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Designing the Monday Mug

Designing the Monday Mug - The Bright Angle

How many Mondays did it take to make our signature mug? More than a few. At The Bright Angle, we believe you deserve more than whatever comes off the wheel. In fact, the Monday Mug isn’t made on a pottery wheel at all. It was designed as a 3D computer model and formed in a mold. Here’s how we did it:

1. Use and Measure Mugs

The Monday Mug was designed to hold your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Our research involved drinking copious amounts of coffee and tea for many, many years. Collectively, we believe we have consumed approximately 500,000 ounces of warm delicious beverages. The Monday Mug can hold every one of those and more -- 12 ounces at a time.

Monday Mugs Handmade in Asheville North Carolina Image By Nicole McConville Photography

Monday Mug, Image by Nicole McConville 

2. Sketch and Dimension Prototypes

To start dimensioning the mug we decided on a specific size for the foot and lip. We wanted the cup to taper down so we could create a style of mold known as a “drop out” for the mug.

We also wanted the lip to be wide enough so your nose wouldn’t hit the lip when it was used. We can’t have you going about with a dot of coffee from the rim on your face. We gave your hands as much consideration as your nose. You see, when the human hand holds a cup, it doesn’t form a circle. The proportions of your thumb and fingers create an oval-shaped grip, so the Monday Mug is designed with this contour in mind.

How tall should the mug be? That question answered itself. We knew the size of the lip and the shape of the foot, and we simply connected the dots for a vessel that can comfortably hold 12 ounces. A 3D modeling computer checked our math.

3. Make a Series of Models

We sketched a number of different models and printed them out before we made the final model. The handle, we determined, should fit at least three fingers. It is also wide enough to slide your whole hand in there to keep your hands warm in the cool winter months. We pinched the handle into a form we thought would fit. When we got something we liked, we scanned the cross section into the computer and tweaked the shape for thickness. Our plastic model was born!

4. Make a Mold

To prepare the 3D-printed, plastic models for the mold making process, we sanded each model down and applied acetone to smooth out the texture. The Bright Angle team collectively decided that there was no reason to show the marks of the 3D printer. We didn’t want to leave the marks of technology. Instead, we were interested in the precision of the added facets, the ability to alter the form and ensuring it would hold an exact volume.

To make the drop-out mold of the mug, we glued the lip of the model to a flat disc that would act as our reservoir. The reservoir allows the cast piece to come out of the mold with a sharp lip with a consistent thickness. The handle we designed to be a two-part mold. Because the handle attachments curved in we placed the seam line along the spine and interior of the mold. In order to keep up with orders, we made master rubber molds of the 3 mold parts. We use a smooth-on rubber product that won’t break if you drop it. The rubber also allows us to make more molds of molds, so we can pour a number of them at a time.

Attaching a handle to a Monday Mug by The Bright Angle, Handmade Pottery in Asheville NC

Attaching a Monday Mug Handle, photo by Laurie Caffery Harris

5. Slip Cast

It takes a lot of time to figure out how long the slip (liquid porcelain) should be left in the mold to get the desired mug thickness. Mugs are meant to be picked up and held, so we wanted the mug to be light enough with liquid to hold comfortably but thick enough to keep the liquid warm and feel sturdy. The handle is cast solid. We leave slip in the mold until most of the water is absorbed by the plaster mold.

6. Clean Seams and Attach Handle

Attention to detail is important. We cleaned the form when it came out of the printer, and we repeat the process when it leaves the mold

7. Glaze and Surface

The fun part -- color. The Monday Mug comes in four signature colors -- two neutrals, blue and pink.