Custom HLC Serves Up Authenticity, Playfulness at Renowned Rustic Camp

The Background

Camp Wandawega may be one of the most unusual resorts in America. Harkening back to an early-20th century summer camp, the property has a colorful history and turns its lack of amenities into a virtue. Fortune 500 companies and Michelin-rated chefs are drawn to the unpretentious charm of a place that brags about its uncomfortable beds, doors that don’t lock, and unpredictable plumbing. It even makes guests read a “Manifesto of Low Expectations” before renting.

When it earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, owner Tereasa Surratt wanted to mark the occasion with custom logo dinnerware. However, not just any plates would do. 

By day, Tereasa and her husband, David Hernandez, are both creative directors with an internationally renowned advertising agency. Design and decor are extremely important to the couple, as is making sure that items used at the camp are historically authentic from the period— roughly between 1940 and 1960—that they are trying to recreate. Every room is outfitted with period antiques, and the dinnerware needed to fit in, too.

The Camp

Located in Elkhorn, Wis., and just 90 miles north of Chicago, Camp Wandawega was first built in 1925 as an off-the-beaten-path hotel to serve alcohol during prohibition. The 17-acre spread has also served as a gangland hideout, brothel, and Catholic camp. Tereasa and David bought it in 2003. Since then, they have forged the unlikeliest of success stories by aligning with brands they love. Big corporate names rent it out for employee retreats. Others take advantage of its throwback charm as a backdrop for photo shoots. Chefs treat friends and co-workers to five-star meals there. 

The Process

When the time came, Tereasa dived into researching her custom dinnerware options. She knew the plates would have to be newly created, but wanted to match the look and feel of the target era. Something made in the U.S.A. was also a priority. When she discovered Homer Laughlin has been making dinnerware for well over a century, and offered custom plates, she knew she’d found a match. 

“I became so enamored with Homer Laughlin’s style of plates,” says Tereasa. “These are historically accurate to the camp in its heyday, made in the U.S.A., still hand-painted. The work is beautifully done.”

Because of her advertising background, Tereasa was more organized than most. She sent a brief that included her own version of the design she envisioned, the numerical code for the Pantone color she wanted to use, and she already had high-resolution digital logos to provide. Not everyone will have such a detailed plan before the process begins, and Homer Laughlin’s custom design team is able to work with as much or as little information as people have.

Tereasa ended up choosing Green Band Rolled Edge china as the canvas for Camp Wandawega’s logo. 

“I had a specific idea, and they were very accommodating. By applying the glazing after the logo is printed on, there is a little bit of bleed that happens, which is exactly what I was going for,” she adds. “It is more expensive and time-consuming, but I believe it is more aesthetically pleasing and has a more authentic look.”

“They even did a color match for me, finding the Pantone color the camp has been using for 90 years or more. When I got the sample, it was better than I could have imagined. Everyone was so lovely to work with, and they nailed the craftsmanship.”

The Result

Tereasa and David ordered enough dinner plates, bowls, soup cups, coffee mugs, and serving platters to accommodate 150 people. The Homer Laughlin dinnerware will now be used for dinner parties and events, in the camp’s common kitchens, and for food styling and photo shoots.

“Because they are branded, we plan to use them a lot, in many different ways. Just the bowl can be used in about five different ways. It’s very utilitarian and humble, but still makes enough of a statement to serve creations from some of the country’s best chefs.” 

Campers are raving about the custom dinnerware. “They comment on how heavy and hearty it is,” says Tereasa. “People think they’re vintage. And, well, they could have been.”

December 2018


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