Making Mugs Like They Make Their Coffee...By Hand
by Sandra Sepaniak - Digital Marketing Assistant Sunset Hill Stoneware
Sunset Hill Stoneware has been making most of Iron Bean Coffee Company's stoneware coffee mugs for well over a year, and they're always pushing our creativity with mug styles and glaze colors that go where few dare to tread. However, opportunities for Fred and Chanell to see what goes on behind the scenes come only once in a blue moon.
In mid-February, we were lucky enough to meet up with our friends at Iron Bean Coffee Company at our production facility in Neenah, Wis. Fred and Chanell took the seven-hour trek from Iron Bean HQ in Toledo, Ohio so they could get a personalized look at how their specialty stoneware mugs are made. The results were unforgettable for both us and them.
Fred and Chanell arrived at Sunset Hill Stoneware's shop in Neenah bright and early on a Saturday morning. After discussing some ideas they had in mind for their next big holiday mug drop, we set the Dedricks up at one of our state-of-the-art pottery wheels so they could see for themselves what goes into making their mugs.
Sunset Hill Stoneware has a strict no Ghost-ing policy at the shop during working hours. However, we made an exception for Chanell and Fred since it was the weekend and we wanted to have a little fun to welcome them to our humble shop. While it was entertaining and we even had Unchained Melody playing on the shop's speaker system, they both learned very quickly that throwing pottery by hand is nowhere as easy as the professionals make it look. In fact, our stunt vase quickly and hilariously collapsed after a few more seconds on the wheel. That brought us to lesson one.
Forming the clay into its desired shape requires a deceptive amount of upper-body strength, let alone keeping the clay centered on the pottery wheel and preventing physics from taking over. As they tried throwing their first few pieces, Fred and Chanell quickly understood why Sunset Hill Stoneware's potters are so muscular in person. After creating thousands of mugs each week, it's only natural that your arms would get stronger.
Fred and Chanell also learned that water is your best friend when making anything from clay, especially when you're first starting out. Water helps the clay keep its shape on the potter's wheel, and it prevents the top from breaking off from the rest of the piece. During the first few pieces they made, they learned this the hard way.
Between balancing the amount of water in the clay and the torque it builds upon the potter's wheel, pottery is an art form that requires attention to the details of sensation in the fingertips and hands, along with a constant eye on the shape and position of the clay. Luckily, our master potter, Jason Sonsthagen, was there to help Fred and Chanell understand these factors first hand.
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