Project 3

Project  3:  Cup Sets


Cups are one of the forms we encounter early in life. From the earliest sippie cup to a delicate porcelain teacup or a sturdy coffee mug or cold beverage stein, we experience cups directly through our hands and our lips. The cup is one of the most personal pottery forms because they engage a personal sensory experience with the object. Many people develop a special, personal relationship with a specific cup, and will go to the bottom of the dish drainer to find it.

You are asked to consider what your ideal cup and handle form might be, and how you can create a personal idea of “set” to relate a series of cups.

Research Questions

  • Examine how you prefer to drink from a cup. Do you like a sturdy cup? A light cup? Cups with a large volume, or small cups that emphasize the specialness of you drink? Do you like a handle that fits your whole hand, or a one-finger handle? Does your ideal cup have a challenging handle placement, or is it all about comfort? Thin lip for drinking from or thick? Do you prefer the best of a practiced tradition, or a novel solution? What shape is your ideal cup?
  • Try different kinds of cups with an analytical mindset. Make sketches, take notes. Ask around studio to borrow a cup, or try the thrift store for cups.
  • Go to the library and/or look on the internet for images of historic and contemporary cups. Sketch the ones that have characteristics related to your ideal cup or provide you with new ways to consider cup- ness.
  • Think about how the surface of your cups will relate to the form.  Sketch some examples of images and/or patterns that are most interesting to you and think about how such images and patterns will be arranged on the surface of your cups.

Set Research

  • Consider familiar sets. Name some. How is the concept of set conveyed to a user/viewer/listener/consumer? What sets do you find most successful?
  • Consider additional ways of establishing a relationship that would create a set. Brain-storm and write down alternatives for later editing.


  • 4 sketches of historic cups that relate in some way to your ideas
  • 4 sketches of contemporary cups that relate to your ideas
  • 4 sketches of ideas for cup sets that incorporate your answers to the research questions and historical and contemporary cups
  • 4 sketches showing ideas for surface decoration using slip

Technical Goals

  • Continue the development of wedging and throwing skills to include additional shapes suitable for cups.
  • Learn to make and attach handles and dry pieces with attachments.
  • Continue to develop trimming skills, glazing skills.
  • Experience surfacing using various slip decorating techniques.
  • Research and develop personal expression through development of the idea of relating objects as a set.

Surface Considerations

We will explore methods of slip decoration: trailing, filled slip designs, sponging, sgraffito, stencil, resist, mishima and brush application.  You must incorporate at least two of these techniques on your cups.  You can combine techniques or use them separately on your cups.   


  • 2 sets of 4 thrown cups with handles that exemplify your criteria for a desirable cup. One of the sets must incorporate pulled handles.  The other set can incorporate handles of your choice (i.e. extruded, pulled, slab, thrown).  All cups must have trimmed feet.
  • Each group of 4 cups must relate as a set. Sets may be created by physical similarity, or a concept that creates relatedness through similarity/theme, or contrast supported by design choices that enables other people to read this as a set.


Grade weighting percentages for this project

  • Research -10%: 4 historic cup sketches, 4 contemporary cup sketches, 4 sketches of set ideas, 4 sketches of surface decoration ideas, blog
  • Technical Skill – 60% (15% ea): Throwing/form craftsmanship and function. Handle craftsmanship and function (handles are required). Trimming and foot finish (trimming is required). Glazing/surface craftsmanship including a minimum of 2 slip techniques
  • Aesthetic/Design skills- 30% (15% ea): Creation of a personal concept of set. Use of surface, color, and other design elements to support the concept.


3/15      Introduce Project

3/20    Sketches due 

4/1       Leather Crit

4/20 and 21     Bisque Fire

4/27 and 29   Glaze Fire

5/5      Critique