Cosmic Mug Giveaway, Laughing Squid Feature, and Mainstream Art Ambitions

Artists all over the world struggle to find ways to avoid attaching the word “starving” to their job title. For ceramic artists, this often means going to graduate school, becoming a professor, and building networks in academia. Recent industry polls (from the NCECA blog) show how 50% of ceramic artists are academics. Non-academics support their art by selling their wares, working part-time, and pairing with community art centers or galleries. These are all great options.

But are there ways to support art making that we haven’t yet discovered?

Our plan is to utilize the internet to face the “starving artist” fear by forging new paths that would not have been possible until recently. By trying to explore every possible connection through the internet, and then focusing on the few that succeed, we discover new ways to get pottery into people’s hands.

In case you haven’t seen the Facebook posts, Joel is giving away one Cosmic Mug each month to help spark interest in his new work. You’re reading this, which means you’re probably on the mailing list and automatically entered in the monthly random Cosmic Mug giveaway! If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll receive an e-mail asking for your address so we can ship you a free Cosmic Mug at absolutely no cost to you. And the first winner is…drumroll, please…

Subscriber #255: r******** YAHOOOO! CONGRATS! Thanks to everyone else who signed up! Keep your hopes up for your chance to win the next monthly Cosmic Mug giveaway, posted at the end of May.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 2.19.59 PM

Social media sites and blogs let us creatively market pottery at extremely low costs. More popular blogs expose Cosmic Mugs to people who might never have seen them otherwise, like the Laughing Squid feature that got 1,000+ social media interactions.

Laughing Squid, Cherrico Pottery, Facebook, Cosmic Mugs

We think it would be awesome to get Cosmic Mugs featured by mainstream media, where millions of people would see what beautiful handmade ceramics look like. Talk show hosts and their guests so often drink from boring, mass-produced coffee mugs. Wouldn’t a Cosmic Mug look cooler?

From left to right: Bill Nye (THE SCIENCE GUY), Boring Mug, and Chuck Nice

The internet allows us to build a network among celebrities. A few months ago, we started communicating through Facebook to people at StarTalk Radio. Their host, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, has six Cosmic Mugs in his office right now! The radio show has since evolved into a TV show, airing every Monday on National Geographic Channel.

StarTalk collage
StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson airs on Mondays at 11/10C on National Geographic Channel

#1 New York Times Best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss podcasts through the Tim Ferriss Podcast, and he also launched a killer, new TV show this week: The Tim Ferriss Experiment. Oh yeah, Tim also owns a Cosmic Mug!

Tim Ferriss, the Tim Ferriss Experiment, Copyright 2015

This week I am writing a letter to Bill Nye the Science Guy and sending it along with a Cosmic Mug and an issue of American Craft to the Planetary Society in California. We joined the Planetary Society, and we hope they will like the way Cosmic Mugs bring distant wonders into our hands, allowing people to experience the feeling of space.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with becoming a teacher or professor to support yourself as an artist – many of Joel’s greatest inspirations are teachers (shout out to Ben Carter – innovative educator and podcaster who you pottery people will love.) But we’re devoted to exploring new ways to find success in the ceramics field by teaching indirectly. Connections that started online have already brought Joel’s pottery into the hands of over half a dozen celebrities and astronauts: Neil deGrasse TysonTim Ferriss, Bryan CallenJoe Rogan, Brendan SchaubBuzz Aldrin, & Mike Massimino. Monday a Cosmic Mug not only goes in the mail to Bill Nye, but also to Matt Mullenweg. He created WordPress, which not only runs my website, but 23% of the entire internet!

Our global vision is to reach a tipping point that causes pottery to enter the mainstream eye. Stayed tuned…

Mountain Pots: Artistry’s Alliance with Nature

Copper Mountain, Jacques Peak, 2014 back cover

Last year for my mom’s birthday, I bought a Cherrico mug from the Minnesota Street Market in St. Joseph. She handled the mug, turning it to admire the unique aspects of the swirl and glaze. She turned the mug over to inspect the rough surface of the bottom and asked, “What’s with the dog?” I leaned over the table, first trying to see the dog that she was seeing, and then explained to her that the line drawing is Joel’s artist signature and is meant to represent a Rocky Mountain landscape.

Cherrico Image 16, Joel Cherrico Signature

Stoneware pots are seldom glazed over the bottom; the exposed clay is called the “foot” of the pot. The clay is vitrified, meaning it’s non-absorbent, so it does not need to be glossy.

The contrast between the raw clay and the smooth glaze makes the stoneware pots more interesting and dynamic than the clean perfection of mass produced, machine made ceramics. The rough texture of the foot indicates that the pot is handmade with clay and a pottery wheel, making each pot one-of-a-kind.


In A Potter’s Book, potter and author Bernard Leach explains how a customer familiar with pottery carefully turns the pot over to look at the foot, inspecting the clay and searching for the artist’s bona fides:

“There in the most naked but hidden part of the work he expects to come into closest touch with the character and perception of its maker.” – Bernard Leach. A Potter’s Book. Faber and Faber Ltd., 2011. Page 23.

Joel leaves his personal touch on each pot in many ways, but the unique mark of his artistry is most readily seen in the foot of the pot. At the base of his mugs and cups, you can see the fingerprints that were left when he dipped the pot into the glaze.


On the bottom of each pot is another set of fingerprints circling the signature. In fact, if you look very closely at this set of prints, you can make out the unique pattern of Joel’s fingerprints setting his identity as an artist apart from the rest. All of these marks created without any tools other than Joel’s hands communicate to the customer the quality of handmade pottery.

Pottery finger print, Cherrico Pottery foot bottom of mug, 2015


Finally, the artist signature itself which is accomplished using an iron oxide stain. The iron oxide is harvested in Spain and pulverized and sifted into a fine, red powder which Joel mixes with water to create a paint-like substance. He paints his signature during the glazing process just before the second firing.

Joel’s mountain range signature is reminiscent of Professor Sam Johnson’s, who mentored him during his time at Saint John’s University. Sam Johnson’s signature represents the flatlands of Morris, Minnesota. The similarity between the two signatures shows Joel’s artistic heritage.

You can find Sam Johnson’s work at

Sam Johnson signature
Finding inspiration from flatlands to mountain ranges

Just as Sam Johnson draws inspiration from the landscape surrounding him, Joel turns to the land to find both the material and inspiration for his art. Joel was raised in the Midwest, but his family made an annual tradition of visiting the Rocky Mountains. He still tries to find time every year to visit the amazing mountain landscape.

Joel’s most recent trip to Denver, Colorado

Standing before or atop a mountain influences Joel as a person and as an artist. The magnitude of the mountains represents his own entrepreneurial and artistic ambition.

In a podcast conversation with buddhists Vince and Emily Hom, celebrity Joe Rogan describes what it is like to stand before what he considers nature’s greatest works of art:

“There’s something about mountains that is so humbling…Your daily life and troubles are balance and perspective to the images that you’re seeing of the most spectacular versions of art that nature has created. That’s what the mountains are to me…Nature’s stunning works of art.” – Buddhist Geeks. Joe Rogan, Podcast 530, 2:14:05, conversation with buddhists Vince and Emily Hom.

In Joel’s most recent work, the earth is represented in more than just the natural materials and his signature. The mountains are etched into the body of the cups and he experimented with different glazes to capture the colors of the mountains themselves, the sky, and the tree line.

Mountain CupsPottery is an artwork inextricably linked to nature. The clay, the raw materials used to make glazes, and even the potter himself are made up of natural elements and all are required to produce pottery. But the artist can also draw inspiration from the way Nature produces her own works of art, which are often the most beautiful.