French Goods for the Home: Introducing Flotsam + Fork

3 December 2013

If you’re like me, you reserve precious space in your luggage when you travel to bring back local food specialties. If you’re like Adrianna Fie, the extra wiggle room is needed for larger items like culinary stoneware and baking dishes. During her travels, Adrianna seeks out unique home goods that are largely inaccessible online or at shops back home. Having amassed a sizable selection, she launched Flotsam + Fork, a one-stop online shop geared toward kindred Europhile shoppers. Below, she talks inspiration, unique finds and the future of her new venture.

Who is behind Flotsam and Fork and what motivated the project?
Juste moi! Flotsam + Fork is mostly a solo project, though I do get a lot of moral support, pro bono editing, and errand assistance from my boyfriend, Joe.

I’m a seeker who borders on the obsessive, so I started Flotsam+ Fork as a way of sharing the products I have found during my travels and online perusals. I wanted to create a venue to promote well-made products that won’t end up in a landfill. For the longest time, it was impossible to find a natural bristle vegetable or dish brush in the United States. When I found Burstenhaus Redecker several years ago while working at a kitchen store in Madison, a light bulb went off. I knew there were more products like the natural dish brushes waiting to be found and those are the kind of products I am excited to bring to my customers.

What is the significance of the name?
Flotsam (as in Flotsam and Jetsam) is actually a legal term in maritime law meaning “the floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo.” I wanted something that conjured images of far away places, steamships and cargo, with “Fork” added to bring it back to the table and home.

You also carry a few products from Portugal and Spain – what are your plans for developing the site?
My plan is to continue traveling to find products and visit the regions and factories where they are made. I love the fact that Thiers is known as the center of blade making in France. It has been for five centuries, so if you want good French knives, you look in Thiers. I want to find more traditional areas of craft and manufacturing like the knives of Thiers. There is usually a good reason when a region is a renowned center of production—another example is the Loire Valley, where Poterie Renault is located, which has great clay for stoneware and pottery.

Where are you sourcing the goods?
Product ideas can come from anywhere! I have found products in local shops on my travels, or just prowling the far corners the internet. I source directly from most of the companies because few of them have much of a presence in the United States. It’s a challenge, but a really fun one.

What French items are people searching for most?
People are loving the colorful paringknives and peelers from Therias et L’Econome. The beautiful classic culinary pottery from Poterie Renault, especially the ovalbaking dishes, the stoneware breakfast bowls, and the Parisianpitchers, are also getting a lot of attention.

Will the boutique stay small or do you intend to continue adding products from each region?
Though I want to continue to add products from more regions, the shop will continue to feel small because I don’t intend to carry too many of any one type of product. Though I am focusing on kitchen and tableware at the moment, I hope to add sections for “bathing” and “children” soon!

You spent a month this spring traveling through France – what was most striking about this experience?
It was amazing to be able to spend a month in France, however, the month of May might be the worst month to try and get things done due to all the holidays (I counted 4 National holidays in May alone!). In fact, the Monday that we chose to visit Poterie Renault was Penticost Monday and everything was closed!

We went back on Tuesday and were able to meet Monsieur Renault himself, and get a tour of the factory in action. The factory has been in the same location since 1865, and it was easy to feel the history and tradition that they are a part of. It was wonderful to see a place where quality and tradition took center stage. It is my goal to continue to visit the factories and workshops where my products are sourced and bring these stories to my customers. Seeing the place where a product is made, and the people behind them, makes them so much more valuable.

Check out the Flotsam & Fork shop (there’s still time for holiday orders!), like the Facebook page and spread the word!