Dinner Plates, Dessert Plates, Soup Bowls, Toddler Bowls, Salad Bowls, Pasta Bowls, Stew Mugs, Painted Mugs, Tall Mugs, Tumblers, Glasses

I grew up in a big farm family in Wisconsin: six kids, Mom and Dad and Grandma Gosar, all elbow to elbow around that formica and chrome kitchen table. When I say big, I don't just mean in numbers; at six feet tall, I'm the second shortest of the five brothers around the table. I come from the land of big, hungry boys.

Meals were memorable; a good number of the anecdotes that float around our family happened at meal times. There was the time Woodstock the chicken invited herself to the table... Or Denise (my wife)'s memorable introduction to family dynamics. Or those darn Corelle dinner plates.

Dinner Plates......$28

My brother Tony hated my mother's company china. I use the term china advisedly, of course. With six kids, the everyday plates are going to be melmac, rugged and virtually indestructible. A little shallow, prone to dripping gravy over the edge, but over all functional. But one year my mother bought a special table setting for special occasions, that new glass-like DuPont stuff, with flowers. Very pretty, matching service, but the plates were half an inch smaller than our everyday dishes.

Tony was already pushing the limits of packing and stacking, putting potatoes, gravy, lettuce salad, green beans, chicken and bread on an ordinary plate. Now add holiday food--dressing, beets, sweet potatoes, potica, angel salad--on a smaller plate. He grumped for years that those plates needed sideboards.

My Dinner plates are Tony-sized. They're 10-1/2 inches across, with a deep center and rising flared rim, perfect to keep the gravy and beet juice safely away from the table cloth. The base is flat and stable, the rim is thick and chip-resistant, and they're painted with animal images, including Bear, Cat, Chickadee, Crab, Deer, Duck, Elephant, Fox, Hen, Heron, Horses, Hummingbird, Octopus, Owl, Robin, and Rooster patterns.

Dessert Plates......$24

One of the many nice things about growing up with my Grandma in the house was that we always had dessert. Though Mom was too busy with fieldwork or milking to cook more than the main course, Grandma usually had time for cake, or pie or strudel, cookies or bars. Those that survived nine hungry mouths around the supper table usually got eaten for lunch at bedtime.

A note about language: In our family, the three meals were breakfast--self-evident, dinner, served at noon, and supper, the evening meal. We used "lunch" where others might say snack: Between meals, after school, or before bed. Lunch might be an apple, a bowl of cereal, or, with great luck, a handful of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

My Dessert Plates would have been perfect for lunch. They're 8 inches across, of similar design but in more patterns than the dinner plates: Bear, Blue or Brown Bunny, Cardinal, Cat, Dolphin, Duck, Elephant, Flamingo, Frog, Goat, Hen, Heron, Horses, Hummingbird, Iris, Lamb, Otter, Owl, Robin, Rooster, Squirrel, and anything else I'm experimenting with.

Soup Bowls......$25

Toddler Bowls......$21

One of these days I've got to make homemade noodles again. My Grandma used to make them all the time, kneading a tough dough of egg yolk and flour and salt, rolling them out into sheets, then drying them over dish towels on the backs of the kitchen chairs. It looked like a family of pale yellow ghosts gathered for dinner, waiting for the soup to be served.

My Dad preferred vegetable soup, chunks of onion and carrot, potato and rutabaga, with beef bones to be worried clean of meat. I always liked those big, thick noodles better. Grandma would roll them up and slice them crosswise when they were what a potter would call leather-hard, and freeze what wasn't being used for supper that night. Store-bought (or "boughten," as we said it) noodles just aren't the same.

Because I like soup, I make generous Soup bowls. They're hemispherical, because I like the way they feel in your hands, with flaring rims and trimmed foot ring. The rim has an advantage beyond aesthetics; it doesn't heat up in the microwave, so you can reheat leftovers and not burn your fingers carrying the bowl to the table. Of course you don't have to like soup to appreciate these bowls; you can also use them for hot or cold cereal. Bowls are 6 inches across, 3-1/2 inches deep, and come in about two dozen different patterns: Bear, Bunny, Butterfly, Cardinal, Cat, Chickadee, Cow, Dragonfly, Duck, Elephant, Flamingo, Fox, Frog, Goat, Hen, Heron, Horses, Hummingbird, Raccoon, Robin, Rooster, Salmon, Sheep and Squirrel.

Toddler bowls came from a special request by a mother with an artistically inclined three-year old, who promised not to break his bowl if he could have a pretty one like Mama's. They're only about 5 inches across, hold about 10 ounces, nice for ice cream or granola, and come in patterns with babies in them: Hen and chicks, robin's nest, mama kitty, baby elephant, fawn, lambs, mare and foal and the newest pattern, trouble bunnies!

Salad Bowls......$28

Sometimes it's just too hot to cook. Almost too hot to eat. That's when Denise and I check the crisper and cruise the garden, shred a little cheese and make some stale-bread croutons*, throw together a quick salad dressing and go sit under a ceiling fan.

For times like this, we break out the Dinner Salad Bowls. They're deeper than plates, wider than soup bowls, perfect a single course salad supper. I like ours so much that I've started making them for you nice folks as well, though in a limited number of patterns. So far, we have bunnies, chickadee, dragonfly, elephant, fox, hen, horses, hen, hummingbird, otter, rooster, and a rather sweet bear cub in a honey tree. (For that honey-dijon vinagrette.)

*Toast a couple of slices of bread in the toaster and cut into cubes. Toss in a hot sauté pan with a little olive oil, garlic powder, your favorite dried herbs and a pinch of salt or tomato bouillon. Let stand in the pan to crisp up while you prepare the rest of the vegetation.

Pasta Dinner Bowls......$30

I get some of my best ideas from customers. New patterns, new forms. I'd been asked about making Pasta Dinner Bowls--the size you eat out of, not the size you serve from--several times in the past, but nobody could properly define what they meant by it. The internet was no help. Google "pasta bowls," I dare you. You'll get dozens of sizes and shapes, all claiming to be the perfect form. Finally, somebody gave me an answer. It's like one of your pie plates... about that size, but curving where the side meets the base.

That, I can do! I used the same amount of clay, three-and-a-half pounds, but threw them like a pasta serving bowl, wide bottom curving up to a rounded rim. Trimmed the foot, all lovely. I made two of each pattern for their order, to be sure one set came out of the fire.

As it happens, both sets looked good, so I posted a picture of the spares on my Instagram, saying I'd take them up to my next road show.

They sold five minutes later. I've been making them ever since, experimenting with patterns, old favorites like bunnies and fox, the baby elephant and even octopuses.

Anything is pasta-ble.

Stew Mugs......$25

Okay, the story about Denise and the rest of the family: she and I had been friends for six or seven years before we got at all serious about this romance stuff, at which point I was already five years in Oregon, she still living in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Wanting to know what kind of girl their little boy was getting, my folks invited her up to the farm for Thanksgiving dinner.

It's the classic mid-western scene: kids at the card table, more food than you could stuff into a small army, tiny little Corelle plates. Now pack the chairs with my rambunctious siblings, who've been good and quiet all day, because they've been off in the woods deer hunting, and are more than thankful for the opportunity to let off steam.

Youngest brother Val left the table at some point, probably to retrieve the gravy from the kids' table. Tony stole his plate, passed it to John, who smuggled it around the table to Maggie, who hot-footed it to David, who put it in Denise's lap. Leaving her in the stew.

Val came back and accused each of them in turn, only to be met by the exaggerated innocence of the unconvictably guilty. He never even thought to ask Denise... She got a lot of credit that day for keeping a straight face under pressure. Me, I think that as an only child, she was still trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

What this has to do with Stew mugs I haven't a clue, but I had to tell you the story. The mugs themselves are 5 inches wide, 2-1/2 inches deep, and hold 16 ounces of soup or stew. Patterns include Bear, Bison, Bunnies, Cardinal, Cat, Chickadee, Cow, Crab, Deer, Dragonfly, Duck, Elephant, Fox, Goat, Hen, Horses, Hummingbird, Moose, Octopus, Orca, Robin and Rooster.

Painted Mugs......$23

I'm not entirely sure how I got through four years of college and three of graduate school without ever learning to like coffee--I did the occasional all-nighter on Mountain Dew; my teeth hurt just remembering it--but I think my Dad's to blame.

He'd drink coffee morning, noon and night. The same coffee, in fact. He filled up the big glass percolator in the morning, had coffee with breakfast after morning milking. Pulling the grounds and stem, he'd put the pot off on the edge of the wood stove to steam gently until dinner time. Any left went back on the stove to simmer until supper, at which point we'd take bets whether the spoon would go in or not. You know the expression "Too thick to stir, too thin to plow?" Well I think he could have planted a nice crop of rice or cranberries in that muck. I never quite believed it could support life.

My father-in-law was a tea drinker. A retired engineer, he said my Painted mugs were some of the best he's ever handled. He especially liked the grip of the handles, and the slight constriction below the rim that helps keep drinks hot. They hold a surprising 14 oz. or more or coffee, tea, milk or water, and are hand-painted with these patterns: Black bear, Bunny, Butterfly, Cardinal, Cat, Chickadee, Dragonfly, Duck, Elephant, Flamingo, Fox, Goat, Hen, Heron, Horses, Hummingbird, Moose, Robin, Rooster, Salmon, Sheep and Squirrel.

Tall mugs......$25

I'm totally clueless about market research. Product design. Any of those fancy professional disciplines self-employed craft artists are supposed to employ. I never know something is going to be popular until people try and buy it from my hands.

Case in point: when we got our new used van (as opposed to our used used van) a couple of years ago, I discovered that none of my mugs fit in the mug rack. The pre-formed faux-leather vinyl foam mug slots were designed for something much more slim and svelte than my own wide-bottomed design. Of mugs, that is. Can you tell I took this personally?

So I made a couple of mugs specifically to fit. Narrower base, straight sides, but tall enough to still hold a good 14-16 ounces of water or tea. One for me, one for Denise. And people kept trying to buy them. Picked them up out of the back side of our booth; even had one embarrassing moment when someone checking out the bottom of my mug discovered there was still water in it. It took me about three shows to realize I needed to be making more of these tall mugs, if I wanted to keep my own safe.

I also use them as an opportunity to try out patterns outside the standard range. We have Chickens and Robins and Hummingbirds, but also Tigers, Horses, Monkeys, Wolves, Grizzly Bears and Giraffes; whatever I happen to fancy on glazing day.


When I started making tall mugs I decided to paint the decoration on the front, opposite the handle. This was to avoid the old left-handed/right-handed mug conundrum. It's the same in either hand, see?

Which means about every third or fourth time people pick one up, they're surprised by the handle. They couldn't see it, so assumed it was a tumbler. This happens often enough that I'm surprised it's taken me this long to think, Why don't I make tumblers?

The form is basicall the same as a tall mug, volume is the same, just no handle. You hold them free-hand, perfect for ice-water, lemonade, iced coffee or tea.

Patterns include a couple of different owls, running roosters and hens, dragonflies, bunnies, foxes and wolves; whatever strikes my fancy, really, or fits a vertical pot.


A lot of people seem to like the tumblers. Whether for iced tea, lemonade, cold water, or just to use as a slim, straight-sided vase, they regularly find homes with my customers.

I've never been that fond of the shape, myself, though; they seem a little too wide for my hand. So I experimented until I came up with a no-handle drinking vessel that I liked. And then decided to see if anyone else agrees.

It's kinda like a draft beer/pilsner glass, or a slender version of the classic Coke glass. It holds about 12 ounces, has many of the same patterns and sells for the same price as the tumblers. So far, they seem equally popular, so there are no plans to discontinue one in favor of the other.