A while back one of my customers gave me some feedback on a mug she had purchased from me that almost made me cry, it was so touching. She had purchased one of my handmade cups for a friend of hers who was losing her eyesight. She wanted her friend to have a coffee mug that she could tell by feel was her own one. Because my pieces are handmade, one at a time, each one has a different feel from the not-exactly-round shape to the way the handle fits in your fingers to the way I decorate pieces with carvings and alterations.

Even though a ceramic artist tries to make a series of pieces, like mugs, as uniform as possible, each one is going to be different. As we pull up the lump of clay off our pottery wheel, the pressure of our fingers on the inside and outside of the form dictates how thick or think the walls will be and how tall the mug will be. This will be different even though we measure out the same volume of clay for each mug.

Other variables include the shrinkage that occurs as the clay dries and the additional shrinkage that occurs as the pieces are fired in the kiln. With some clay bodies, like porcelain, this shrinkage can be as much as 17%!

Additional differences in handmade versus machine-made are the care and quality of materials used in the pottery. In my case, the glazes used I make myself so that I can control variables such as finish, durability, safety for eating and drinking out of them as well as using in the microwave and dishwasher. Also, each piece that I make one-at-a-time, has my full attention from the weight of the mug to the thickness of the rim you drink from, to the placement and feel of the handle. You also find small details such as embellishments where the handle is attached to the cup or a surprise design on the bottom of the cup.

When you stop into my physical shop in Steamboat Springs, you'll find signs throughout the gallery that say, Please Touch! I try to convey the feel of the piece in my online shop through many photos from different angles and close ups. Handmade truly feels different in your hands than something made so precisely by a machine. Check it out the next time you pull a handmade cup from your cupboard!