Developing A New Mug

Developing the new mug

The new mug is really developing very well. It is extremely exciting to be designing a piece of china from scratch! The making and designing of china has remained unchanged for generations. The mug we are producing is based on an old estate mug from Trelowarren in Cornwall. The original mug is not English bone china but earthenware. Sadly there are very few of the original mugs left, so to recreate this lovely smallish sized coffee mug in English bone china quite an achievement.

I only know of one model maker in Stoke (I suspect there are a few left)and he is overwhelmed by work.  It is a sad inditement that the china industry in Stoke on Trent is flourishing, but through years of decline we are loosing the skill set and knowledge from craftsmen such as our model makers, mould makers and china makers which make this industry so unique and quintessentially British. Today there only about 50 china makers left in Stoke – 50 years ago there were approximately 200.

We have made a block for the mug, but the handle is still slightly too thick and heavy. So now we are thinning the handle to ensure when the finished mugs are fired the handle remains solid and not hollow. I like my china to be made from one mould. So the handle is what the industry refer to as  “cast on”. China made abroad nearly always has a stuck on handle!  The traditional way to make china is from a three part plaster mould, which luckily for my china maker, we both love!

When we are all happy with the handle, the model maker will take this to the china maker for discussion to make sure he is happy with the finished shape prior to firing a sample. Every piece of china is made by a skilled craftsmen and no two pieces ever fire in the same way. Finally when everyone is satisfied that the mug will fire well, the model maker will make a case mould for the new shape. From this we will be able to make a few samples. The china maker fires these samples with a critical eye to see how they fire – do we need to make any adjustments or do they need to make adjustments when they fire? The caster, who fills the mould with slip will have his own way of making each piece of china. If the china maker is happy with the finished piece of china and only then, does the model maker make a master mould, the “block and case”. This will belong to Susan Rose China and can’t be used by anyone but us!  The model maker sends the block and case to the mould maker and from this he will make a number of moulds depending on how many mugs we decide to manufacture. Each 3 part plaster mould is used approximately 30 times before we repeat the process with the mould maker and make new moulds. So we will probably make 30 moulds to start our production of the new mug.

Stoke on Trent is a fascinating city, steeped in history and so much part of our national identity. Where would we be without these great cities who helped put “Great” Britain on the map?  We owe a huge debt to people such as the model makers Tim Perks and Andrew Henshall, Simon the mould maker from Ceramic 77 and Topaz the china maker. They are some of the few who are quietly keeping our great industrial heritage on the map.