Fall might as well be called curl-up-on-the-couch-with-a-mug-of-something-warm season, because that’s all we want to do once the temperature dips and the days get shorter. Here at Etsy, we recommend breaking out the ceramics — pottery is having a serious heyday and there is nothing more satisfying to get cozy with. But what makes the perfect mug? In honor of our favorite cold-weather activity, we asked some of Etsy’s mug makers about the most important elements of their ideal vessel, and of course, what they like to put in it.
The one-of-a-kind characteristics of ceramic pieces are a large part of what makes them so appealing. “Each firing is different, so opening the kiln is like opening a giant birthday present every time,” says Liz Aldag, who makes simple, earthy stoneware in Durham, North Carolina, for her shop The Lulu Bird. “It never gets old!” And just as each handmade mug is unique, so is what makes someone fall in love with it. “I prefer a rounded shape so I can cup it nicely in my hands,” says Aldag. “And I like to see the raw clay somewhere on the piece.”
Letting the natural beauty of the original material shine is also important to Decatur, Georgia-based Anna Cole of Little Goats Play. Cole’s work features muted colors and she uses her fingers to create texture, an element she greatly appreciates when choosing her own vessel. “My perfect mug is one that lets me feel the warmth of the drink through the raw clay in my hands, yet find the smooth silky touch of glaze against my lips as I drink,” she says.
And of course, volume is important as well. For Lahla Deakins, the ceramicist behind Burning Fork Studio in Knoxville, Tennessee, it’s a crucial part of functionality: “[My mug] has to be the right size — a little smallish — to hold just enough coffee for me to finish before it gets too cold.” Deakins presses slabs of clay with lace before shaping her pieces and glazing them with vibrant colors; her mugs’ two-finger handles are another signature element.
Oli’s Cupboard creator Oli Divisova, a ceramicist in the Czech Republic whose work has an air of whimsy, makes note of the intangible element that might make you reach for the same mug over and over again. “It has to be really enjoyable to drink from — slightly thin edge, comfortable handle and full of good memories,” she says. “Once the mug becomes your favorite, it’s love forever.”
Hadley Sedgwick, who makes sculptures you can drink from for her Savannah Beach, Georgia-based shop Hadley Clay Studio, highlights how individual each person’s pick is going to be: “Much like art, you make a choice about what speaks to you,” she says. “Is it the image on the mug, the shape, size, color, weight? These are very personal decisions.”
So are the delicious things people decide to fill their favorite mugs with. For Divisova it’s hot wine that she enjoys in front of the fireplace; Deakins sips coffee with lots of cream while reading; Sedgwick sits fireside with her husband and some hot tea. As Cole mentions, a whole ritual can be built around a simple moment with a favorite mug: “I love to wake up early, before the sunrise, and pour a nice steamy cup of Earl Grey as I settle down into my comfy, overstuffed velvet armchair with my fluffy cat Lionel in my lap.”
Though Aldag likes to curl up on her flannel sheets with her laptop and tea or coffee, she points out that most moments can be made special: “A warm mug is just a home run on the comfort meter,” she says. “That’s one reason they make such good gifts — you can give someone a little bit of calm. Even a terrible day can be made better with a lovely cup of something warm!”
What makes your favorite mug special?
Lisa Butterworth is a writer and editor soaking up the eternal sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not on the hunt for the latest and greatest in girl culture as the West Coast editor of BUST magazine, she's flea marketing, taco trucking, and generally raising a ruckus.