns precisely with Le Creuset’s brand. Additionally, Jones says Le Creuset, which runs its North American marketing out of a former seafood restaurant on Ripley Point Drive, likes to support institutions in its home communities.
“They were very receptive,” Jones says of the school, which made the proposal process a class project.
The lid isn’t being sold as a stand-alone piece; it tops a 5.5-quart cast iron oven. When it’s released for sale on Oct. 14, the oven will retail for $350. Le Creuset suspects the piece will interest collectors because of its back story; color and references to maritime history.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Jones says. “We have our fingers crossed.”
In honor of the company’s founding in 1925, Le Creuset produced just 1925 Mariner Star ovens. Le Creuset kept the first 10 ovens, one of which may eventually turn up in the display case at its Charleston headquarters; the oven bearing the final production number is on Jones’ desk.
“I’m not going to open it,” says Jones, who allows he might purchase another Mariner Star for personal use, even if it amounts to bringing his work home with him. “I have a big sign on it that says ‘Do Not Open’.”