In the Studio: The Meaning of a Dragonfly

The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world, symbolizes change, including the perspective of self-realization. It’s the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and understanding of the deeper meaning of life. To learn more about dragonflies, check out

The dragonfly was always a beautiful and mysterious creature to me in my childhood. Seeing this rare insect, would certainly make my day! Dragonflies symbolize prosperity, good luck, strength, peace, harmony, and purity. They’re strongly associated with air and water.

Several years ago while exploring in my studio, I decided a mug handle needed to feature a dragonfly. Consequently, this mug and handle design has become a regular vessel in my studio production. “How many dragonfly mugs do you have for us?” is a frequent question when delivering work to my galleries.

1 Throw a 1-pound mug, then carve the belly with patterns found in nature.

2 Pull a handle then create a ditch or groove in along the middle center.

3 Score and slip the top of the mug before attaching the handle.

Mug Process

Begin by throwing a round-bellied mug on the wheel using 1 pound of clay. Once leather hard, carve the belly, mirroring repeated patterns found in nature (1). Trim the mug in preparation for the handle.

Dragonfly Handle

Next, pull a handle, making sure to place a good-sized ditch or groove in along the middle (2). This ribbon-style handle works best to support the dragonfly attachment. Score and slip the top of the mug before attaching the handle (3). I like to embellish the base of the handle with a clay stamp to further the design (4).

Roll out a long coil and prepare a cup of slip made from the same clay body. I glob (technical pottery term!) slip onto the underside of the coil and place it in the ditch of the handle, letting it hang over the rim a bit. The coil will serve as the dragonfly body and the overhang is the dragonfly head. Press small lines down the outside of the body (5).

4 Embellish the base of the handle with a clay stamp or a carved design.

5 Roll out and add a long coil to the handle to serve as the dragonfly body.

6 Using a plaster mold of a shell, press out four pieces to mimic dragonfly wings.

Next, roll out a small portion of porcelain for the first wing. Press the wing into a bisque mold made with a simple shell impression (6). The linear pattern of the shell makes a lovely dragonfly wing design. Dip the tip of the wing in the slip then place it up against the body coil (7). Repeat this three more times, trying to allow the wings to gently touch each other making them more stable (8). I love how each of my dragonflies seem to have their own personality. Clean up the excess slip with a paint brush. Cover the mugs overnight to dry slowly.

7 Dip the tip of the wing in slip and slightly curl the tip up against body coil. Repeat this with the other three wings.

8 Allow the wings to gently touch each other, making them more stable. Photos: Process images: William Zoller. Fired pieces: Jafe Parsons.

Final Thoughts

Customers frequently call me asking if there are new dragonflies in the studio as they need a special gift for someone dear to them. It gives me a great deal of joy to know each dragonfly mug has a special meaning to the user, given their own interpretation of this lovely, graceful creature.

Nancy Zoller has been a professional potter and teacher for 40 years. She lives and works in Loveland, Colorado. To see more, check out


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