Hand-Made Pottery - The Process
is Muggins Pottery made? Many of the stages in pottery production are
well-known, but what makes Muggins so special is the ability of Dan Moor
and Sean Keefe to impart character and style into every
The production of each unique Muggins item starts with high-fired stoneware
clay, supplied from Newcastle under Lyme. The clay is wedged and kneaded
by hand to remove any lumps or air pockets. When the clay is ready, it
is divided into specific amounts depending upon the item to be made,
eg pint or half-pint mugs, etc. These are then thrown by Sean Keefe to
produce the body shape for each item.
The turned clay then needs to dry to leather-hard. Drying is best done
slowly and naturally to prevent cracking. When dry, the item can be turned
to remove any excess clay from the base if needed.
Handles and legs are then added, and Dan Moor creates the face – typically
each face uses up to 20 individual pieces of hand-formed clay. Different
colours are used - white and stained stoneware clays for the details
of eyes and teeth. This stage also involves sculpting to obtain the unique
Muggins character. Each face is unique – even though Dan has made
over 60,000 faces throughout his career.
A second drying process is then needed - again, this is done naturally
and can take 3 to 4 days. The item is then fired to 960° C to harden
the clay. This is known as the biscuit firing and the pot is still porous
and quite weak.
Areas where glaze is not required are coated
in wax. Typically this
is the base of each item and the face. The item is then dipped into one
of the Muggins-created glazes. The wax stops the application of glaze
to the base as this would make the pot stick to the shelf when fired
in the kiln for the second time. It also keeps the faces clear - these
becomes unglazed but vitrified and non-absorbent.
The second firing at 1270° C is at a higher temperature than the
biscuit firing and vitrifies the clay and the glaze. Some designs use
gold and these need a third firing (760° C), adding to the production
costs – but it is worth it for the final effect.
It's only when the second firing is complete do you appreciate the full
character and beauty of Muggins Pottery. To see how one of the Muggins
kilns looks before and after firing, take a quick