Wednesday, October 1, 2014

That Little Old Mug Maker... Me

The first part of my pottery career was void of mugs.  I was more of a sculptural potter.  I tried my hand at making mugs, but was never happy with the finished form and handle.  So I just never pursued the mug.  A few years ago, probably close to 7 years ago, a group of potters that I belonged to had a "mug swap."  I wanted to be part of the event so I made some mugs.  They weren't as bad as I had remembered, so I made a few more.  Then I kept thinking about mugs and what I liked to have in a mug and my journey began, in search of the perfect mug.  I really got into making mugs and coming up with new surface decorations.  All of the sudden, mugs were a major part of my Etsy shop.  And, a major part of what I make.  If I'm going out into the Garagio, I'm more than likely going out to throw mugs, or handle mugs.  A good part of my clay time is spent on mugs.  As I throw each mug I try to improve my throwing skills.  I'm working towards a nice light, well balanced mug, with good form, a nice handle, that's pleasing to the eye.  Mugs challenge me like no other form does.  I hope that the day will come when I can sit down and throw a series of mugs that will be the same size and shape.  But that goal doesn't upset me that much, because each mug is slightly different.  It shows that a human was there instead of a machine.

Mugs are one of the most personal items that we can make.  We put our lips on the lip of the mug, we often fondle the body of the mug while enjoying our first cup of coffee.  I strive to make handles that will keep you far enough away from the body of the mug so you don't burn your hand, and that are large enough that you can get three to four fingers in for a secure hold.  I try to make the surface glaze decoration fun, with hopes that my mug will become one of your favorites - take it to work, live with it.

I've recently come to the conclusion that a switch in clay was in order.  After working with low fire earthenware clay for years, I made a switch to a high fire stoneware clay.  One benefit in this change is that the mugs will be more durable for everyday use.  Finally, I'm making a huge commitment to my pursuit of the perfect mug.  The high fire stoneware, is less susceptible to chipping, able to handle the dishwasher and microwave and also less problems with crazing (fine cracks in the glaze) as time goes by.

This switch in clay wasn't as easy as buying new clay.  The higher temperatures mean that the glazes that I was using for the earthenware clay either will change under the higher temperatures or cannot be used at all.  A major investment in new glazes was in order, as well as an investment in clay.  I had to go through some glaze testing to see how colors changed.  I also had to search out glaze charts that showed colors at the higher temperatures of cone 5.  Trying to match my earthenware colors was a real challenge and for some colors, like greens, I'm still in search of the perfect green.

So, I'm doing a good thing with this change.  I think that offering a product that's more durable and more versatile for every day use, has a value.  My next hurdle will be to land on a fair price that takes into consideration the added costs of production.   Pricing... the final frontier.

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