The first project that Isabel and I ever did together was a ceramic mug. We designed it, made prototypes, launched a pre-order, and sold way more than we thought we would. I spent the next five or so months making and shipping the orders. Aside from some early hiccups, the feedback was generally excellent. People loved the design - specifically the fact that the mugs stacked on top of each other quite well. I was very proud of this.
I had been doing ceramics part-time for a couple of years, ever since graduating college in 2018. I hadn't made mugs before specifically, but I had a solid foundation of knowledge that I felt would carry me through the process. Although I underestimated how difficult a mug is, I was able to deliver what I felt was a really solid product.
What drew me to ceramics in the first place is that no matter the scale or location in question, ceramics are generally manufactured in the same way. Whether you make 10 or 10,000, the manufacturing process is very similar. I liked the idea of learning processes that scaled.
The method of ceramics that the mugs require is called slip casting. It's where you pour what appears to be watered down clay into plaster molds. The plaster absorbs the water from the clay slurry creating a vessel. Once the desired wall thickness is achieved, the excess clay mixture is emptied from the plaster mold. This process is so cool because it allows you to create an infinite number of near-identical pieces. Great for a feature like stacking.
Although we've moved on from the mugs in many ways, Isabel and I still love the idea of making ceramics again soon. We want to find a great factory that can translate our ideas into functional products. Although I am proud of the ceramics that I have shipped, I know that a factory will be able to achieve a quality that I cannot reach myself. Beyond the form factor, this quality I speak of regards the fit of the clay and glaze. Factories have material science people who can ensure a perfect fit. So, when the clay and glaze are fired to maturity, the materials bond and shrink together perfectly without forming invisible stress cracks. Although functionally insignificant, these are the details that bother me about making pottery at home. One cannot closely enough monitor variables critical to uniformity and near-perfection. This isn't to say that homemade pottery can't be beautiful and functional, but I want to ensure perfection if we make products available again. Additionally, keeping our pieces in stock was nearly impossible when I made them all myself. This way, we'll be able to continue working on new designs and concepts while maintaining inventory.
I hope this post sheds some light on why we haven't made more mugs available. We were (and are) so grateful and surprised by the immense support and interest and hope to build on this platform soon!