Elizabeth mention Glorious Mud Ceramics to me. I had a look at their web site and started drooling, map mugs, map coasters, map cushions – what’s not to like?
I know that lots of Mappery readers are going to want one of Cressida’s glorious mugs (or cushions or coasters). Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a special discount that Cressida has kindly offered our readers. When everything feels a bit bleak around us, now is the time to treat yourself to a bit of MapTat and to support a glorious map business.
So I thought I would reach out to Cressida Borrett, the founder of Glorious Mud Ceramics to find out a little bit more about her business and her passion for maps. I hope you enjoy this interview.
How did you get started with Glorious Mud Ceramics?
Glorious Mud started as a conversation between myself and another potter back in 2014. We were both second career potters, and after a few years trying, were beginning to realise that it is really difficult to make a living out of throwing mugs, jugs, bowls etc on the wheel. We didn’t want to have to get a “proper” job again, so had to come up with a good idea. We talked about doing something nobody else was doing, and came up with a few quirky designs for contemporary ceramics, which we could get help making in larger volumes. They soon started selling more quickly than our original work, and whilst my business partner decided that running a business wasn’t for her, I haven’t looked back. I now have team of part time makers and admin here in London, and several small factories in Stoke helping me. The first landmark was probably in 2016, when I attended my first trade fair, which brought in wholesale customers with shops all over the country. Since then it has been great fun designing and making new products and having a mixture of wholesale and retail customers. Most of my work gets given as presents, so on Christmas day it is lovely to think that literally 1000’s of people are opening something we made for them, much of it bespoke. I get lots of lovely emails thanking us – never got that in the corporate world!
Before pottery became my job it was a hobby for over 20 years. I was a marketing manager in the corporate world of the 90’s and spent Monday evenings at an evening class, messing around with clay as relaxation. It is addictive, and was never intended to become my career, it just happened.
The obvious question, why “Glorious Mud” Ceramics?
The name Glorious Mud comes from the Flanders and Swann song “mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for soothing the blood”. However, I have since realised that most people under the age of about 40 have never heard of it, so am always having to explain. Anyone who has ever got the bug for pottery will agree that it is a good description though.
For the younger readers, here are Flanders and Swann singing Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud
You have a lot of mappy products in your range what prompted the interest in maps?
I have always loved maps, and still remember the lesson at school where were taught how to read an OS map of Wenlock Edge. There were always OS maps around the house, as we enjoy walking, so it seemed a good idea to do something with them. I started by wallpapering the loo with the spare ones, and putting them on pots was a natural progression. I now have a huge collection of vintage maps bought on Ebay, in old book shops, charity shops and boot sales. The most exciting find was an undated Moggs 1850’s “cab fare” map of London in a job lot I bought of OS maps on Ebay. We spent a whole afternoon googling London landmarks to work out how old it was. If you love maps you will get why that was exciting. It is now on our wall. It is all hand coloured, and really beautiful. About a week after acquiring it, I realised that “cab fares” meant horse drawn Hackney carriages, not London black cabs!
Can you describe the process for creating a custom map based mug or other product?
Putting the maps on the mugs, coasters, or any other item is much more complicated and time consuming than it looks. We have to scan the paper map, edit any marks and creases out, and edit all the colours individually in Photoshop, to reproduce well in ceramic colours. (If you don’t edit it the colours will be muted and very yellow). The map then gets printed as a decal on a special digital printer adapted for ceramic colour, or with silk screened transfers for a bigger run. You then cut the map out, float it in water, and put it on the heated mug, coaster, bowl, or whatever, making sure to smooth out any air bubbles. It then gets fired for 24 hours to 830C in the kiln, which bonds the image with the glaze so that it won’t fade, wash off, or get damaged in the dishwasher. It is essentially the same process as used for the designs on the crockery in your kitchen.
You currently work with Ordnance Survey maps which are restricted to Great Britain, have you considered using other map products such as OpenStreetMap to go international?
I mostly use OS maps as people are interested in having a map of where they live, were born, etc, and the Ordnance Survey are possibly the best, most comprehensive maps anywhere. However I do offer maps of the rest of the world, from a lovely antique atlas, and the american Topo maps which are available online. As I am reproducing them I have to be careful about copyright, so can’t just reproduce a map from Google or another internet source.
What’s the strangest or funniest request that you have had for a personalised map mug?
The strangest request I have had was just over a year ago. A customer asked for 8 coasters, each showing sections of the railway going north west from Aylesbury, but it had to be a 1957 edition of the map. He had had an association with the line back then, and wanted to remember it. The coasters don’t fit together like tiles, as the line runs diagonally but he was very pleased with them.
I often get asked for a set of coasters or mugs showing everywhere a customer has lived, and it is interesting to see how people move around the world and imagine what made someone move from a small village in Yorkshire to Tehran, and the Munich before settling in Surrey.
I have also recently had a customer return to tell me that she decided to bury her father with two of my coasters she had commissioned for him previously, one of where he grew up and one of where he lived at the end of his life. That was really touching.
As you probably noticed, my website is very basic, and we have long since grown out of its basic functionality. We are just finalising a new one, but until it’s launched I can’t put a discount voucher on. However I am happy to offer a 10% discount to your readers if they quote “mappery” by emailing me, which they will have to do anyway to buy something bespoke.
Now, do I choose a Breakfast mug or an Assam mug, or one of each?