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Published Jan 23, 2019

ceramic travel mugEvery potter knows how to make clay mugs. But what about making your own ceramic travel mug? Most potters I know just grab a regular mug (handmade, of course) and repurpose it for travel. But that can be a little messy - no lids! If you are tired of spilling coffee in your car, or feel bad about using plastic or disposable travel mugs, read on…

There are some important considerations you must take when making a ceramic travel mug so it actually travels and functions well. For instance, it must have a lid so it doesn’t spill, and it must fit into car cup holders. Lucky for us, Sumi von Dassow did the research and in today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archive, Sumi shares how to make one of the key components of a travel mug: the lid. I am so excited to give this a try! - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

P.S. Learn how to throw a tall cup with a gallery (and a perfectly fit lid to go with it) in Sumi von Dassow’s complete article in the September/October 2016 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid putting food in plastic containers. Sure,  some plastics are BPA-free these days, but what other nasty chemicals might be in plastic? Fortunately, as a potter, I can make myself all sorts of ware that I feel confident is safe to use. One of those things that is so often made of plastic is the travel mug. I don’t want to fill a plastic container with a hot acidic liquid and let it sit for hours. Even if you find a stainless steel or ceramic car cup, the lid is usually plastic. So, I gave myself an assignment; design a ceramic car cup with a ceramic lid that won’t fall off as I drive or carry it out to the car.

Adding a Locking Feature

Cut two notches from the gallery of the cup rim, exactly opposite each other (1). Next, turn the lid upside down, and, using magic water or slip, attach two small balls of clay to the base of the lid, exactly opposite each other (2). Smooth the balls on and shape them into points. Test fit the lid on the mug. You want the added balls on the lid to fit exactly into the notches on the gallery, then you need to be able to turn the lid so the balls slide under the gallery and hold the lid on if you try to lift it. Adjust the shape and position of the balls on the lid until the lid turns easily and there isn’t too much play when it’s in the locked position.

The last step is to cut a notch from the rim of the lid, exactly between the clay balls (3). When the lid is on, it can be turned 90° to line up the notch in the rim with one of the notches in the gallery, allowing you to drink from the opening. When the lid is turned less than 90°, it’s locked on but the opening is covered, reducing splashing as you travel with your full mug. The lid is recessed enough to keep your nose from bumping when you drink.

1 Make two round-shaped notches opposite each other on the rim’s gallery. Smooth and refine the cut out areas. 3 Carve out a notch on the rim of the lid between the added balls of clay for a drinking hole.

3 Carve out a notch on the rim of the lid between the added balls of clay for a drinking hole. 4 Attach a handle exactly between the notches in the gallery. Attach the bottom of the handle 7 cm above the foot.


Finishing and Adding a Handle

To finish the mug, attach a handle exactly between the cut-outs in the gallery. Make a mark 7 cm above the foot and attach the handle above this mark (4).

Dry the mug slowly with the lid in place. I glaze the mug rim and lid completely and fire the lid separately on stilts to avoid leaving unglazed areas that will get stained with coffee, but there’s no functional reason you couldn’t wax the gallery and the rim of the lid and fire them together. Be sure to use a food-safe liner glaze.

**First published in 2017.