If I think back mugs have always played a large part my life, much like their contents... a good brew! A cup of tea and a nice mug really can solve anything.
As a kid I'd use the mug that came with that years Easter egg or the mug that arrived in my Christmas stocking, there was always a favourite at the time. (Remember those that changed colour with the heat?!)
(My current favourite mug and one of the latest additions. By Jack Doherty, I was a fan of his work when he worked at Leach pottery in St Ives but unfortunately I couldn't get one of the mugs I wanted... when I discovered his new standard ware range on our recent trip I had to have one!)
On a school trip to Disney it was a mug I brought home (granted I also brought a huge stuffed warthog home too... much to my mother's delight who gasped with despair when I appeared from the coach and asked why I couldn't have opted for Micky mouse like everyone else!)
So really... it's should be no surprise this mug collecting habit, it's been an underlying problem for years, but it took marrying a potter for it to manifest into what it is today.
Suddenly, when the potter and I met, I was being submerged into a world I'd never considered before. With a sewing background I was already keen on handmade but ceramics wasn't really something I'd given much thought. I was used to instant results, give me a machine and some fabric and I'll make you a top in no time. Where as pottery is a much longer process. There's a lot of waiting around and no guarantee it'll even be as you imagined it at the end.
It opened a whole new world to me. I no longer looked at novelty mugs, I was drawn to more considered pieces, handmade by individuals, pieces made in the UK keeping years of tradition going in factories that otherwise would be long gone.
(Adam Ross Ceramics- We both fell head over heals for Adam's style! We aspire to have a house suitable for one on his larger pieces, but for now a mug will filll our need)
Before I knew it I was buying these mugs, not only for their story- the maker, where they are based, pieces made and produced, why they opted for ceramics, but to add my own story and memories to a piece.
Mugs from Cornish potters- Our first van trip
-When we'd run away down South after an exhausting season in the cafe.
(We have a couple of these mugs by Chris Prindl that we bought on one of our many trips to Cornwall. I actually use this red one each Christmas for mulled wine)
Mugs from fairs we'd visited or exhibited at.
(Unfortunately Dove Street Pottery no longer produces ceramics which makes this mug even more special)
New York mugs- from -15c and inches of snow! The realisation that getting them home could be interesting in our luggage!
The tiny pottery in the South of France firing wood kilns in 38c heat that we stumbled across after taking a wrong turn.. almost destined to find it.
(These guys had such an impressive set up in the middle of now where in Southern France! They must have had 3 wood fired kilns, which the husband kindly gave a tour of one though our communication was limited by our lack of French and his lack of English. A beautiful little gallery attached to their home, the wife was busy packing up an order she was driving to a gallery in Paris where she sold a lot of her work. Something to aspire towards for sure!)
They all have their own stories and memories for me. Usable pieces of art, all made by hand, distinctive features, various glazes and techniques, an array of styles.
The vast majority of potters will make mugs. Everyone will need a mug at some point and so they are good sellers. They are the bread and butter pieces that pave the way to bigger or more experimental pieces.
I enjoy collecting mugs not only for their aesthetics, functionality, their story ready to add my own. But for the feeling of being part of something, keeping a craft alive, contributing to a passion and a way of life.
Whether that be tiny pottery in Southern France or huge company such as Bridgewater keeping a skill set kicking in central Stoke.
When we sell a mugs it feels as though someone believes in our business and is investing in us the same way as I do with other potters and businesses. When I reach into our (vast) mug cupboard for a mug I often like to check what that potter is up too now, any new pieces? It's a delight to discover a potter featured in a magazine or on an influencers Instagram and feel like we've been a part of that journey with them.
(The Glosters Pottery Mug, it took a fair few trails to get the perfect shape for the Glosters mug, Tom's pretty fussy when it comes to handles so it took a while to find the perfect shape, by far our most popular product. And perfect for large tea's to keep us all going!)
An important part of mug collecting is using them! Potters make mugs to be used... you will have bought it because you love it. Don't not use it, I use, or at least try to use, all of ours, of course I am scared of breaking some... there are few pretty pricey ones! But once as I knelt crying on the kitchen floor surrounded by broken cereal bowls I'd successfully pulled from the cupboard and smashed! A wise potter said to me (don't let on I called him wise will you!)
"Don't worry... breakages are what keep us potters in business!"
And so a mug is far more than 'just a mug' when it is handmade.
It's a story, a passion, a memory, keeping a craft alive and making someone a living at what they love to do.
If you're mug collector let me know, we could compare mug notes. Who's you're favourite mug by?