Creating the "Merle" Woodland Animal Mug
We as artists sometimes overlook the fact that you (our customers) may be unfamiliar with our process of creating the art you have fallen in love with and are purchasing. I'd like you to have a deeper understanding of my process and I'm using the "Merle" woodland animal mug to illustrate that process.
The idea for "Merle" first came came about because of three squirrels who live in my back yard. Often times, artists get their inspiration from their own experiences. My husband and I named the two squirrels who chase each other up and down our numerous trees, Merle and Shirl. The third little guy we named Lil' Merle because he's smaller and thinner than the other two and doesn't ever seem to grow any larger.
The first "Merle" pottery mug began from a lump of white stoneware clay, soft and malleable. The clay is wedged to extract air bubbles, similar to kneading dough when making a loaf of bread. It's formed into a ball that is centered on the pottery wheel and shaped into a mug shape. It always looks so graceful watching a potter throw and I can assure you it takes years of practice to make it look that way. The mug shape is cut off the wheel head and left to harden a bit overnight.
The next day the mug is in what is called a leather hard state and is returned to the wheel to trim a foot so it will sit firmly on a flat surface. A handle is pulled by hand and attached to the side of the mug. It's at this point that my favorite surface designs can be applied.
I hand draw Merle and Shirl on each side of the pottery mug with a great big bowl of acorns in between. They are constantly gathering and feasting on nuts in the yard! I use Amaco Velvet Underglazes to paint the colors onto the mug; three coats of each color. This is the part that takes the longest yet has the greatest impact. Once the underglazes dry I carve the details that bring Merle, Shirl and their antics to life.
The woodland animal mug is set aside to dry along with the other forest friends who adorn my pottery mugs. Once completely dry, the handmade mugs are "bisque fired" in an electric kiln. The bisque firing extracts moisture and gases from the clay hardening it in a process called vitrification. The final glazes, the interior color and clear outside glaze are applied at this stage and returned for a final "glaze firing." The glaze firing reaches a temperature of over 2000 degrees!
Once the kiln cools (usually 24 hours), the woodland animal mug is complete. However, the process is not complete without mentioning that the pottery mug needs to be photographed and a product description written up before adding it in the shop for sale.
You can see there's a lot of love and handling that goes into each mug before you take your first sip of coffee. I hope this helps you appreciate the work of art you've purchased and instills a deeper connection to the piece whenever using it.