Handmade Stoneware Mug Making - An Insight Into My Learning Process

Handmade Mug & Bowl Designs

This is a collection of articles documenting the evolution of my stoneware mugs range. The mug is one of the most personal pottery items, everyone has their favourite mug they couldn’t live without! That’s why I love making them so much.

My decoration styles have changed over the years. Currently I am enjoying making carved patterns in leather hard clay, and layering glazes to highlight the designs. If you are interested in buying stoneware mugs or other handmade tableware please visit the links at the top of the page.

New Handmade Mugs on Etsy. Copper Green and Light Blue Glazes look Great!

For the first time in ages I got some great looking handmade mugs out of the kiln. I’ve recently switched my clay to a smooth white type. My previous dark speckled clay was giving me lots of glaze problems.

I was a bit worried how my current glazes would look on the new clay. Some of the glazes actually look better on the new clay though. I did like how the speckles of my old clay looked under some glazes. I think I may be able to recreate the look by using speckling additives to the glaze.

Tapered handmade mugs in copper green glaze

 

The form of the mugs is new for me, just slightly tapered and with pronounced throwing lines. I tried out some slightly different sizes on the different coloured ones. I also varied the handle attachment a little, and the handles are intended for a one finger hold.

Bellied Mugs with Stamp decoration

I have a pair of these quite squat bellied mugs. They were made in the old speckled clay but turned out quite well in this glaze.

Handmade light blue 6oz coffee cups

Also from this firing were some smaller 6oz size coffee cups. I really like the shape and feel of these in the hand. I’m just not sure what demand there will be for smaller cups like this. It seems coffee sizes just keep getting bigger and bigger.

I may make some 8oz size cups in the same style at some point, maybe with saucers too!

These handmade mugs, cups and other pottery is now available to buy on my shop. It’s​ nice to finally have some pots I like enough to put on sale.

If you would like any mugs making specially, or the ones here have already been sold, contact me. I may be able to make some more for you, or do a custom design.

Pottery inspiration from butter & stoneware fluted mugs

I think I’m obsessed sometimes. The other night I was having trouble sleeping, with ideas about fluted mugs going round in my head. Often I have an idea for pottery at the most random moment.

By day I work as a chef. Usually I am so busy I don’t even have time to pee, but today was very quiet. I stood there looking at my butter pot and started scraping it with a serrated knife, making it smooth then ridged. Then I started making waves and all sorts of patterns. I was thinking how I could use the same knife to carve patterns in soft clay. When fired the patterns would make the glaze’s character shine. I Hope my bosses don’t read this and realise how slack I’ve been!

Designing new fluted mugs

I got home and made some delicious meatballs for the family dinner. Later on I spent a couple of hours in the pottery studio fluting mugs.

I began doing a standard sort of pattern around the base similar to mugs I have done before. Then I thought I would try some fluting in the neck of the mug. This time I kept the flutes very short, almost teardrop shaped. Finally I decided to angle a couple of these teardrop shapes together. I realise now they look like heart patterns, though that wasn’t the intention. I imagine some people will like them, hearts seem to be quite a popular symbol on handmade crafts.

This progression in design was possible because I had a dozen or so mugs to work with. That’s why I think it’s important to make quite a few of a form. Often it’s not until I finish the last one of a set before I find a design I like.

The state of the clay is quite important for fluting. You can see the one on the left has slightly wavy flutes because the clay is a little soft.

Slipware Mugs and Toothbrush Holder Decoration Techniques

I have been making a variety of slipware mugs and toothbrush holders. I have done some sgraffito through slip on some, one is a slipware butterfly pattern, and a couple have been fluted to have coloured glaze added after bisque firing. The fluting was done with the curved end of a hacksaw blade, I think I would do it when the pots are slightly drier next time. When the pot is soft the blade has a tendency to dig in too much and create rippled lines.

They are all a bit different in size and shape, I sometimes have an idea of what i want but it takes me a few tries to find the exact form. They will all do the job and I suppose personal preference will dictate what is seen as the ‘best’ in many cases. I normally try and set a standard size for things, this will be an average of the group here. As with all my experiments I’m sure some will turn out better than others during firing.

Slipware Mugs Trials

This month has been full of experimentation. I have previously had bad experiences with using brushes to decorate pottery. Bisque fired pottery is very absorbent and when I have tried to paint on it the brush doesn’t flow freely. I decided to give brushes another go but this time with slip on pottery that is still damp.

Pictured below are some mugs that I decorated on the wheel straight after throwing. I gave them a background of coloured slip, then used a brush to the remove the colour, leaving the clay body as the detail. The designs are grasses with the odd butterfly or bird floating around. The brush flowed pretty nicely on the wet clay and gave pretty natural looking lines.

I’ve been pondering how best to add handles to mugs with decoration the whole way around. Normally the top part of the handle is smeared into the body, but I thought this would look messy if it smears over the decoration. I’ve managed to attach the handles by just wiggling them next to the body, and just brushing around the attachment to create a strong joint.

Slipware Decorated Handmade Stoneware Mugs

I have recently completed some new handmade stoneware mugs. They were made on the wheel and decorated with vertical lines of slip whilst still soft clay. They were then bisque fired to cone 05 before being glazed. My previous mugs in this style just had a clear glaze over the top, but this time I decided to see what different coloured for glazes would look like over the slip. I am probably most happy with the shiney brown glaze over the black mug below. The lighter white dots on the black lines were done with white slip while the black slip was still wet.

I really like the rim on the mug below, it’s got a kind of cloudy blue look on the rim. This is due to dipping the rim in a light rutile glaze, which mixes with the main blue / green glaze during firing. I’m not so keen on the white slip lines under this glaze, the shade of green isn’t really my cup of tea.

The stoneware dark mug below hardly shows any of the white slip through at all. There is a very faint blue glow around the lines which I kind of like.

What’s next for my handmade stoneware mugs?

All the mugs are differently shaped, I was trying to find a form which I like enough to repeat, but I don’t think any of these are that form. As with all handmade pottery it takes a while to get your eye in, and settle on something that works well and looks nice. I have already made some other stoneware mugs that are ready to be fired which I think are possibly a better shape.

Iron Oxide Slip Trials on Handmade Stoneware Mugs

I’ve just finished unpacking my latest kiln firing and thought I’d share the results of my trials with iron oxide, and other metal slip designs. The slip has been made from the same stoneware clay used to make the stoneware mugs with, I simply collected the waste from the wheels waste tray, sieved it and added the required metal oxide to colour it.

I made about eight handmade mugs on the wheel for this firing, and tried out a variety of slip trailing and brushed on slip designs. My favourite design is this black iron oxide vertical lines one. To create it I used a slip trailer, placed the mug upside down and poured slip at repeating locations around the base, letting it drop to various different lengths.

The white slip on the stoneware mugs was created using a mixture of the main clay body mixed with some powdered china clay. I’m not very impressed with the designs, but I think something similar with some kind of coloured or variegated glaze over the top could be interesting.

I’m still getting used to getting the right slip consistency. It’s nice to have it stand out from the pot slightly but my white slip is too thick and protrudes too much off the pot.

I was less happy with my brushed slip designs. On one mug I tried to create a flower pattern, but they are definitely not pretty. I tried to paint some bird patterns on another pot which isn’t pictured as it also didn’t turn out very well. I have come to the conclusion that I am better suited to simple slip or stamped decorations.


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