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Seattle's Rosanna Bowles of Rosanna Inc. has been dishing up tableware for more than 30 years. (Courtesy Rosanna Inc.)
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Seattle's Rosanna Inc. has been dishing up tableware for more than 30 years

"The Statue of Liberty, Carnegie Hall, The Guggenheim, and the Pope. We also design for the Pope," said Rosanna Bowles - THE 'Rosanna' behind Rosanna Inc., a leading creator and producer of tableware and home decor.

Her showroom may be in Seattle, but the items that are created here - including mugs, bowls and dishes - are sold all over the word. That includes one of the most important places in the U.S. - the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

"We needed to do something that paid homage to the families and to those that perished in 9-11, but also be joyful and uplifting," said Bowles. "This is our Survivor Tree Mug, and this is the number one selling item at 9/11 Memorial."

Their gorgeous designs are literally found everywhere - even 'The People's House.'

"We were asked to design for the White House Historical Association," she said. "The White House Historical Association was founded by Jackie Kennedy, and its purpose to perpetuate the history of the White House, [and] the first families and also keep the history and tell the story of the White House."

A love for family and traditions has always been important to Bowles, the CEO of Rosanna Inc.

"I grew up in a very tight-knit family and my mother was an amazing cook," she said. "She always set the table, every occasion. That sense of ritual and that sense of making everyday meals special is where I learned it from."

Bowles was just 5-years-old when a shopping trip with her mom set the table for her future.

"We used to go to the Oregon coast - my mother and dad and family," she recalled. "And when we were there, she used to take me around to antique stores. She would let me buy one cup, one Limoges French cup. So it started with this little collection."

And so it began. As a college student in Italy, the local tableware caught her eye.

"I was going to school, I spent my junior year in Perugia, Italy," said Bowles. "I saw all these gorgeous ceramics that are all hand-painted. And I said, 'Oh my gosh, these are so amazing, we don’t have these in America.'

An artist herself, in 1982 Rosanna started to design and import the dishes Italy, but things didn't go as planned.

The container of ceramics had been packaged in just wood shavings.

"I went to start opening the boxes and much to my chagrin, everything had gotten wet and all the wood shavings had stuck to the ceramics," she remembered. "I ended up washing 10,000 dishes - and that means taking tubs of hot water, from my little bungalow to the back garage, carrying it and and literally hand washing every single solitary dish!"

But things turned around. She started working with some large companies like Pottery Barn. Then - she went to a meeting with a small, Seattle-based coffee company - Starbucks. At the time, they only had six stores, and said they couldn't buy without approval from merchandise manager Howard Schultz.

Bowles doggedly tracked Schultz him down at a trade show.

"I had my samples in a little paper box with newspaper and a bungee cord and a cart, and I took it up to the Starbucks booth, met Howard," she said. "I took out the samples, and he said 'I love them. I’ll take a gross.'

She was stunned!

"I was like 'Oh no, all my inventory is all wiped out,'" she laughed. Since then, Shultz has been an amazing mentor to her.

"An amazing role model as an entrepreneur. He's just such a man - so full of soul and just so true to what he believes."

A testament to their long-term business relationship is the array of products designed for Starbucks over the past 30+ years.

They've created tableware for other big companies like Nordstrom and Pottery Barn too, but at the heart of this business is the gorgeous designs for Rosanna Inc. There are collections celebrating creativity and beautiful pieces devoted to brides, babies and much more.

Then there is the "Artist's Lofts."

"My daughter Francesca Rosati designed this. She is a senior at Rhode Island School of Design majoring in painting," said Rosanna. "We sat down together and she painted some pieces that are really reminiscent of post impressionism."

Her other daughter is also involved in the family business.

"She writes all the copy for all of the products and all of the insert cards," said Bowles. "She is an amazing writer and teaches at Stanford now. It is truly a mother-daughters collaboration in the way we design together."

For Bowles, happiness is creating lovely settings for making memories with family and friends.

"It's just wonderful sharing rituals that will [enrich people's lives] and sitting down at the table is one of the most amazing rituals we can do in life."

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