Most of us have two categories of dishes: utilitarian pieces to use every day and good china that comes out only for the holidays. For something in between ? useful but still uniquely beautiful ? check out Robert Siegel's handmade ceramics.

Siegel is a California-based potter who learned his craft thousands of miles from home: in Jingdezhen, China, where porcelain was invented. These days, he works in a studio in downtown Los Angeles, where he makes every piece himself, in hand-stamped limited editions that aren't too expensive.

There's a nod to traditional Asian techniques in his work ? evident in each piece's hefty weight and wheel-spun grooves ? but the bright colors, extra-glossy glaze and clean, practical shapes make it all feel very modern.

Siegel offers several collections; our favorite is "Kauai", which was inspired by a trip with friends to Hawaii. It includes mugs, plates and even canisters and dipping plates, all in mix-and-match shades like royal blue, yellow, and orange ? a bit like an upscale take on Fiestaware. The palette's vivid enough to put you in a good mood, even during your first mug of morning coffee.

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