Ever wondered how we make our Tiki Mugs? We thought we would take you on a little tour of our Pottery here in the UK to show you just that, so step this way….
The Britiki mug was one of our first Tiki mugs that we also ran as a limited edition, you can see me painting them here…
UK Tiki mugs makers are a rare breed, lots of producers are found in America but on British soil, there are very few and we seem to be the only manufacturers producing on a larger scale.
We began producing Tiki mugs in the UK back in 2004 with our Britiki. Having become well known for carving Tiki’s we were asked if we could design and make a Tiki mug. We scoured the UK to find a mug maker but failed in finding anyone that fit with our requirements, so we bought some books, scoured eBay for a second-hand kiln and rolled up our sleeves. This started a long journey as our knowledge of ceramics production grew and we are still learning today!
We use a process called slip casting which in simple terms is where a mould is created that liquid clay is poured into, this process leaves you with a ready formed cup shape as opposed to building a shape on a wheel.
To make our very own designs that are unique to us we start by sculpting the design, this is usually done in clay form but can also be done in plaster. This is an important process to get right because if the detail is too soft during the process of moulding you lose the detail in the final piece so the sculpt is usually exaggerated to allow for the softening of the detail in the mould process.
This is our new ‘Little Grass Shack’ Tiki Mug in the making…
The moulding process is something we now outsource but this involves a process of creating a mould that shows the mug in reverse. The moulds are made in pieces using 3 or 4 and they are made in plaster as plaster draws out the moisture in the liquid clay which leaves a skin. Each mould is usually only poured once a day, so we have multiples made to be able to produce more volume daily. Once we have the moulds, we can walk you through the process. This starts in the morning when a test pour must be completed to ensure the consistency is correct for the days pour.
We also make custom mugs for brands like this one shown here that is the mould for Peter at The Floating Rum Shack.
Our Tiki mugs are all made using British clay extracted raw from the earth in Stoke on Trent which is mixed in what is known as a Blunger with a recipe of silica and water produce our liquid clay. Once this has been confirmed then we commence pouring which must be done in one continuous period of time, no time for tea at this stage! Each mould is filled with the liquid clay and because the moulds are plaster, they begin to soak up the water in the clay, this process forms a skin on the outer edge of the mould, a process that can take a little less than an hour, the liquid clay left is poured out to reveal the skin.
This is our Flamingo Sharer drying
The mould is then left to dry further before the moulds can be undone. At this stage, you can see why the mould must be in parts so you can remove one part at a time taking care to ensure the soft skin is not misshapen in the process. When release from the mould, you can see the mug for the first time in its ‘greenware’ state.
This is our single Flamingo mug fresh out of the mould
Seaming & Fettling
The next process is called seaming where are of the seams on the mug are removed before allowing the piece to dry further overnight. Once dry each piece is then fettled, this is where any seams are smoothed using water and a sponge and if any of the seams fall across the detail then the detail is carefully restored.
Once fettled this is the first time the piece will be fired. This first firing takes 12 hours and reaches a temperate of 1000degrees and leaves us with a piece that is called the bisque. A mug in bisque form is then ready to be hand-painted and glazed.
The kiln ready for a bisque firing…
Hand Painting & Glazing
We have a variety of processes to decorate a piece, the first is a solid glaze so for pieces that are one colour. We then have a variety of tiki mugs that we paint with underglaze first and the rub off to create texture and detail within the design. Some pieces are hand-painted with underglaze they are then fired again before having wax resist added and their final coating of glaze, this can help us to create both detail in the piece and in the feel. A great example of this being our Shrunken Head Tiki mug where the bone through his nose has been painted with wax resist, which resists the glaze when the piece is dipped leaving the bone as raw bisque and feeling rough, just like a bone would!
Our Shrunken Head mug goes through 3 firings and has wax resist added to keep the bone unglazed
Limited Edition Special Effects
Then for the special limited-edition pieces, we can add an extra firing, you can see our new limited-edition ‘Captain’ who is first hand-painted with underglaze, then glazed in a glossy brown final glaze before having an on glaze transfer added to his hat that is fired on to the piece. The final details are then added with his gold buttons and edition numbers hand painted before his final firing! But that is why we call them limited editions, right?
Our new Limited Edition ‘The Captain’ being hand finished
The whole making process excluding the actual making of the mould can take up to one week in total so having multiple moulds is important to be able to make enough to fill the kiln each time and to fill lots of end-users with rum!!!
- We can make up to 2500 units per month in our current production facility.
- The final kiln firing fires the piece to over 1100 degrees
- Just one kiln is firing product for 3120 hours per year and we have two
- We use 25 tonnes of clay per year
- We ship more than half of the Tiki mugs we make here in the UK to America and beyond, our mugs are even shipped to Hawaii!