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Published Nov 6, 2023

I love Sam Momeyer's work! From the unique surfaces to the rough seams to the quirky feet, everything hangs together beautifully in one cohesive whole. Sam's work is a fantastic example of how considering every detail of your work makes it stronger.

In today's post, an excerpt from the November/December 2023 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Sam explains how they bring together a variety of techniques—throwing, handbuilding, press molding, and crushed colored clay decoration—to make their "Rock Candy Mugs." –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

PS. To see how Sam tops it all off in the glazing stage, plus see their glaze recipe, check out the November/December 2023 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated!

Big Rock Candy Mugs by Sam Momeyer

To endure the constant visual bombardment of the information age, I spend much of my time in nature in order to regenerate. The vast landscape of Montana reminds me to let the burdens of everyday life fall away until only wonder remains. I aim to infuse these more meditative moments into my pots. Their surfaces act as small landscapes waiting to be explored by sight and touch. They showcase the rich colors of the mountains ringing the valley, the stretched canvas of the Big Sky, and the orange lichen covering alpine rocks like layers of rust. 

I am inspired by many things, also present is the saturation of Saturday morning cartoons and the reminiscence of nickel candy from an oversized jar on a counter. My forms are reminiscent of the architecture of my Rust Belt childhood, the swoop of the local skatepark features; they can conjure up a Pittsburgh bridge or video-game graphics. It is through an amalgamation of color, texture, and form that I hope to make a landscape that is the refuge for the viewer. 

Forming the Rock Candy Mug Shape 

All my mugs start out as bottomless cylinders. One half of the mug body will come from a straight-sided cylinder and the other from a spiraled one. I enjoy the fact that this means that all my mugs have a matching partner out in the world. To add the spiral, wait until the thrown pot stiffens a little so it has structural integrity, then dig the corner of a metal rib into the pot and pull up while the wheel is spinning at a medium speed (1). 

Once the two thrown mugs are firm enough to handle, roll them in bone-dry bits of the same clay dyed with different Mason stains (2). Press the dried bits into the surface with a paddle while supporting the inside with your hand (3). 

1 Use the corner of a metal rib to create a spiral while slowly pulling up the wall. 2 Once it has firmed up a little, roll a mug in bone-dry bits of colored clay.

3 Use a paddle to set the bits into the softer-than-leather-hard surface. 4 Form a mug bottom with dried bits of clay in a slump mold.

While the mug bodies are firming up, start making the bottoms, feet, and handles so that everything can be a similar consistency or wetness/dryness once you start assembling. This will help prevent cracking while drying and firing. 

Staining Clay sidebar

Forming the Bottom, Feet, and Handle 

The mug bottoms are made with slabs and a plaster slump mold (4). Place more dried bits into the slabs before gently forming the slab to the shape of the mold. Compress the inside with a Mudtools red rib. The compression will also help prevent cracking. Allow the bottom piece to firm up in the plaster mold, enough to hold its shape, before removing it. 

Roll out slabs and use a Pac-Man-shaped template (inspired by Christ Pickett) to cut out the feet. Slip and score along the mouth, then fold and pinch the edges together (5). Press more dried bits of clay into the feet and wait until they’ve firmed up before cleaning them and texturing them with lava rocks. Store the feet in a damp box or between layers of plastic until assembling because they need to remain flexible so they can conform to the mug bottoms. 

5 Create feet using a template, then attach the seams to create a conical shape. 6 Press a coil of marbled clay, rolled in bits, into a plaster handle press mold.

I started press molding my handles because I wanted to be able to marble the clay and leave rough textures. Pulling the handles smoothed out the surface too much. Roll coils of marbled clay on dried-clay bits and then press the coil firmly into the handle mold. Slip and score the two parts and press together. After freeing the handle from the mold (6), I like to accentuate the seam (see 10) with the edge of a rib to leave evidence of the process and to complement the seam on the mug body itself. 

7 Texture the mug with lava rocks. These marks will pool the Mason-stain wash. 8 Paddle the bottom onto the body to compress the seam and make it stronger.

Assembling the Parts 

Assembly day is one of my favorite days of my process: it feels like mug Legos. Start by cutting the mug bodies in half with a knife and reattaching them to a half of the opposite type (straight or spiraled). You can add more texture at this point using lava rocks (7). They’re not the prettiest rocks but they make the best textures to catch pools of stain applied later in the process. Then slip, score, and paddle the bottoms on (8). Clean up the inside seams with a Xiem Tools rasp and a finishing sponge. 

Next, perforate the excess slab around the middle with a knife (9), and then tear it off to leave behind a nice, craggy texture. Use the corner of a Mudtools yellow rib to run over the seams to refine them while still leaving behind some of the rugged evidence of attachment (10). 

Take this time to look at the mug and see if it needs anymore dried-clay bits or pressed-rock texture to balance the surface composition, and then set it upside down on some foam to rest. 

9 Cut and remove the excess slab but leave a slightly rugged texture behind. 10 Run the edge of a yellow rib over the seam lines to compress and refine them.11 Trace the feet on the base where you plan to attach them. 12 Adhere the handle directly above a foot to ensure balance of the finished piece.

Each mug gets a set of tripod feet. Place the feet on the bottom of the mug where you want them to go, trace around the feet with the tip of a needle tool, slip, score, and attach (11). I use three feet because it’s the most stable number to prevent wobbling. I make sure to poke holes in the feet as there is a small amount of trapped air. 

Slip, score, and attach the handle directly above one of the feet, which provides additional balance and support (12). I add a small accent slab of a different clay color to both ends of the handle for a little extra color pop before attaching it. 

Then, put them in a damp box so that all the assembled mug parts can become the same wet/dry consistency before starting the final drying process. 

I bisque my pots to cone 04 to ensure all carbonaceous material is fired out from the clay body to prevent pop outs in later firings. 

Thank you to Shelsea, without whom I would not still be on this crazy clay journey, and for being the best personal editor and partner that a dysfunctional potter could ask for. 

Sam Momeyer is a studio potter working in Helena, Montana where they are a resident artist at Studio 740. When not in the studio they can be found skateboarding, snowboarding, or hiking with their dog, Rooster. To see more of their work, visit or on Instagram @momeyerpottery

Topics: Pottery Clay