the joy of a ceramic cup

written by Eloise Rankine

elph store blog the joy of a ceramic cup

From left: Little White Dish, Holly Macdonald, Sandy Lockwood, elph ceramics, Angela Butler, Ghost Wares, Keepsake by Sarah O'Sullivan

I discovered my love for handmade ceramic cups when I first started making ceramic objects almost a decade ago during my time at the National Art School. On cold Winter’s nights, after a long week of art school life drawing classes, theoretical and historical art lectures and time spent forming clay in my ceramics studio, there was nothing better than sharing a cup of tea or coffee with my fellow ceramics students out the back of our building. Each day we would amble out of our studios, rug up and sit at our make-shift table made out of pallets, share a drink out of cups we had made and talk about artistic possibilities of clay.

At the time, I did not realise that this simple act of drinking out of my own and other’s vessels that would spark a joy in me that I had never realised. Before I studied ceramics, I had only minimal experience drinking from handmade cups. However, now when I sip from a shiny mass-produced ceramic or glass vessel, my hands are left wanting. Where is the place for my fingers to linger where the maker has left their mark? Where are the maker’s fingerprints left in the clay? Where is the decorative detail that does more than simply attract the eye but instead changes the way I hold the cup? Holding a vessel with both hands is an intimate act and one that I find calming, feeling the smoothness of the glaze and the weight of the clay in my hands. The simplicity of a vessel transformed when full of tea or coffee, the warmth of the cup grounding and reminding me to savour the simple moments in life.

Now everything I drink is from ceramic vessels. I have let go of the need to have all my objects matching and embrace the slight differences in sizes and instead embrace each vessel for its own unique style. My version of the ceramic cup is affectionately called the ‘cuddle cup’, which I use everyday for my morning coffee. The cuddle cup was the first object in the elph ceramics range and the restrained, rounded form is one I continue to create and enjoy making and using.

If you looking for your new favourite vessel, I've answered a few common questions we're asked about how ceramic vessels here. 

What should I think about when choosing my cups?

First and foremost, choose cups you like! Think about what you like to use now or what you definitely do not like and go from there. If buying online, you can get a good idea of whether the object has a thin or thick rim, is smooth or rough and what size it is. However, I believe the only way you really know is to pick up the object – so come in store and touch a few. Sometimes we hide some out the back too so let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll show you the options.

What can you use a ceramic cup for?

For drinking: tea, coffee, water, juice, kombucha, wine, beer, whisky, hot chocolate, milkshakes
For eating: ice cream, affogatos, soup, dips, nuts, chocolate treats
For storing: jewellery, pens, paperclips, anything!

Do ceramic vessels without handles get hot?

Yes, they will get hot like any non-double walled vessel. However, you learn quickly how to hold them around the rim or with fingers on the base and thumb on the rim. Consider what you would like to use them for – if it is for wine, spirits or milky coffee or tea, then this isn’t a concern. However, if you like hot tea then perhaps a tall vessel which you only fill up half way is best for you (or perhaps a mug is a better choice!).

What if I want 6 or 8 cups but there are only 2 in stock?

Get in touch! We love commissioning sets of ceramics for our customers. Usually it is simply that we have sold out and will get more and other times our makers will happily make them specially for you. The benefits of commissioning a set is that you know they will be made just for you – so are able to add special inscriptions and the maker will pick the best matching ones. Commissioning ceramics is also a wonderful way to form a connection to a local maker and to support their practice.

If you have any other questions, please let us know via

Love elph xx