Cups and mugs are some of the best things you can ever get as a gift for someone: it doesn’t require a huge investment, whether financially or emotionally, it’s both beautiful and practical, and, most importantly, it shows that you care.
The only difficulty will be choosing the right one. So, make it special—special like one of these mugs with tiny animal sculptures embedded into the side, making it not only beautiful but also adorable.
Self-taught ceramicist and artist Brooke Knippa of the AP Curiosities Art Studio, with whom we got in touch for an interview, crafts adorably intricate mugs that include various wildlife etched into the side, not only making people smile, but also inevitably making the drinking experience cosier.
Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of her best works which you can peruse below, along with our interview with her. Vote on the ones you found most adorable, and why not also leave a comment telling us what animals you’d like on your mugs in the comment section!
AP Curiosities is the brainchild of Brooke Knippa, an avid maker, surfer, and lover of all things living. Brooke is originally from Colorado, but has now set up shop in Bowdoinham, Maine, where she indulges in all things ceramics.
This is the place of her studio where she makes ceramic magic happen, but it’s also the location of a very unique part of her artistic career—the Airstream Gallery. It’s a vintage 1978 Airstream trailer in pretty much original condition that serves as a mini gallery for her mugs, vases, and sculptures.
"The mugs with animals started the same way as most of my ideas do—time in the studio with no 'plan'. I always have so many ideas swirling around in my head, and finding the time to explore them is always a challenge for me!" explained Brooke about the origins of the idea.
"To say the pandemic has been difficult is an understatement. But, as of late, I have been hearing more and more stories about people finding the silver lining in it all—reprioritizing different aspects of their life or having learned a new skill. For me, the silver lining I found was that extra time to explore a few of those ideas that have been swirling around. I was making small ceramic animal pendants, but always felt they needed a home—a place to live. And so I finally found the time to give them homes in my pottery."
We've asked Brooke to briefly run us down the process of making a mug in this style:
"First is the idea. I'll write the animals that I'm planning to make (although my plans often get derailed) down on scrap pieces of paper. I weigh out and wedge each piece of clay and make it into a smooth ball. Usually I'll make 6-8 mugs at a time."
"Clay work is very dependent on timing—too wet and pieces can get distorted and too dry and pieces will crack. I'll decide on which animal I want that mug to be and then think about the mug shape. I love to throw, but usually find repetition boring—so making different mug shapes and sizes keeps things interesting for me."
"Once the mug is thrown, I'll let it dry just enough so the rim doesn't lose its shape. I'll use one hand on the inside to support the clay, and then from the outside gently push in the side. After another drying cycle I'll trim the foot, attach a handle and thumb catch, score/decorate the mug, and finally sculpt and insert the animal into the mug nook, and then add any paint/details."
"After I have made enough pieces to fill a kiln (usually 30+ pieces of work) I will bisque fire to around 1940 F. I unload the bisque kiln and wipe each piece to remove any dust and prepare for the glaze. In order to repel glaze from specific areas (usually the foot and the animal sculpture) I carefully apply a layer of wax."
"Once the wax has dried I either paint, pour, or dip the piece in the glaze and then load it into another firing—this time up to 2200 F. From here the piece is unloaded, the bottom sanded smooth, inspected for any cracks, photographed, measured for size/capacity, listed on my website, sold, and finally shipped!"
"From conception, creation, and finally shipment each mug probably takes me on average two days to complete."
However, pottery comes with its own challenges, as explains Brooke:
"One of the biggest challenges in crafting mugs is getting everything right—timing the consistency of the clay at various stages, glazing it in a beautiful yet durable glaze, making the handle to feel just right in the hand, all while making it through each stage without a crack or flaw."
Another thing Brooke pointed out was the pricing: the amount of work and effort that goes into each piece and the idea of what a mug should cost is a tricky balance to keep. Sure, ceramics can be mass produced, making them more affordable, but it's not the case for unique handmade ones that take much more to make—and this includes the countless hours of labor, testing, learning, and love that goes into each and every one of them.
Choosing which animal to incorporate into every mug is a bit of a challenge as well. Brooke explained that this decision seems to be one of the hardest parts as there are just too many to choose from.
"Right now I am choosing more seasonal-inspired animals. Since we are in the heart of winter here in Maine, I am dreaming of polar bears, Arctic Fox, and snowy winter scenes."
"I often get suggestions and ideas for pieces too, which can be really fun. I had a request for a Sasquatch, which inspired my recent winter Yeti mugs. The moment I thought of these big mythical creatures all I could see were bigfoot prints wandering around the mug."
Lastly, we've asked Brooke about her favorite mug that she has done so far. Just like with picking which animal to feature on every mug, this was also a hard choice to make:
"I guess I would have to say my favorite to date has been the Sleeping Fox Mug. It was the very first one in which I incorporated a scene around the whole mug. I didn't want to take away from the animal, so I didn't add too much detail or color, just different textures. The bottom portion texture is dappled, like a forest floor. And from there the trees rise up to meet the top of the mug—the sky, and then little yellow stars or fireflies dot the horizon. And nestled into the nook, sleeping under a bed of 3 porcelain white lilies, is a little red fox. This mug has been a gateway for me to explore different stories, scenes, and designs."
If you like what you see, Brooke has an entire e-store where you can purchase these lovely ceramics, as well as an Instagram where she posts everything that she makes in her studio, so consider following her!
But before you go, let us know which one of these lovely mugs was your favorite in the comments section below!