What Makes A Good Mug, and Why Bother?

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What Makes A Good Mug, and Why Bother?

First, of course, a good mug has to look appealing, really lovely to your eye. That’s greatly a matter of personal preference. But functional art can’t stop with looks – it has to go quite a ways beyond. A good mug has to feel good to the touch, it has to work well, and it must be enjoyable to live with over time. So here are some questions to ask yourself about your next mug.

You might think that a mug is a mug is a mug. But a lot goes into designing a good mug! Having made mugs for 40+ years, I have just a couple thoughts about this.

  • Is the glaze non-toxic? No one makes toxic glazes anymore. But if you’ve got an antique that you love, have it tested or assessed to make sure it’s safe.
  • Is the clay strong enough to withstand constant use, dishwasher washing, and microwave heating? Low-fire clay chips more easily than high-fire clay.
  • Does the mug feel good to hold? Your hands should enjoy its shape and texture.
  • Is it balanced properly? If the handle is too high or too low, you’ll feel as though the mug keeps slipping.
  • Does the handle fit comfortably in the hand? How many fingers will go through the handle? Where do the other fingers rest? A good handle will feel right and won’t have any sharp ridges.
  • Does the lip of the mug fit comfortably with the lip of the drinker? A too-thin lip will feel sharp, a too-thick lip will feel lumpy. And the lip has to curve just right or the liquid will pour out awkwardly.
  • Is the opening of the mug wide enough that you don’t bump your nose when you tip up the mug? Unless you specifically want a tight-necked travel mug to avoid sloshing, make sure you don’t have to squish your nose to get the last drops out.
  • Is the mug a good weight. Too thin and it doesn’t hold the heat long enough. Too thick and it’s cumbersomely heavy.
  • Is the size of the mug what you like? Too small and you don’t feel like you had enough to drink. Too big and your tea gets cold.
  • Is the bottom wide enough for the mug to sit stably? Mugs with tiny little feet are dramatic and interesting to look at, but too tippy in use.
  • Is the mug wide enough to get a hand inside when washing? A mug that’s both narrow and tall might require a bottle brush to wash, so make sure you’re okay with that extra effort.
  • Is the mug light enough inside to see the tea, or, depending on your priorities, dark enough to hide tea stains!

Living with a mug is the ultimate test. If it lets you enjoy your hot drink a little more, or if you like it more as time goes by, then it’s a really good mug. A good mug is worth the extra effort and cost.