Pretty coffee stains

Take a look at these cool pieces by Bethan Laura Wood that evolve with use.


About these pieces:

Stain is a set of a teacups designed to improve through use. This project examines the assumption that use is damaging to a product (For example, scratches on an iPod).

The interior surface of the cup is treated so as to stain more in predetermined places. The more the cups are used, the more the pattern is revealed. Over time they will build up an individual pattern dependent on the users personal way of drinking tea.

I have a soft spot for coffee stained mugs.  I don’t have any cups that have stains as fancy as these, but my favorite pieces definitely are marked from years of use.

People tend to have very strong opinions on the interior glazing of mugs. I have customers who come in wanting dark glazed interiors so there is no chance of staining. And others who want a light interior so they can see how steeped their tea is.  I make some of each depending on the design of the piece. My personal preference is a lighter glaze so I can see how much milk I’ve added to my morning coffee.  What’s your?

14 thoughts on “Pretty coffee stains

  1. Emily, These are beautiful! Thanks for posting as this technique is not anything I ever would have seen on my own. I love surprises and am somewhat obsessive so I would have fun using these mugs over and over, looking closely for minute changes.

    I like medium glazes so that I can see the color of the tea, but not the stains. Lester’s green mugs are a perfect balance between the two.


  2. Hi Emily, I actually prefer a simple white inside, but after seeing the stained cups, I have to say that I like that as well! Do you know what kind of glaze that is and how it is applied? Take care, Melanie.

  3. i’ve never really had anyone critical of my liner glazes. i only have two-a 4321 celadon and an ash celadon, depending on where in the kiln the pots are going. they’re both green, the ash a little darker than the celadon. i use mostly natural materials so crazing is something that i can’t really control so i purposely don’t mess with light colored glazes(or shinos). that controlled staining is pretty sweet though.

  4. I love this concept! I am a heavy tea & coffee drinker. I would love to know how to create this effect.

    I do pay attention to color and how it will look with liquid. For mugs/cups I like to use light colors if I use any color at all.

  5. I once had a customer return a set of coffee mugs convinced it was the glaze rubbing off on the washcloth.
    He asked me straight out if he was going to die from my coffee mugs because he was sure it was glaze…..
    I took them back and cleaned the coffee stains out of them and after much thought wrote him a check for his money back.
    There was no way I could convince this person that it was coffee and not glaze.
    You win some you lose some- sure wish he could see these!
    With some glazes you can, if you want to, use a little bleach water.
    We had a potter friend who would throw his mugs through a bisque to get rid of the stains-

  6. I think a lot of us bank on the concept that the piece is only complete once its in use but I think this may be the first evidence I’ve seen of any one planning this far into a piece’s life, and in such a careful, thoughtful way.

    No preference on the light or dark, but strong preference for pots that change over time. I think I might prefer something a little more subtle, or possibly less ordered than Wood’s pieces posted above.

  7. Wow, that’s brilliant!

    I prefer a glossy, light colored liner glaze – cream-colored is nice – because I like to see the color of tea in a cup, just because it’s pretty :) It’s a good point to make different colors of lining though, I never thought that some people would prefer dark vs. light.

  8. Wow! Exciting work. I too am very curious about the method to achieve this.

    I use light colored liners in my mugs. I’m not really a morning person, so a light color helps me prevent over filling. I also to stick to light colors because they tend to have fewer colorant (ie heavy metals) in the glaze, and therefor safer for functional use. I understand that you can have a perfectly safe dark color glaze. Personal, I just like to keep things simple so most of the time I don’t use dark glazes on the inside of mugs.
    I also find a dark glaze on the outside with a lighter color on the inside more visually exciting.

  9. I meant to comment yesterday when I landed on your blog, but was distracted and explored some of your pages instead.

    This is so cool – love how these evolve over time….

  10. I’m guessing the design is etched in there? surely that can’t be a manipulated craze, right? I’m one of those anti-stain people but this is a really neat idea. I like any pots that bear an underlying conceptual message.

    Thanks for sharing this, I very glad I saw it!

  11. Emily – thanks for sharing this post!! What a cool technique. I may pick your brain in class next week to find out if we could do this in the studio :)

  12. Wow! Controlled staining is a whole new frontier to think about. It is so interesting to consider this possibility when some of my own favorite pots in my kitchen have evolved so nicely but randomly through use. I am not much of a surface decrator myself, but I love the idea of being able to hide messages or details that only reveal themselves over time. Thanks as always for feeding the rest of us such interesting things to consider!

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