The Truth About Cobalt Slavery in 2023: Why I’m Discontinuing my Bestselling Cobalt Blue Pottery

The video above explains everything. Cobalt human rights violations, which are happening right now and likely to increase, are unacceptable. I refuse to sit by and do nothing.

The best thing I can do to help solve these horrific problems is to talk about them publicly to our hundreds of thousands of followers, and minimize my use of cobalt blue.

I’m discontinuing this pottery, effective immediately, until further notice:

Nuka Cobalt

I will try to reformulate glaze chemistry to get blue without cobalt, but it’s unlikely I’ll succeed.

Blue Spiral Cosmic Mugs

There is also pottery that contains cobalt that I’m not able to discontinue today. For those pots, I’m working to reformulate my custom glaze chemistry to eliminate cobalt, but maintain beautiful blue colors. Those include any pot that has my custom “Oil Spot Black” glaze, specifically the “Cosmic” glossy black pottery, including all Cosmic Mugs and Moon Mug interiors for

Here is the exact glaze recipe for my Cosmic Mugs, with how much cobalt I use today.

Oil Spot Black, Cone 6-10

Silica 325 mesh 17.4
EPK (Kaolin) 8
Calcium Carbonate, High Purity 13.6
Custer Feldspar 47.4
Bentonite 4
Red Iron Oxide 8.1
Cobalt Oxide 2.5
Total 101

Some of my pottery will still require cobalt, like the Neptune Mugs, which I make about 100 of per year. But for the other 5,900 pots I make per year, my goal is to eliminate cobalt entirely. I can’t guarantee I’ll succeed, but I’ll try.

Do you know an ethical source of “Cobalt Oxide” powder available for purchase? Please reach out to us anytime if you discover any solutions to this problem:

Badass Books and F*cking Awesome Mugs:

Time flies. It feels like just yesterday Steven Pressfield and I began emailing back and forth. His books shook me, specifically The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Artist’s Journey. I asked if I could mail him a mug, as a thanks for his inspiration.

Flash forward two years and hundreds of emails between us. Steve is more than just a pen pal. He is deeply curious about where inspiration comes from, and how it serves humanity in the real world.

Steve and I share this obsessive search for meaning, through art. Steve, through writing. Me, through pottery.

Our shared curiosities culminated in a new website that we’re testing:

Steve’s curiosity even led him to discover a mug design in ancient writing by Plutarch. Steve has written about ancient Spartan culture in his world renowned books Gates of Fire, The Warrior Ethos and more. Researching Spartan battle equipment for his writing, Steven became intrigued by one passage from Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus. The passage is not about shields or swords or armor but about a common drinking mug.

“…the Spartan kothon or drinking cup…is especially valued for use on [military] campaigns. Visibly off-putting elements in [stream or river] water which had to be drunk were concealed by its color, while the dirt in the liquid was trapped in the lip, so that what reached the mouth for drinking was cleaner.”

That 2,000 year old quote, combined with Steve’s inspiration, resulted in a challenge. He challenged me to resurrect this idea, to recreate a modern day version of the ‘kothon’ mug.

If I had to sum up what I’ve learned from Steve’s writing, it’s that even though your source of inspiration must be pure and true, inspiration alone accomplishes nothing. It’s what you do with that inspiration that truly matters.

What are you doing in the real world? How are you contributing to society? How are you serving people? is our way of experimenting together. We’re testing how our work can serve people by inspiring them on their own artistic journeys.

Of course, it’s not for everyone, because it’s art, and all art is bound by constraints. I wish the mugs could be more affordable.

The art of handmade pottery is constrained by limited quantities. That’s why mugs must start at $100 each, because we chose to make everything here in the USA, in small batches.

Honestly, I’m surprised and happy we were able to get the price down to $100, thanks to a collaboration with Mayco Ceramics in Ohio for the, “CONQUER RESISTANCE” mug paired with Steve’s mega-best-seller (featured on Oprah’s Book Club and Joe Rogan’s podcast) THE WAR OF ART.

Most mugs are made in factories overseas, which is why you can get cheap mugs anywhere. You can get books anywhere too, and I highly recommend all of Steve’s books! You can get them on and wherever books are sold.

But if you’re interested in something one of a kind, something handmade in the USA, something uniquely inspiring…

Then might be for you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and to learn about our shared curiosities.


What Makes A Mug Worth $4,000 Or More

When I was 18 years old, I decided to dedicate my life to making a living as a full-time potter. When you commit to a creative calling full-time,  even when you’re not a professional, magic happens.

In five years, I went from barely being able to make a cylinder on an electric wheel to identically hump-throwing 100 cups per day on a kick wheel.

Left: high school, 2005. Right: a few month’s after college graduation, 2010. I learned a traditional style of pottery throwing that has been practiced for over 1,000 years.

Creative callings also compel you to study the best in the world, then seek them out.

I visited professional potters locally in Minnesota, and as far away as Shigaraki, Japan. I saw the same exact styles of “chawan” woodfire tea bowls, but made by potters worlds apart.

As I’ve written about previously, someone new to ceramics could easily mistake a $30 bowl for a $5,000 bowl, since they look almost identical to the untrained eye.

I’ve held both bowls in my hands. They were equal in quality.

At $30 and $5,000, both were a true reflection of the clay, fire, and the mastery of the hand of the potter.

The price difference had nothing to do with quality. It had to do with choices, interests and beliefs. 

I believe that becoming a professional creative requires that you explore what’s rare and valuable. It’s not required to make art, but I believe that it is required if you want to make a good living as an artist. Specifically, rare and valuable…

      • skills
      • relationships
      • objects
      • projects
      • decisions

Luck plays a big role in success. So does being born with the privilege and freedom to actually choose your career path. All of these reasons are why I’m still lucky enough to be making a living as a potter sixteen years later.

But, there’s no denying that people who have the guts to be bold, to explore uncharted territory, make new discoveries.

I believe it’s our duty as artists to try and create something new and good for humanity. It’s like that famous Bible verse, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

For these reasons and more (which I’ll explain in detail below) I’m raising the price of one of my mug designs to $4,000 per mug. The craziest part about this (and I’m well aware this might be crazy) is that it’s not even my most expensive mug.

Why is some art more valuable?

Most of our pottery has a retail price between $100-$500.  Anytime I’ve priced lower, it’s nearly impossible to keep our pottery stock because quantity is inherently limited with handmade art.

Higher prices guarantee that we never sell out. If someone needs a mug, they can get it shipped directly to them, quickly, anytime, anywhere globally.

But most people decide to purchase when we offer discounts, offering mugs below $100 for short periods of time, during batched sales.

12 years of pottery business has grown into a team of workers that my wife and I hired, and together we all make Cherrico Pottery possible. The goal is to get beautiful, useful pottery into people’s hands globally.

Shipping about 400-500 pots per month, directly to people’s doorsteps, is evidence we’ve done a pretty good job making things affordable. We do it in a huge variety of ways:

    • “Grab Bag” sales
    • Subscription pottery boxes and 50% off coupons to Patrons
    • Free newsletter sales, including BOGO sales, bonus handmade paper cards or shot cups, flash sales, holiday sales, etc…you name it, we’ve probably offered it.

I believe in offering affordable art daily, that people aren’t afraid to use and enjoy. That’s the nature of handmade pottery.

But I also believe it’s absolutely necessary to participate in the art world fully. This includes exploring the highest levels of what’s possible. $4,000 for a mug seems crazy, but that’s nothing compared to the literally billions of dollars per year in the art market that is regularly spent by art collectors.

That’s why when Sienna and I travel, we always try to visit art museums.

There is no substitute for seeing Jackson Pollock and Vincent van Gogh paintings in person.

The goal, first and foremost, is to simply get inspired. The colors, textures, shapes, concepts…when art brings out emotions, and you can feel something deep in your soul. That’s what makes art rare and valuable.

But it’s also important to understand what it takes to create art that is priceless and timeliness.

Valuable art should also be pioneering: world changing in the future, made possible from discoveries or breakthroughs.

The “Neptune Mug” does all of this for me. It’s the result of 20,000 hours spent in deep practice of the pottery craft. 

Colors are inspired by the gas giant Planet Neptune. I thought it would be a fun challenge to try and make drips move sideways across the mug, inspired by the horizontal spin and blue and white gas clouds.

Left: Neptune Planet detail, photo by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, 1989. Right: Neptune Mug detail from layering multiple glazes and raw materials.

Like going to outer space, the mug required solving an extremely difficult engineering problem. Two mugs are required to hang sideways, counterbalanced in the kiln, while firing to 2280 degrees F.


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Every time I successfully pull these mugs out of the kiln, I’m astonished that this is actually possible. A million things can go wrong. They took me years to develop, and making them is still excruciatingly painstaking.

But they consistently turn out beautifully, and I’ve consistently felt like they’re undervalued. So, I’m making a drastic change.  I’m raising the price of the Neptune Mug more than X5: from $695 to $3,995.

It’s the same mug as before. It doesn’t have anything special, like gold or diamonds. And it doesn’t take hundreds of hours to make each one, although it is an extremely difficult process.

The difficulty of making them seems proportionate to my “Cosmic Wall Platters.” They have been $11,995 retail price for years now, and we’ve shipped almost a dozen (at discounts).

If all I did was value my time, then this Neptune Mug price rise seems proportionate to spending about 1/3 the time it takes to create a Cosmic Platter.


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I’ve been able to teach employees to help with clay texture, glaze and gold leaf application to the Cosmic Platters. It’s similar to an orchestra conductor, or how Dale Chihuly directed his team of glassblowers to skillfully handcraft his vision. 

But the Neptune Mugs are so technically difficult…the shape, the glaze thickness, hanging the mugs in the kiln…that I doubt I’ll ever be able to teach someone else to even help create them without things going awry.


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Why Professionals Need To Explore

“The place that we write from (or paint from or compose from or innovate from) is far deeper than our petty personal egos. That place is beyond intellect. It is deeper than rational thought. It is instinct. It is intuition. It is imagination…We can work over our heads. Not only can we, but we must. The best pages I’ve ever written are the ones I can’t remember writing.

Steven Pressfield, “Turning Pro” page 118

I always keep a stack of “Turning Pro” in the pottery office. It’s great to give out to guests, but the real reason I keep these books around is because I’m terrified of becoming an amateur again.

The American Craft Council published a series of blog posts I wrote in 2014-2015 called, “A Potter’s Journey.” It detailed all my successes and failures of being a college kid who transitioned to being a professional potter immediately after graduating (even though I didn’t actually become a true professional until eight years after college).

The third post was called, “Conquering Art Major Anxiety.” I did a thought experiment to help clarify my career goals.

Think of your Art as a “vehicle” that affects the audience. If your Art was literally a vehicle, like a car, what kind of car would it be?

A reliable Honda Civic? An original Ford Model T? A hot red Mustang convertible?

My answer was, “a black Lamborghini.” Where the hell did that come from? I was a poor college kid. I’d never even seen a lambo in real life.

How long have I been trying to make the pottery version of this extreme vehicle, and why?

My answer probably isn’t correct, but it’s an honest reflection of what I believed then and still believe now: It’s important to explore what art can do at the highest levels.

Thoughts on How To Price Art

A helpful exercise when pricing your art is to consider the downsides of a high price:

I did this exercise after creating the first “Spiral Cosmic Mugs” in 2014, priced at $35 each. After the Cosmic Mug Kickstarter raised $34,099 in 2015, priced at $49 per Cosmic Mug, I began raising prices to meet demand. Today they sell on for between $195 to $225.

Whenever I raised prices, some people were always upset, yet the art always continued to sell.

What are the potential upsides of a high price?

    • you’ll improve quality, to create new art worthy of a high price
    • you’ll expand styles, to create other art affordable at a low prices too
    • The high end art might actually sell, because the world is filled with people looking for rare, unique art

Don’t get me wrong, raising prices is terrifying. Doesn’t matter if you’re raising prices to $100 or $4,000. Well I guess it kind of matters…because a $4,000 mug feels riskier.

What if someone drops it and breaks it? Well…I’m not sure. I guess it’s the same as if you break your Rolex or get a rip in your tailored suit or fancy purse. Do they have insurance for luxury clothes? Mugs might actually be closer to an expensive liquor, because if you drop it, it will shatter.

My hope is that this art is purchased by a person who fully understands the risks. Because at the end of the day, it’s just a ceramic mug, and broken pottery cannot be repaired.

Every high-end Neptune Mug will be shipped in a durable, protective case. So hopefully that will help people understand and really feel how they need to protect this mug.

I might decided to ship Neptune Mugs in a different case in the future, if I can find a more environmentally friendly solution that protects the mug just as well. Perhaps a handmade wood box, from locally sourced wood, with padding and fabric.

Let’s be clear: I’m raising the price because this art is valuable to me. There’s a big difference between MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) and fair market value, agreed upon by seller and buyer.

There is no guarantee I’ll ever actually be able to sell even a single Neptune Mug ever again.

70 Neptune Mugs for Patrons, 100 total per year

I always promise to give Patrons the best deals because they’re my “OG” fans, here from the beginning. It’s a community of collectors who trust us enough to be our Patrons every single month on a subscription– definitely worth giving them crazy good discounts.

Patrons can get Neptune Mugs by subscribing in the current $50/month or $250/month Reward Tiers. At the time of this writing, 18 spots are available in the $50 Tier and 5 spots are available in the $250 Tier. Tiers are limited, no more spots will be added in the future. 

So how many Neptune Mugs can I actually create?

    • 70 per year max, just for Patrons, because the Tiers are limited quantities.
    • 10 or so per year will be reserved for giveaways, totally free, to free subscribers at or 100% eBay charity auctions or other fun giveaways
    • 20 for me to have available to sell (even though they probably won’t sell) is a worthy goal

100 Neptune Mugs per year. That’s a DAUNTING task, but it’s doable.

Out of all the art I make, from tiny shot cups to huge platters and jars, this art feels like it has the most potential to change art history in powerfully positive ways.

July 1st Price Increase

At the end of the month (about two weeks from writing this) all Neptune Mug prices are rising from $695 to $3,995 per mug. I’m offering one final opportunity for anyone to pre-order a “Random Neptune Mug” at the $695 price today, right here (shipped in regular cardboard and bubble wrap, not the plastic case):

July 1st, 2022 I’m raising the price on all new Neptune Mugs that I create into the future, forever, even if they never sell.

If/when they don’t, I’ll simply move onto other projects. There are an infinite number of mug designs just waiting to be created.

Reverence for Exploration

Only one spacecraft has ever visited Neptune, giving us close up photos: NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, in 1989.

This photo is the only reason the Neptune Mug exists. I based the entire design off this one image. That is valuable and deserves reverence.

I believe there is power in crafting art inspired by discoveries in our natural world, and also the scientific achievements that gave us those discoveries.

Raising the price of my Neptune Mugs is part of exploring how to make scientific truths more mainstream, because I believe that would make the world a better place.

Hopefully, this belief is correct, and will lead to new and exciting things that are good for the art and everyone it serves.

“Science, scientific discovery, especially cosmic discovery, does not become mainstream until the artists embrace the fruits of those discoveries.”

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Origins Project

Why Artists Shouldn’t Avoid Politics

(estimated reading time: 8-10 minutes)

For years, thousands of people have regularly watched me handcraft pottery in live videos. I’m honored they find my art fascinating. But whenever I share an opinion unrelated to pottery, that doesn’t perfectly align with their worldview, people get upset.

It’s the same problem every artist, company, and public figure must face when they share anything outside of their usually scheduled programming. The dreaded, “Stay out of politics!” 

That’s one of the biggest lies in society today: that we all need to agree on everything all the time. And if we don’t agree, then we need to somehow cut those people out of our lives.

Art is a search for truth. I’m an artist, so I never shy away from tough topics. But as we learned in “The Social Dilemma,” social media companies profit when we argue. That’s why it’s our duty to be compassionate and open minded on our search for truth, especially when we don’t agree.

Why is there Racism in Minnesota?

Until recently, Minnesota wasn’t a place I really ever thought of as having racial problems. It’s in the northern United States, which fought against slavery in the Civil War. We even have the reputation of being “Minnesota Nice.”

But in the past 2 years, the New York Times published two articles about dealing with racial problems in Minnesota, both just a few miles from my pottery studio:

  1. ‘These People Aren’t Coming From Norway’: Refugees in a Minnesota City Face a Backlash As more Somali refugees arrive in St. Cloud, white anti-immigration activists have pressed an increasingly explicit anti-Muslim agenda.
  2. Two Chefs Moved to Rural Minnesota to Expand on Their Mission of Racial Justice

We live about an hour north of where George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, shocking the world.

For years, I’ve made it a priority to donate thousands of dollars of pottery revenue to non-profit charity causes I believe in. With that in mind, I decided to make art about fighting racism, as my first NFT.

NFTs are basically just new ways technology lets us make art. If you don’t understand what NFTs are, and why they’re important, you can learn more in this helpful Forbes article.

If my NFT sells, 100% of the primary sale will be donated to an organization that worked for racial equality alongside Martin Luther King, and who I believe still does good work fighting racism today: the NAACP. And if it doesn’t sell, it will still raise awareness about an important problem: the scientific consensus that shows how black people today are more likely to be killed by police than white people.

“Justice Ends Racism” RIP George Floyd, CryptoMug #0001

After I made this art, people were outraged. They said:

“Shame on you.”

“Stick to making pottery.”

“Ruining your pottery now!”

“Systemic racism does not exist.”

At first, I felt embarrassed. Maybe they’re right. Am I making a mountain from a molehill? I want my art to help people, not upset people. Maybe racism isn’t actually that bad.

That feeling didn’t last long. A month after I published my art, a white man was arrested just a few miles from my pottery studio. He crashed a stolen car into the house of a black family, after months spent harassing them for being black.

The Difference Between Racism and Systemic Racism

A few weeks ago, I was vacationing on the east coast. I met a kid named Dave (not his real name) while lifting in a hotel weight room. 

Dave walked in wearing jeans and a winter coat. He went straight to the big, pulley machine and proceeded to do one of those ridiculous lifts that instantly tells you this kid had no idea what he was doing.

Dave was all talk. He struck up a conversation with a girl doing sit ups. I was eavesdropping from the elliptical. The room was small, it was just us three.

Dave was…

  • 15 years old
  • a black kid from south Baltimore
  • skipping school with friends. It was a Monday night in a hotel 100+ miles from Baltimore

Dave had….

  • 9 siblings
  • already been arrested for arguing with a police officer
  • seen multiple people get shot and killed in his backyard
  • already shot a gun himself, in the city, while riding in a car with his dad

I looked at Dave and said, “Damn man you’ve got some crazy stories!”

Dave looked at me with shy confidence. I asked him to come try free weights. He grabbed two 20lb. dumbbells and sat on the padded bench. I walked him through 10 reps, showing him how to touch his chest with the edge of each weight, then clink them together at the top. 

“He looks like 50 Cent, doesn’t he?” I said to the girl. 

“Yea he kind of does, they’ve got the same jawline.” 

Dave said, “Who’s 50 Cent? Is he one of those dead rappers?”

“No he’s definitely alive,” I said. “He’s a businessman, worth about $100M. He grew up in a tough neighborhood, got shot 9 times, went to jail. But he read a lot of books. Now he’s a millionaire. You should read his book, The 50th Law by Robert Greene. You’ll love it.”

Then I left.

Fight Racism Through Empathy, Not Argument

Systemic racism is when people suffer from systems, like redlining, a racist housing practice that was common for most of the 20th century. Black people were denied equal housing rights, causing poverty and crime. Of course redlining is illegal now, but future generations are still dealing with the long-term consequences.

I’m not condoning what Dave and George Floyd did. Floyd was a crook, in and out of jail, from problems of his own making. And Dave needs to realize that his bad actions, even as a 15 year old kid, will lead to severe consequences.

But it’s also true that Floyd and Dave are victims. Yes, it’s possible to be both a criminal and a victim. Baltimore, Minneapolis, and how many other cities are still racially divided?

We’ve made massive steps in the United States to fight systemic racism, far more than most countries. But we need to stop pretending that we’re finished.

Fighting systemic racism is no more or less important than other problems. Yes, we need to provide better healthcare for people who are suffering. That’s why I donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Yes, veterans deserve more of our honor and support. That’s why I donate to Wounded Warrior Project.

Helping one cause doesn’t take away from another. You have to support all ideas that are worth solving, and approach all of them with empathy.

How to Reduce Systemic Racism Immediately

Legislate on African American Reparations

Most inner city slums in the US are mostly black communities today, hurting the descendants of enslaved African Americans. Reparations could come in many forms: housing, college level education, land, cash, or a revenue stream. None will be a perfect solution, but we should tests these options. Legislation on reparations is overdue.

Legalize and Tax Cannabis Just Like Alcohol and Tobacco

End the hypocritical stupidity putting people in jail for using a medicinal plant that is far safer than alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol kills millions of people every year.  Cannabis science has insufficient evidence of even a single death from overdose. Legalize it, regulate it for safety, and tax it.

This is a racial issue because black communities have been statistically jailed higher than other races, especially for non-violent crimes. They should get a profit share of cannabis tax revenue as part of reparations, like Native Americans get casino revenue.

Remove Columbus Day from the Federal Holiday List

A good system for judging whether or not to celebrate someone from the past is if they were good in their time, judged by the standards of their day, not just ours.

George Washington was a farmer who owned slaves, but he made the rare choice to free them, and spoke often about his desire to end slavery. He knew the topic of slavery would tear our fledgling country apart, foreseeing the Civil War before almost anyone. That’s why Washington’s ideas are worth celebrating, and his statues worth honoring, even today.

Columbus was an explorer, and exploration should be celebrated. That’s why we donate to the Planetary Society every month, and their mission to encourage space exploration. We should honor the deep, human need to explore. But Columbus was also a ruthless conqueror who tortured people for not bending to his will. We should celebrate exploration, not conquest.

Today there is a movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is a good mission. It’s true that most indigenous people were just as violent as Columbus, even amongst their own tribes and cities.  But it’s better to celebrate people who fought in defense of their culture, who stood up to conquerers. 

History is full of ideas more worthy of celebrating than Columbus.

For example, the 300 Spartans, who fought and died 2501 years ago at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Spartans were far from perfect. But they’re remembered for fighting against conquerors, sacrificing everything to defend the idea of freedom in the face of tyranny.

That’s why I make pottery to honor these ancient Spartan Warriors, in collaboration with world renowned author Steven Pressfield.

Art Before Business

Some people think businesses should stay out of politics to make customers happy. They’re not wrong, it makes good business sense. You’ll probably make a lot more money that way. 

When I designed a “Cosmic Mug” style Factory Made in China, the mugs helped us generate the highest monthly revenue in my company history. Affordable and beautiful. Win-win, right?

Not exactly. Even though this project was profitable, I ended it. I don’t want to participate in growing a system of factory workers doing hard, manual labor, when I believe it’s better to make art.

My decision was also related to fighting racism. That’s why I donated to the Uyghur Human Rights Project to assist with Uyghur people who are being oppressed by the Chinese government, as evidence from BBC reports. More remarkable evidence comes in this heartfelt podcast interview on Daily Stoic with Uyghur Refuge Ferkat Jawdat. The story of his trapped, tortured mother was enough to encourage me to donate to their worthy cause.

Art Should Be An Act Of Courage

The pot below was made by David Drake, aka “Dave the Potter,” an enslaved potter in the 1800s in South Carolina. Legend tells how Dave lost a leg because his owner beat him for inscribing his pottery with poetry.

“I made this jar for cash, though it is called lucre trash. – Dave”

As an enslaved person, Dave surely knew that any act of expression could have dire consequences. Imagine being so oppressed that writing a poem costs you your leg. He did it anyway. That’s why Dave’s craft embodies true courage.

I believe we should honor good ideas, and people who made worthy sacrifices. George Floyd may not have chosen to be a martyr, but his sacrifice is worth honoring because it represents bigger problems that we all have a duty to solve.

Politics will never be the main focus of my art. But I’ll never shy away from sharing ideas that I believe make the world better.

“Art Takes Courage” Giveaway: $562 value
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