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mug design numbers

updated sun 20 jun 04


Ellen Currans on sat 19 jun 04

I don't think the measurement from my chin to my nose has anything to do with
making good mugs for other people. It appears to me that there will be quite
a variety in sizes and if I go by my measurement (58cm: I'm 5ft. tall) I
will make very bad mugs for larger people with larger faces. My experience with
years of making and selling lots of mugs is that people have personal
preferences based on other criteria. Some people like a small mug which only holds a
half cup of coffee, because they never finish a whole cup, or want to cut down
on their coffee consumption, or want it really hot when they drink it. I
make some that size and people are always delighted to find them. Then there is
what I call the "average" size which holds about 8 oz. of coffee and will be
about 4 inches tall by 3 inches in diameter. An even bigger mug I make will
hold about two cups of latte, and people with latte machines are excited when
they find a really big mug that isn't just a big fat clunker.

It is as much work to make the small mugs as the large ones, but I price them
for less anyway. People look at size and think smaller should cost less. I
make 80 to 100 mugs for each event I sell at and do so because I think it is
my duty and privilege to provide a really good mug for those people who can
tell the difference. A good mug is my entre into their lives, and they come
back to buy soup bowls, plates, etc.

I don't think you can price a mug by the labor involved and sell very many,
but other forms I make actually take less time and sell for more, so it all
evens out. For me, the goal is to have a well rounded inventory with something
for everyone, so old customers can find new items, and new customers have a
hard time making a choice.

I like to hear someone say that they love the mug they bought from me years
ago (unfortunately don't need another) and go all over the house looking for it
if it is not where it belongs. I feel I have done a really good thing when
someone feels that way about a simple mug.

I prefer fairly straight sides with a little flare out at the top which is
thin and feels good to the lips. I like to impress textures or patterns on
them while still on the wheel or leatherhard, and glaze all over in a smooth
glaze in a variety of colors. I know a purist will say that a good mug is a good
mug regardless of the glaze color, but my customers tend to buy the colors that
match their other tableware, so I try to please them. The bottoms have to be
sanded after firing. I like a pulled handle big enough for two fingers (not
touching the hot mug) and with a small tab on the top for the thumb. The
handle cannot be rough anywhere or it becomes uncomfortable to hold. Filled with
coffee it can't be too heavy to carry around, and it can't be bottom heavy, but
evenly thrown.

When you make your living from pottery as I do, I don't think making mugs as
wierd or unique as possible is the way to go. I wouldn't buy 95% of the mugs
I see in mug shows or books. They don't have anything to do with the quiet
enjoyment of a good cup of tea or coffee. And they are not the kind of mug
that brings you repeat, satisfied customers.

Ellen Currans
Dundee, Oregon

Who has made a lot of really ugly mugs in the 44 years I've been trying to
make good ones. It is still a challenge and maybe one of the hardest forms
potters make.