Musical Gold Mine Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! I just wanted to let all of you know how thankful I am that you are following my artwork and supporting our small team here at Cherrico Pottery.

As a full-time potter, I really appreciate all of your support. Whether you purchased pottery for your home, as a gift for someone else or if you simply shared a pottery Faceboook videothank you so much.

This blog post is dedicated to the five musicians featured in all of our Facebook live videosWriting and recording original music is incredibly difficult. Even just finding enough good music for one song requires countless hours of practice, sifting through a plethora of junk for just a few minutes of beauty. It’s like mining for gold.

These five bands pour their hearts into their work. They are all friends of mine and I’m honored to be able to throw pots to their groovy tunes so often. Please consider snagging a CD from them so you can support and enjoy their music too:


Dylan Mcfarling

Paul Spring

The Gibby Hibbies


As far as new pottery goes, I’m busting out fresh pots daily. Please stay tuned for upcoming deals, like our $49 Random Cosmic Mugs coming later this month. Please make sure to double check that you are signed up for our email newsletter here if you want to guarantee that you get a notice as soon as new Cosmic Mugs are available, as pots tend to sell quickly.

Thanks again and Happy Valentine’s Day! – Joel and the Cherrico Pottery Team

Photos by Caitlin Brutger and by Nicole Pederson

“…a good design in pottery is the product of tension or ‘dialectic’ between the demands of pure utility and those of pure beauty, and only a long experience and continual struggle enables you to achieve a successful fusion of the two.”

– Quoted in “Michael Cardew, a portrait” by Garth Clark, pg. 46

Follow the Leaders: The Search for 1,000 True Fans

Enter the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017) and you could win one of 5 Random Cosmic Mugs paired with one of 5 copies of “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss totally free. Tools of Titans is a compilation of nearly 200 interviews that I had already heard before reading the book. This story tells how the lessons and strategies from “Tools Of Titans” have helped the Cherrico Pottery Team and I during our search for 1,000 True Fans.

The reason we are giving away five copies of “Tools of Titans” is because the real world stories in this book have helped me and maybe they can help you. They’re incredible.

“The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast was the precursor to Tools of Titans. I’ve listened to almost every episode. Here is what I learned:

“Don’t take advice from anyone who has not been able to implement the same advice successfully themselves.”

– Tim Ferriss, quoted in his Podcast Episode #144

The reason we’re giving away five free Random Cosmic Mugs is because we simply want to spread more cosmic love here on our Pale Blue Dot. Over 100 Cosmic Mugs have already entered the world for free through our blog giveaways, by giving them out to my friends and by shipping free pots to important people.

You could call giveaways a “marketing strategy” but in some ways they are totally inappropriate and irresponsible.

“Money is to a business what oxygen is to the human body. Cash flow is the lifeblood of business. The bank pumps cash in and out like the heart pumps blood. Sales bring in money like the lungs bring in oxygen. In 2013 I experienced the terror of running out of money, which was akin to feeling suffocated.”

Quoted in my American Craft Council authorship: A Potter’s Journey: Launching a Pottery Business Venture and Fighting to Keep it Alive”

Businesses need revenue. Plain and simple. I’ve felt the suffocating pain of running out of money before. Why should we spend so much time, effort and money giving away free pottery when we need pottery sales to survive?

Since 2014, we have been shipping free Cosmic Mugs to people you might refer to as “celebrity influencers.” Our goal was to get our best pots into the hands of people who are already impacting millions of people in powerful, positive ways.

Here are just a few replies from folks who received Cosmic Mugs as gifts:

Many of these replies brought me to tears. Giving away free Cosmic Mugs let me directly connect with my heroes. If you own a Cosmic Mug, you are in the company of all of these people.

Giveaways are expensive, but they create incredible connections that impact the world in powerful, positive ways. Even with the high expenses, that seems like a worthy goal.

“You are the average of the five people you most associate with.”

– Tim Ferriss, quoted in Business Insider

P.s. Thanks for reading this far! I’m curious…who are people who have impacted your life positively? Scroll down to leave a reply here on our website and we will give you 3 more entries to the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017).

Image sources:

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chris Hadfield, Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday, Bryan Callen, Tim Ferriss

How Meditation Helped Me Set A Pottery World Record

Back in February, 2015, I read “The Obstacle Is The Way” just before setting the new pottery Guinness World Records title for ‘most pots thrown in one how by an individual, which you can watch in this Facebook video. This story tells how I trained my body and mind to achieve the feat.

“That looks so calming and relaxing…absolutely peaceful to watch… so soothing…”

Thousands of people watch my Facebook throwing demos and typically say things like this. I really appreciate the sentiment. Unfortunately, they can’t feel how pottery making is actually really tough. Ridiculously tough.

Yes it’s hard because it requires a lot of skill, but it’s also hard on your body. Hands, arms, back and leg muscles are tight. Slouching posture feels natural, but must be corrected to avoid back injuries. Intense concentration keeps pots flowing off the kick wheel, but the slightest error ruins the entire pot. Even when I get into a meditative rhythm after 10-20 pots, my mind instantly begins wandering, requiring even more intense concentration.

All of those stresses were amplified during the world record attempt, even causing me to throw out my back during practice.

Let’s back up a bit. For one full year, I practiced for the Guinness World Records title for ‘most pots thrown in one hour by an individual’ by creating over 1,000 of the required “planters” for the record attempt. Slowly and methodically these pots came off the wheel over many months of practice, on top of another 3,500+ pots that I needed to create and sell to make a living. Three weeks before the record attempt, I quickened pace, training like I was going to run a marathon.

Training began the day after returning from Japan. Tokyo, Kyoto and Mount Fuji were incredibly inspiring. Happily back to work in my pottery studio in Minnesota, I began training at full speed. The previous record holder from the UK beat the record on an electric wheel, but I planned to use my traditional, Japanese kick wheel. With no motor, you can’t just crank the engine and move your hands. It requires your full body.

“Awesome!” I thought. “It will look so cool breaking the record with a kick wheel. Let’s do this!”

I prepared 100 pounds of clay, sat down at the wheel and immediately, painfully threw my back out.

Handstands at Mount Fuji might have boosted my ego a bit. This was the second time I threw out my back from throwing too much pottery too quickly. Last year, I was in bed for two days straight and couldn’t make pots for a week. Fortunately, this time the lower back tweak was minor.

Two days later, I returned to training more carefully. 350+ pounds of clay were required for the record attempt and I couldn’t even throw one third of that. No more screwing around.

21 days after returning from Japan, I set a new Guinness World Records title for ‘most pots thrown in one hour by an individual. Here was my daily regime during that three week training period:

  • No alcohol
  • 10 minutes daily mediation using the free Headspace App
  • 2 hour workouts: 1-2 miles running before full body exercises guided by the free Freeletics App
  • 1 hour stretching: 15 minutes before workouts, 45 minutes after
  • 3-4 hours pottery practice

The mental strain was stifling:

  • “What if I throw my back out again?”
  • “What if I fail in front of 8 volunteers, photographers, reporters, kids, friends who drove 60 miles?”
  • “What if I miss a requirement and GWR rejects us?”
  • “How do I get 350 pounds of clay measured into 2 pound balls and moved 6 miles, up 3 flights of stairs. What if THAT throws my back out?”
  • “Not drinking sucks. I want a beer.”

Three things helped me conquer my mental demons:

  1. Meditation
  2. The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Arcadium, Jupiter and Mars

During his TED Talk video, Andy Puddicombe’s juggling and public speaking skills make the benefits of meditation self evident.

The Obstacle Is The Way was a “quake book” for me. Streaming it on Audible three times in three weeks helped me optimistically explore every possible way to conquer the record.

150 pots in one hour was the record to beat. One day before the attempt, I set up a stopwatch and threw 48 pots in 19 minutes. Do the math and you get one pot every 23.75 seconds. Beating the record required one pot every 24 seconds. I was barely scraping by and had to triple the throwing time.  Those margins were too close for comfort.

“When America first sent astronauts into space, they trained them in one skill more than any other: the art of not panicking.”

– Ryan Holiday

When I sat down to attempt the record, I had no idea whether or not I could beat it. Eight volunteers needed directions, 30 people were patiently staring at me and the 375 pounds of clay was sitting next to me, beginning to dry.

A stroke of good fortune hit. Someone randomly put on my all time favorite album: “Stadium Arcadium” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasted through the loud speakers.

The clock started. I wasn’t worried. I got into a rhythm and the flow started. For the next hour, the benefits of meditation were obvious. It was easy to ignore the huge influx of distracting sounds, questions, gaze of the crowd and bullshit doubts in my own mind. I found myself singing along to the Chili Peppers tunes. The rest is history.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

– Archilochos, quoted by Tim Ferriss

The “Wow Factor”

Enter the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017) and you could win one of our best Cosmic Mugs paired with a copy of “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin, totally free. This story tells how “Purple Cow” inspired the early formation of Cosmic Mugs back in 2014.

Seth Godin describes a “Purple Cow” as an example of something truly remarkable. Any person on the planet who happened to pass by a purple cow would exclaim, “Wow!” It would be worthy of remarking on.

The “wow factor” was how I described my art during college, before I ever heard of Seth Godin. It needed to help people feel a sense of awe. College professors urged me to explore abstract, sculptural art and the result was Mindscape: an art installation with over 1,000 abstract sculptures.

Sculpture doesn’t currently pay the bills. During college, I discovered that pottery could, but needed to change my path. One of the biggest challenges since has been trying to craft truly remarkable pottery that is capable of communicating a comparable, “WOAH!” as stepping inside 1,000+ sculptures.

Purple Cow helped me filter this energy into an original, gorgeous coffee mug, which evolved into the “Cosmic Mug” over years spent finding my artistic voice. Communicating the “wow factor” through photography was another obstacle we had to tackle, while switching from local pottery sales to online sales all over the world.

This photo has the “wow factor” thanks to talented photographer Nicole Pederson.

“If a narrative isn’t working, well then, really, why are you using it? The narrative isn’t done to you; the narrative is something that you choose. Once we can dig deep and find a different narrative, then we ought to be able to change the game.”

– Seth Godin, qtd in “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss, Page 239.

P.s. Seth Godin is also featured at length in “Tools of Titans” starting on page 237. Enter the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017) and you could win one of 5 Random Cosmic Mugs paired with one of 5 copies of “Tools of Titans” totally free.

3 Ways Pottery Speaks

Enter the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017) and you could win one of our best Cosmic Mugs paired with a copy of “Body of Clay, Soul of Fire: Richard Bresnahan and the St. John’s Pottery” by Matthew Welch. This story tells how “Body of Clay, Soul of Fire” was the original reason I got into pottery.

“The Taste of Clay” is a short film that gives a sneak peak into the St. John’s Pottery. Bresnahan tells how there are three ways a finished pot speaks, if you watch about 24 minutes into the video:

“It’s one third the artist, it’s one third the material or the making and it’s one third the firing.”

Let’s look at examples of this idea. This wood fired bowl was a boring, white color before it was fired:

No glaze was applied by hand. The white clay blushed red/orange from being painted with fire during a 4 day wood firing in the College of St. Benedict wood kiln. Yellow/blue spots of glaze came from wood ashes, floating through the kiln like 2,400 degree F. snowflakes of glaze colors landing on the pots. This bowl is 100% food and dishwasher safe.

“Body of Clay, Soul of Fire” is filled with photos of even more colorful pots. The book sat across from my pottery wheel all through high school. Copying the St. John’s Pottery shapes and colors helped me create my first 100 pots.

These “Oceanscape Cups” that I made early in college (almost a decade ago) show how I even pretended to wood fire when I couldn’t, by placing these cups in piles of wood ashes to create the blue colors and blushes of yellow that resemble an ocean sunset. They were fired in a gas fueled kiln, not a wood kiln.

“Oceanscape Cups” Stoneware, Fired in piles of wood ashes, 2008

Cosmic Mugs are inspired by these ideas because I’m still chasing gorgeous, gradated, colorful surfaces, even though they are fired in highly controlled electric kilns. By imagining the potter as only ⅓ of the equation, it gives me a sense of reverence for the amazing complexity inherent to the ceramic process. Perfect Cosmic Mugs are the product of 5 complex glazes layered onto Stoneware clay, the mysteries of 2280-2389 degree F. kiln heat and the touch of my hand.

“But an excited Bresnahan holding up a recently fired bowl and pointing at its surface has greeted many visitors to the studio as well. Eyes wide with childlike wonder, he exclaims with palpable euphoria, ‘Look at this. Just look at this!’”

Stoked. Forward. Page 14. Saint John’s University Press. Collegeville, MN. 2010.

Photography by Nicole Pederson

Cosmic Coffee: An Astrophysical Tour of Your Coffee Break

Enter the Inspirational Pottery and Book Pairings Giveaway (active until January 27th, 2017) and you could win one of our best Cosmic Mugs paired with a copy of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new book, “Welcome To The Universe: An Astrophysical Tour” absolutely free. This story tells how renowned Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson directly inspired the creation of my first Cosmic Mugs back in 2013.

Honestly, Dr. Tyson’s new book is complicated. He described is as, “A mile wide and a mile deep.” Math is the language of our Universe, and Tyson and his co-authors show you the exact equations used to investigate our cosmos. 100 alien civilizations are estimated to be communicating in our Milky Way Galaxy right now. This book shows you the exact mathematical equations they used to determine this number.

Fortunately, you don’t have to enjoy math to enjoy that fact.

As one of the show anchors said on this recent TV interview, even her nine year old would be astounded. “That’s mind blowing!” 100 civilizations are estimated to be active right now in our galaxy, which is just one of the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. Mind. Blown.

Cosmic Mugs were directly inspired by Dr. Tyson back in 2013, largely by his speech in this YouTube video during his critique of photography, Impressionist Painters and “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh:

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.