The simple mug is one of the first forms I learned to make as a ceramics student, and it is the first thing people ask for when they want a custom made piece. And that’s understandable, sure. Who wouldn’t want a warm beverage from the mouth of an even warmer vessel that almost hugs your hand back when you drink from it? It’s certainly better than those cheap-o, cookie cutter cylinders you can get from HomeGoods… or worse: the dollar store! I mean, there’s just no comparison!

So earlier this semester, I got a request for a set of larger coffee mugs – mugs for a “man-sized cup of coffee,” whatever that means. (I’d be hard pressed to find a mug large enough for an Emma sized cup of coffee, but I digress.)  It was one of the first projects I set out to complete during this semester, but they are currently still sitting on my shelf waiting to be glazed. So disappointing, I know.

I used the request to do a little experimenting with proportions, handles, and slip application. I saw an issue of Ceramics Monthly (an incredible resource for amateur and professional ceramicists alike) with a feature about an artist named Brenda Lichman, who uses slip on the outside walls of her pieces to create craters where glaze can pool. On top of that, she fires her kilns with salt, creating all kinds of different gradients of color on the surfaces of her pottery. It’s absolutely beautiful!

So I tried my hand at some slip application too. Unfortunately, salt firing in large quantities is out of the question at Marywood’s facilities. Once you designate a kiln for salt firings, it is a salt kiln for life due to the reactions and deposits that result from the high temperatures. However, we do have a raku kiln that is fired up at least a couple of times per term, so I thought I’d see if I could replicate the results this way (or at least come close). Here’s what resulted from my test piece:


So some interesting information was gained from this piece. I’m not sure I like the results enough to apply the raku glaze to my other mugs that have been begging to be glazed, especially because the raku glaze is not food safe, but I am curious – what do you think of the results? Should I try to achieve the same kind of effect on my other mugs? How about color scheme? Should I try more earthy colors like Brenda Lichman has? I love the burnt orange. Let me know what you think, and I’ll let you know what I decide!

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