Cosmic Mugs, Cups and Vases in the Online Store

This holiday season, I’m excited to share a new style of pottery with you. My electric fired “Cosmic Mugs” are inspired by images of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from Real images of deep space galaxy cloud and nebula inspire my abstract glaze paintings over an “Oil Spot Black” base glaze, meant to reference the night sky. My stoneware coffee mugs are 100% functional, microwaveable and dishwasher safe, and available in my online store:
Cosmic Mugs, Oil Spot Black, Cherrico Pottery, 2014

Cosmic Mugs, Handmade Ceramic Pottery, Cherrico Pottery, Hubble, 2014

Cosmic Mugs, Cherrico Pottery, Star Birth Cloud, 2014

The online store is also filled with a variety of pottery in my Nuka glaze, made with ashes from the St. John’s Arboretum in Collegeville, MN. I’m selling pots as low as $10 each, and these pieces are colored with cobalt blue, copper green and gold iron drips:

Handmade Nuka Glazed Stoneware Vase, SKU #675, 9 inches tall by 6.5 inches wide, Image3 Green Handmade Ceramic Coffee Mug, SKU #617, Image 3

Handmade Blue and Green Stoneware Mug Pair, SKU #670, Image 1

Shipping and Mishandling: From the Digital Store to Your Doorstep

Anyone who’s flown with a commercial airline before knows the dread that accompanies handing off your luggage to the disgruntled employee who chucks your bag onto the conveyer belt without blinking. A similar leap of faith occurs with online shopping, when you enter your credit card number and simply trust that the product will arrive safely and soon.

Precarious pots.

Joel’s pottery is pretty tough. His mugs survive being washed and handled tens of times a day at the Local Blend. I won’t disclose how often my own Cherrico pottery cups get yanked out of the cupboard to be filled with wine and clanked down onto a coaster. Joel himself has no qualms piling up pots for one of his signature #potsonpots moments.

But that airport bag woman, that USPS postman, they just don’t care. One of my intern duties is prepping the pots sold online for their journey through this uncaring world. The last thing Joel wants is for a customer – be it a mother in Iowa or a celebrity like Ellen Degeneres – to open that package and find a broken pot. Not only does this make for poor customer service, but it also wastes time and money because a new pot must now be packed and shipped free of charge.

Yep, we really did send pots to Ellen. (And Neil, too!)

Another way Joel saves money in the shipping process is by following his blunt philosophy of: “I hate buying things.” Thankfully the unavoidable exceptions to this rule (tape, labels, a box cutter, etc.) are relatively cheap. Other materials he can find completely free.

The first step of shipping a pot is wrapping it in newspaper. We use regular old newspapers (free!) or a large roll of blank newsprint Joel got from a friend who works for a local paper (also free!). The last step of shipping a pot is putting it in the box. As many frequently-moving college students know, liquor boxes are a must-have. They’re plentiful, a convenient size, sturdy, and – say it with me now – free. The downside to using liquor boxes is they must be turned inside out because it is illegal for regular folks like us to ship in liquor boxes.

You are, of course, free to drink said liquor out of Joel’s pots.

What about the middle step? Besides frugality, Joel also pursues sustainability in the packing process – in the form of hundreds of egg cartons.

A few years ago, Joel connected with a local farmer named Everett. Everett had a deal with the recycling center to take the egg cartons they received. (Brief PSA: Even though many of them are made from post-consumer materials, egg cartons are not recyclable. Huh. Who knew?) As a chicken farmer, Everett used some of the cartons himself, but the rest he kept in his garage in massive stacks, knowing someone would have a use for them one day.

Carting those cartons.

Joel was that someone. Egg cartons are made to transport a product much more fragile than his pottery. They provide great cushioning and quickly fill up the box’s empty space without adding very much weight, which is paramount when paying for postage. Plus, two van loads of egg cartons cost Joel only one box of pots for Everett.

Mutual sustainable practices such as this are not new to our community. When Richard Bresnahan was founding the St. John’s Pottery, he was drawn to the economical habits of the monastery, especially the carpenters:

“He discovered they rarely threw anything away and carefully salvaged doors, windows, paneling, fixtures, and other hardware when structures were razed or remodeled. In the hands of Benedictine carpenters, such discards were given new life.” – Matthew Welch. Body of Clay, Soul of Fire. St. John’s University Press, 2001. Page 52.

Let’s say you decide to purchase a pot from Joel’s online store. (Maybe you entered his Shark Tank Pottery Cup Giveaway, and you wanted to give your anticipated prize cup a companion.)

I receive your order confirmation and find the corresponding pot. Inside a box which once protected bottles of Jameson, I build a nest of Everett’s egg cartons. The newspaper-wrapped pot gets snugly squeezed in and is topped off by more cartons.

Finally, I close the lid, without taping it for now, and shake that box like I’m a USPS delivery woman chucking it onto your doorstep because it’s the middle of January and it’s 40 below and I want to get back into my truck ASAP. If I don’t feel anything moving in there, I’ve done my job right. All the package needs now is tape, labels, and a lift to the post office.

A few days later, you’ll get to open that box and see your trust in online shopping fulfilled.

Shipping Packing Egg Cartons Joel Cherrico Pottery Pots Mug
Sweet, safe success!

Cherry Blossoms – April 5

On April 5th, from 6:00-9:00pm, come see Joel’s collaborative painted stoneware on display at Paige Dansinger’s “Cherry Blossoms” gallery exhibition in the Minneapolis Skyway Mall.


Gallery Paige is located at 811 LaSalle Ave in Minneapolis. The space functions as both a gallery and studio for Dansinger. A world-renown painter and digital artist, Dansinger was included in the museum exhibit, Gutai: Spledid Playground, Card Box, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC. She has also performed her artwork during residencies at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Boston and New York’s Brooklyn College.

Paige Dansinger, Artist Collaboration, Cherrico Pottery

For her current collaboration with Cherrico Pottery, Joel throws clay bowls, platters, and plates for Paige to paint on with glaze materials. He then brings the painted bisqueware to his studio in St. Joseph for firing, and returns the finished pieces to exhibit in Gallery Paige.

Collaborations like these bring Joel’s work in conversation with the larger contemporary art world. His work with Paige not only diversifies his art, but Paige’s paintings come alive on Joel’s 3D pottery surfaces, meant for display and as functional dinnerware. When it comes to the collaboration, Joel says he feels honored to create pottery as canvases for Paige’s iconic paintings.

Paige Dansinger, Joel Cherrico, Image 5

Painted Stoneware, Paige Dansinger, Artist Collaboration



Check out the process shots below to see how these two artists come together to make beautiful works of art:

INSTAGRAM Paige Dansinger, Joel Cherrico, Image
Joel first brings unglazed bisqueware to Paige’s studio for her to paint with glaze materials. Raw clay becomes bisqueware after it’s been fired once.
Paige then paints each piece using underglaze materials. Her paintings typically feature a pallet of bright, playful colors and images.
Paige Dansinger, Joel Cherrico, Image
After Paige paints each piece with underglazes, Joel brings the painted bisqueware back to his studio and covers it with a coat of clear, glossy glaze. This will give the finished pieces a shiny, smooth surface after firing.
Paige Dansinger, Joel Cherrico, Image 6
At this point, the pieces are ready for 2200 degree firing. Joel uses an electric kiln to fire all his collaborative painted stoneware.

 The finished pots will be exhibited April 5th at Gallery Paige in Minneapolis!

Finding a Balance in an Imbalanced Art World

Hannah Anderson worked as a “Pottery Marketing Intern” this semester. She is a senior Art major at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. In this post, she describes our semester long task of trying to define the role of pottery in the contemporary art world. 

Guest Posting by Hannah Anderson (view her Linkedin page here)

Throughout my internship with Joel, we had many discussions of “high art” vs. “low art” and where his pottery fit into the mix. High art, one could argue, is not functional for the consumer. Traditionally, the function for this type of art is to sit in a museum as a masterpiece, observed through this elevated status.  Low art is generally mass-produced, inexpensive, and far more available to the public. In my critical theory class, we discussed how museums have opinions on high and low art as well, and can influence how people view artwork by either appearing intimidating or more approachable.  

The terms “high” and “low” art should be reevaluated and adapted to today’s contemporary art world. Words that correlate with high art seem far too Renaissance or Baroque in feel, such as “master of art,” prestige, traditional, western, still-life, landscapes, portraits, and, my favorite, original.  This particular word poses the question: can high art even exist anymore?  I would argue that it certainly still exists, but not in the same light in which it was originally established.  High art and low art should be adaptable terms for each new generation of artists. Low art has synonyms such as: consumerism, production, affordable, advertised, ordinary, etc.  This is a challenge many artists face today, and it creates a huge imbalance in the art world. 

Joel poses the question, “why are we making and selling pots?” He gathers a lot of insight from potter Warren Mackenzie, whom also has a lot to say about art as a functional vessel vs. sitting in a gallery space. Warren is an 89 year old, world-renowned artist. He is most at ease with his work when he knows it is being used, handled everyday and looked at often. Pottery has the potential to be the most intimate of artwork, because it’s users have constant contact with it.  Clay is not expensive and is made from the earth, so when does it make the transition from low to high art?

Price plays a factor into what is high and low art.  Warren says “A 10 dollar pot, now that’s affordable.”  He says that if it breaks, then it is not a huge loss.  This is interesting coming from a renowned artist, because his philosophy conflicts with his position in the art world; his pots resell on for hundreds of dollars everyday. Mackenzie says, “Unfortunately, now I only sell through galleries.” His philosophy seems more focused on low art, but his standing is high.

Bernard Leach, A Potter's Book, 1940, Joel Cherrico Pottery
Bernard Leach, “A Potter’s Book” 1940 – Pottery mentor to Warren Mackenzie

I like to think that many artists in today’s art world present a mix of high and low art, and it is perhaps just difficult to find the balance.  Right now, an imbalance is evident in Joel’s artwork. His pottery is functional, consumer-friendly, priced lower than most professional potters, and is meant to bring a comfortable aesthetic to anyone’s home. His online store is in contrast with this idea, because we take a high art approach by using professional photography equipment to shoot pots in front of a gradated background. We then use these photos to try and join the contemporary art world.

I wonder, is the Local Blend pottery high or low art? At the Local Blend coffee shop, they use Joel’s pottery in mass, so anyone can eat and drink from his pottery everyday. This seems much closer to low art to me. We take the same pots and put them in front of a gradated background, making them high art in a different atmosphere.  Without a little low art, high art wouldn’t be possible, since the Blend is where most of Joel’s income is generated. Writing about this venue has also brought him some of his biggest successes in the art world, including 2 major magazine publications. Perhaps these everyday pots will someday be elevated to a high art status?

Low art is what’s paying the bills, yet in the future, Joel wants to support his livelihood with a balance between low and high art. This means more of his income needs to be generated from our work on the online store. One way we accomplished this was by branding his artwork in a more focused way, using one glaze: the Nuka Glaze with iron. Nuka with iron had a great deal of success for Joel throughout my internship, enough for him to narrow his focus toward solely that glaze. Currently the online store has less Nuka with Iron than Joel would like, and his future plans are to recreate his online store geared toward pottery of only that glaze type.  Over 50% of the online sales were Nuka with iron, and Joel sold pots with this glaze type to five different people both locally and nationally in one week. He has also completed 4 dinnerware sets in this glaze, 2 of which were sold through wedding registries. We see huge potential in this glaze combination.

IronDippedWineCups, SKU#326, Image 2

Nuka Glaze with Iron, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2013 Nuka Glaze with Iron Stoneware Mug, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2013

This branding was influenced by Ayumi Horie, who certainly has a recognized, established, successful brand for herself. Her style is easily recognizable on every pot. Her artwork sells at high prices online and is always sold out in less than a day. Moreover, Horie has earned her place in the art world through years of consistent craftsmanship, a huge resume, and skillfully writing about her craft in major publications.

Our experience with high art continued through Paige Dansinger– an internationally renowned painter and art historian who is collaborating with Joel. She makes high art in the form of painting on canvas, digital paintings on IPads, projections, performance, and most recently, painting with glazes on Joel’s pottery. During my internship, she opened a gallery in the Minneapolis Skyway Mall called Gallery Paige. Everyday, she exhibits and sells her artwork as high art. The collaborative work made by herself and Joel has huge potential to take off in the high art world.

BlogPostImage1  Handmade_Painted_Plates_Paige_Dansinger_and_Joel_Cherrico_Artist_Collaboration_SKU_317_Image_1__50351.1381113981.235.275Paige Dansinger Painting on Plates, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Handmade Ceramic Painted Plates


To conclude, perhaps in today’s world, the balance needs to be found in the middle of the spectrum between high art and low art.  Are the best artists those who spend their time making both high and low art? One could argue that they can reach the most amount of people that way.  Because that in fact is what art is all about: reaching the most amount of people with a particular message. The meaning of art and its purpose to be seen can easily get lost when identifying it as either high or low.  As renowned potter Bernard Leach said, “To me the greatest thing is to live beauty in our daily life and to crowd every moment with things of beauty. It is then, and then only, that the art of the people as a whole is endowed with its richest significance.”

Pottery Business Trip: Stamped Mugs for Duluth Coffee Company, Artist Dinnerware for Gallery Paige

“When asked about his chief concern as an artist and potter, he modestly replied, ‘I honestly do not know. I respond to something inside me and I do not know what I am doing until I have done it. The moment of completion is sharing with others. The work is from myself but not for myself.’”

–       Jonathan L. Fairbanks, about Brother Thomas, October 2007, from “Remembering Brother Thomas Bezanson,” Pucker Gallery, Boston.

The moment of completion is an exciting part of the pottery process. My old college professor, Sam Johnson, used to say that unloading glaze kilns was like Christmas or Halloween. Either the pots turn out great and cause an adrenaline rush of excitement, or ugly, flawed glazes send you plunging into a pit of despair.

When good pots do come out of the kiln, the artistic process continues to the viewer or user of those pots. Brother Thomas created forms and surfaces with inherent beauty, and he knew that this beauty needed to be shared. His work is exhibited in museums and galleries across the world. Sharing artwork lets artists grow by collecting feedback from viewers. Potters generally do this in 2 ways: exhibition and sales.

I see a lot of common ground between good kiln openings, selling pots, and exhibiting art. They involve the culmination of hard work and reaping rewards. The experiences happen quickly and often bring good vibes that linger for hours. Last Friday, I shared three of these experiences in one, epic day. It’s also worth mentioning 381 miles of travel, which comes to $215 in tax deductions at $.565 per mile according to

8:00am Kiln Opening

I opened the Skutt kiln and pulled out about 70 mugs for Duluth Coffee Company, made with a hand carved stamp by Bruno Press. I spent an hour polishing the bottoms of 100 total mugs, packaged them in 5 clay boxes and loaded the car. After a morning of errands, I drove from St. Joseph to Duluth.

Process Shot 2, Duluth Coffee Co

2:00pm Duluth Coffee Company Drop-off

Eric Faust, owner and roaster, met me with an awesome cup of fresh roasted coffee and a check. This was an order for re-sale, and it could revolutionize how I make new bodies of work for coffee shops. Last year, Eric worked with a potter that sold about 400 stamped mugs through his shop. The potter moved out of state and Eric has been searching for a potter to rejuvenate this project. I was lucky enough to meet him months ago, when visiting friends in Duluth and scouting coffee shops. I was even luckier when he offered to buy the mugs wholesale- the first time this has happen in my 3.5 years as a full-time potter.

Eric generously let me retain artistic freedom. Too often I have received requests for stamps, carvings, or colors that fall outside my aesthetic interests or capabilities. This project reflects Duluth Coffee Company’s philosophies about roasting and brewing signature, gourmet coffees for the local community.

Process Shot 3, Duluth Coffee Co Process Shot 1, Duluth Coffee Co

DuluthCoffeeMug3, Image 1  DuluthCoffeeMug2, Image 1 Duluth Coffee Company, Joel Cherrico Pottery Stamped Mugs, 2013 Stoneware Mugs Duluth Coffee Company, Joel Cherrico Pottery Stamped Mugs, 2013

8:00pm: Gallery Paige, Grand Opening

Paige Dansinger is a renowned painter and art historian who has exhibited internationally, including a show at the Guggenheim this past spring. We met coincidentally at Continental Clay supplier while she was buying machine-made plates and glazes to paint for a commission. I said, “It would be great if a potter could make plates for you” and she replied, “Well, do you make plates?” Also coincidentally, I was at Up Cafe performing pottery throwing demos, that day only. She saw me throw, saw the stack of 500+ pots in their space, and we caught the vibe that we need to team up.

In the 2 months I’ve known Paige, she’s come to my kiln space to paint on my pots, invited me to her studio to view her process and bring more pots, and opened a gallery. That’s right, she opened a gallery in the downtown Minneapolis Skyway mall!

Gallery Paige had the Grand Opening Friday. Dozens of her pieces graced the gallery walls as paint on canvas, painted plates, and her innovative #DrawArt displayed as video and projection. Artists and art collectors streamed in and out of the space for hours. I brought her the first 2 glazed, finished pots from our collaboration and we shared a toast to the next body of work! Her paintings are gorgeous and I feel honored to begin the process of making pots as canvases for such a renowned artist.

When I met Paige she said, “I want my paintings in museums all over the world, hanging next to Picasso.” I think she’s on track to live into that goal!

Paige Dansinger Paintings, Joel Cherrico, Artist Tableware, 2013, Gallery Paige, Van Gogh  Paige Dansinger Paintings, Joel Cherrico, Artist Tableware, 2013, Gallery Paige

Gallery Paige, Photo by Paige Dansinger, 2013

Photo by Paige DansingerPhoto by Artist Jim Mcallister, Gallery Paige, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2013

Photo by video artist Jim Mcallister. View some of our collaborative work here: