Creating Pottery Mugs – Techniques and Tips

How to Make Pottery Mugs

Our ceramic mugs start out as clay that is hand-thrown. After a few weeks the cups get dried and then fired in what is called a bisque fire.

After the mugs have been bisque fired, they can be painted using a variety of colors. When the paint is dry, they are again fired in a kiln.

How to Make a Pottery Mug

Mugs are one of the easiest pottery shapes to make. They are thrown on the wheel and then cut off at the bottom to create a flat surface. They can be decorated with a medallion and handle, and then they’re ready to fire.

Once the mugs are leather hard, they can be trimmed. This helps make a cleaner, lighter form and neatens up the shape. If the mug is a little wider than desired, it can be compressed with a wooden rib.

Slab building allows you to create a more complex and unique mug than throwing on the wheel. It’s best for those with intermediate pottery skills. Once the mug is bone dry, it’s bisque fired to convert it from clay to ceramic and ensure that it’ll be microwave and dishwasher safe. After bisque firing, the mugs are ready for glaze. This is where the real fun begins!

Making a Mug on the Wheel

After throwing the mug body, it’s left to slowly dry to what is called leather hard. It’s then trimmed and carved and a handle attached. It’s then ready to go into the first firing, called the bisque fire.

A coil of clay is rolled to add height to the mug. It’s then blended onto the mug. The cylinder will help reduce the risk of cracks in the bottom when it’s fired.

A foot rim is tooled into the base of the mug. This makes the mug stronger and more stable. The clay is then pinched to even out the mug thickness. At this point the mug is more like a cup than a mug as it’s now about 13 oz of clay that has been pinched down to 1/4 inch thick. It will shrink more when it’s fired. This is okay as we’ll be adding more clay later to make the mug bigger. The mug is then tooled around the edges to make a nice smooth surface.

Making a Mug with a Handle

For a mug to be comfortable to hold, it needs to be large enough for several fingers inside and the outside surfaces of the hand and knuckles to touch without feeling rough or uncomfortable. This explains why the bottom of a mug is tooled to create a hollow that gets rid of some extra clay weight.

A mug’s centre of gravity (COG) is generally close to the geometric center of the base and handle, but this varies depending on the specific shape. The COG can also change if the wall thickness or base thickness is uneven.

To make a handle, pull a slab from the rolled clay that’s a little thicker than your mug, then cut a strip with a needle tool or craft knife. Score the edges of your strip and add a drop of water to each scored spot before joining them. Blend the strip to the mug to give it strength. The handle should be a little wider at its attachment points and narrower below them.

Making a Mug with a Bottom

Sip your morning coffee or tea in this handcrafted stoneware mug with a square bottom. The unique design is a perfect gift for a friend or for yourself. The mug holds 16 oz of your favorite hot beverage.

To make a handle for the clay, start with a piece of scrap or extra clay and roll it up into an even coil either in your hands or on your work surface. Trim the coil to size and score both ends with water or slip, then join the mug and handle.

If you want your mug to look smooth, carefully blend up the coil of clay in the middle both into the body of the mug and down into the handle. For a more rustic look, try leaving it a little rough around the edges and adding texture with a tool like a spoon shape. Let the mug and handle dry leather hard before loading into the kiln to fire.

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