In 2004, Sydney food and coffee company, Manfredi Enterprises, commissioned NSW ceramicist, Roderick Bamford, to design a series of five plates for sale in Australia and for use in its restaurant, 'bel mondo'. Titled 'Triangolo', the set consists of a show platter, a dinner plate, a starter plate, a side plate and a deep plate, available in plain, coloured and decaled varieties. Sydney design company, Frost Design, developed two decals for the series, 'Liberare La Forma' and 'Serie Neve', as well as a multi-coloured design, called 'Capri'. This collection consists of a show plate, starter plate, dinner plate and side plate in plain white porcelain, as well as a show plate and starter plate from the 'Capri' range in 'crema' and 'aqua' colours. The entire series was manufactured by Monno Ceramic Industries Limited in Bangladesh, which produced a range of coffee ware for Manfredi Enterprises in 2004.
In late 1998 Rod Bamford was approached by Sydney restaurateur, Stefano Manfredi, and partner Julie Manfredi-Hughes, who were working with Piazza D'Oro Espresso with the view to launch a new coffee, Espresso di Manfredi. They wished to develop a suite of contemporary coffee cups in conjunction with the coffee. They also wanted to develop a range of tableware for bel mondo, their restaurant at that time, as well as for potential wider retail sales. Manfredi-Hughes explains:
'Ceramica di Manfredi was born of a desire to work with Australian designers, to create special pieces for the table that fill this gap between the established great classics and the low grade copies flooding the market.' (Press release, Manfredi Enterprises, 2001)
Bamford made prototypes for tableware at Cone Nine and an oil-dipping dish proved an immediate success. They used the restaurant as a laboratory, testing forms to suit the Manfredis' philosophy of food, which focused on the idea of a shared table and shared food - the triangular plates were designed to be used around a central large plate. However, the locally available clays proved not strong enough for the demands of restaurant use.
To make a range of coffee cups, Bamford and the Manfredis chose the Royal Thai Porcelain factory which developed a tough chip-resistant glaze and clay body for the purpose. Bamford sent rendered CAD (computer-aided design) images and profile drawings to the factory, and prepared a model and mould for each of the shapes and these were sent to Thailand to be copied. Representatives even travelled to Australia to discuss the process of making them. Royal Thai Porcelain produced the 1999 series starting with a run of around 20 (Powerhouse Museum number 2003/166/1).
Manfredi Enterprises then contracted a smaller porcelain factory, Monno Ceramic Industries Limited, in Bangladesh, and the company worked with Julie Manfredi Hughes and Bamford to modify the original designs for a new range of the 'Cup suite' (Powerhouse Museum number 2005/229/2). Bamford explains:
'It takes a while to establish a working relationship. Large companies would be able to immediately forecast issues in production, and advise [us]. However, they are only interested in very large orders. There's not a huge range of expertise in the small factories, and we had to make a number of compromises in order to maintain consistency - there's a very high rate of loss.' (Interview with Bamford by Grace Cochrane, 2006)
They made a presentation set of the 'Cup suite', called South Coast beach cottages, in 2004, featuring paintings by artist Reg Mombassa, applied as decals by the factory, and some of the earlier Manfredi table range by Bamford was then developed for production (Powerhouse Museum number 2005/229/1).
Following these experiences, Rod Bamford was keen to develop his own designs for production. When the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council announced the Maker to Manufacturer to Market (MMM) grant program in 2005, he proposed 'a limited edition range of hip, high-quality feature vase and bowl forms' for the high end of the market.' The Sonic loop and Serpentine bowls are the first series in this project.