Cosmic Mugs: Pottery Inspired by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope

After creating my newest body of artwork, “Cosmic Mugs” with glazes inspired by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, I find myself asking, “Why?” Why try to show huge galaxies and nebulae on a small mug? I turned to mainstream science advocate Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson for guidance. During the Origins Project at Arizona State University, Dr. Tyson critiqued an iconic painting by Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night.

“I want and I need the artist to take me to new places, and the new place van Gogh took me is not the sky as it is, but the sky as he felt it. And the more of us that feel  the universe, the better off we will be in this world.”

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Photo by Andy DeLisle, Arizona State University
Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, photo by Andy DeLisle, Arizona State University
Cherrico Pottery Cosmic Mug, Hubble Nebula, The Starry Night
Cosmic Pottery Mug, “Emmission Nebula” (detail) captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and “The Starry Night” (detail) by Vincent van Gogh

Unlike a painting or sculpture, pottery mugs are meant to be touched, picked up and brought to the mouth and nose. How many other types of artwork do you actually touch with such intimate parts of your body? I want my “Cosmic Mugs” to communicate beauty like a van Gogh painting, while deeply engaging multiple senses. Why does art that hangs on a wall deserve more value than art that holds coffee or tea? I make these “Cosmic Mugs” to challenge that notion by letting people experience fine art in daily life.

How many brush strokes are in a van Gogh painting? Thousands and thousands! How do my simple coffee mugs relate when they have only a few brush strokes?

image 07, Cropped Cosmic Mug Spiral Gradated Background

Complexity is revealed in the kiln firing. Raw earth metals like iron, copper and cobalt are mixed with water and brushed onto the pot. Massive energy is needed to fire each pot to 2400 degrees F, melting glaze chemicals together into a hard, glassy surface. I give up control, letting the kiln melt glazes into an abstract painting that I can never fully predict.

image 04, Cosmic Mug, Pottery In the Sun on the Deck, Cherrico Pottery

Will my glazes ever compare to the complexity of a Hubble image? This photo of the Andromeda galaxy has 1.5 billion pixels and you would need 600 HD TV screens to see the true photo!

Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy

Looking closely at each pottery mug gives us a deeper understand of how Hubble images manifest as abstract glaze paintings. It shouldn’t look identical, but it should feel similar.

image 01, Cosmic Mug and Glaze Detail and the Star Cluster NGC 2074 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, Cherrico Pottery,

image 03, Cosmic Mug and NGC 4038 and 4039, Antennae Galaxies, Cherrico Pottery,

Image 14, cosmic mugs in front of magellanic cloud and planetary nebula

Cosmic Mugs are…

  • Durable: Stoneware pottery is very hard and meant to last a lifetime.
  • Functional: 100% non-toxic and dishwasher safe.
  • Handcrafted: I make each pot from a lump of Stoneware clay on a pottery wheel.
  • Complex: Every mug is brushed with up to 5 different glaze colors.
  • Earthen: Raw iron, copper and cobalt are harvested from the earth & fired in a kiln to 2400 degrees F to seal colors with silica glaze for non-toxic, food-safe surfaces.
  • On of a Kind: Each firing results in glazes that I can never duplicate exactly.

Cosmic Mug with Whipped Cream Coffee Drink and Hands and Red Nails, Cherrico Pottery

We can look closely with detail shots, extreme zooms, and even a microscope to get a better understanding of the subtle textures that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Cosmic Pottery Mug, Stoneware Glaze Detail, Cherrico Pottery, 2015
Photo by Marissa Deml

Cherrico Pottery, Cosmic Mug, Cosmos, Microscope, Pottery, 2015

Cosmic Pottery, Detail, Microscope Glaze, Photo by Jon Cahil
Cosmic Mug detail under 20X magnification, Photo by Jon Cahill

Even simply enjoying a cup of coffee outdoors in bright sunlight can reveal new subtleties.

Cosmic Mug, Handmade Ceramic Pottery, Cherrico Pottery, 2015

Fan Photography, Noska (1)

Hubble images are free for anyone to use in the public domain, as long as proper credit is given. I sent a mug to the Space Telescope Science Institute as a thanks for freely providing such beautiful images, and hopefully to build bridges between art & science. Cosmic Mugs, Hubble Space Telescope Institute, Cherrico Pottery, 2015

Stay tuned for just a few new jewels popping up in my online store in the coming months!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Instagram to stay updated with my newest pottery:

Cherrico Pottery, Instagram, 2015



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