Linda Fleming making Pottery Mugs at Sunset Hill Stoneware

Linda Fleming: The Shop Mom Making Custom Mugs

Teamwork is vital to everything we do at Sunset Hill Stoneware. We always work together to give our products the quality you deserve for your custom mugs. That applies to every single role here, from our potters to our shipping team. Linda Fleming, a key member of our artisan team who has worked at SHS for three years, is a testament to how true that is.

Best Supporting Role at Sunset Hill Stoneware

Cutting out medallions for Custom Pottery MugsLinda is part of a vital two-person team that presses our medallions with your artwork. The other half of Linda’s team, Chris Walters, presses the medallions while she cuts them out from the clay so they can go on your stoneware mugs. She also has experience applying the pressed medallions to custom coffee mugs, so she is cross-trained for both roles.

“I feel like his nurse, and he’s like a doctor,” Linda said of Chris. “Everybody helps each one and makes each one a little bit better.”

Linda doubles the pressing team’s speed. Without her to cut out each medallion by hand as fast as she does, the process would take a few more seconds for each one. Those seconds add up. If it weren’t for her, it could take added hours or maybe even days to make your stoneware mugs. Plus, the quality of our product would slip without her.

Although it looks simple, pressing medallions is a delicate process requiring an eye for detail. If there are any air pockets inside the medallion, it could crack during the final firing stage. Linda has to watch for these and other defects in each medallion.

“It’s better to make a new one than to waste everybody’s time along the way,” she explained.

However, Linda also notes that intricate medallions are less likely to have air bubbles or other problems because there’s less space for them to form.

Contrary to popular belief, communication is huge here. The early steps of making our custom coffee mugs are time-sensitive, so anything you can tell someone about an order to help them move faster makes a difference. That’s why Linda makes notes each day about the quantities of mugs the medallion team is about to receive. They know what to expect the next day because of that.

Pressing Matters for Custom Coffee Mugs

Linda’s experience applying medallions made us stronger even after she moved to the pressing team. That experience allows her to work with the medallion team on certain orders with different designs.

Renaissance Festival mug“My job is to make sure that the girls’ job goes easy,” Linda said. Currently, women make up the entire handle and medallion team.

For example, if a mug order will be used for trophies and has different designs and styles for first and second place, it’s easy to mix up which place goes on each style. So, Linda can see these medallions as the order comes to her and add a note for the medallion team. Then, they can watch for those details.

“When you’re working in medallions, you’re going pretty fast because you have to put on 500 a day,” Linda explained. “If you’re not looking really close, you can miss that.”

The importance of Linda’s role at the shop was visible as soon as we interviewed her for this blog article. While she stepped out, another member of our team, Isaac Jacobson, stepped in to keep things moving. Without someone cutting out medallions, production would slow. A bottleneck would develop, and our handle and medallion team wouldn’t be able to get the medallions onto each mug before they dry.

Linda has cut out thousands of medallions in her three years at Sunset Hill Stoneware. Out of all of them, her favorites were part of a set from Rookscroft & Co., a design company with detailed, whimsical art. She also likes the souvenir mugs we make for renaissance fairs across the country, since they often have beautiful details after they’re finished.

“It’s really interesting when I go in back sometimes at the end of the day to see what it really looks like,” she said. “It doesn’t look anything like after we press it, because of the different details and how it shows up.”

Origins and Stoneware Products

Stoneware light holder

Linda has known about Sunset Hill Stoneware’s products since our earliest days. Even when she worked at a lighting business and ran a home décor shop, Linda frequently purchased several of our retired styles, including light holders.

“They would bring banana boxes over to my house filled with pottery, or else I would stop in Dale and I’d pick up huge banana boxes and take them over to Plover to the shop,” Linda explained.

After more than 20 years, Linda stepped away from her old business and came to Sunset Hill Stoneware. However, having worked with SHS for so many years, Linda has seen a lot of products come and go before we got to our current selection. The light holders we used to make were particularly labor-intensive, even compared to our current products.

“They had to put a hole in the back so they could electrify it,” Linda explained.

As part of her décor business, she designed store displays. Some of her clients included local businesses, but others took a more global spotlight. Linda even decorated showrooms at AmericasMart Atlanta, a gift and home décor expo that draws in thousands of people each year.

Patriotic display with stoneware mugs“I loved going into stores and revamping the whole store, setting it up and doing display windows and stuff,” she said.

Linda still uses her knack for displays to brighten up our shop. For most major holidays, Linda decorates the windows in our shop break room with displays. Each of these involves decorations and mugs that fit with the holiday or season, like mugs in Red, Oatmeal and Blue, including Old Glory for the 4th of July. However, she likes to give her displays clean layouts.

“I like simple,” Linda said. “People will spend more money on something nice rather than a bunch of little things.”

Outside of her decorating talents, Linda also has a knack for quilting and crocheting. Since her mother owned a quilt shop and quilting machine ever since Linda was a kid, she took it up and still holds the hobby close to her heart.


Shop Mom

Many of our team members refer to Linda as their “shop mom.” While Linda does have three grown children, a son-in-law and several grandchildren, many at the shop also look to her for guidance. Our staff tends to skew younger, so she provides them with advice that will set them up for the future.

Linda Fleming at work“I get to sometimes help them and mentor them, and talk to them not even about pottery,” Linda said. “Balancing their checkbook, and making sure they have good car insurance, and making sure they’re using our 401(k). You don’t think of it when you’re at this age, but when you’re getting ready to retire, that’s important.”

Linda has also gotten to watch many of our teammates grow as artisans since she began working here.

“I used to sit up front and do medallions, and Cody and Eli had just started,” Linda recalled. “It was really neat to see them come up here every day and work on it. And Jason would come up along their board and go, ‘nope, nope, nope.'” Watching their faces fall after that is something Linda remembers from her early months as a medallion presser.

“It’s kind of neat to see how far the boys have come and now, they’re up to 200 a day,” she added.

Linda’s reputation as the shop mom comes out at the holidays, too. During the shop’s most recent Secret Santa, Linda received a scarf from our potter, Luke. The scarf, which Luke’s mother-in-law made herself, has the words “Shop Mom” embroidered to it.

“It sounds weird, but they’re kind of like my kids,” Linda said, laughing. “People kind of watch out for each other.”

Linda also admires our plant manager, Jason Sonsthagen, for being one of the best bosses she’s ever had. She admires that he can go into almost any position at the shop and fill in if someone is gone. Where most bosses just sit in their offices all day, Jason works with his team and is respected for it.

With that, Linda also appreciates how our leadership team connects with everybody. She appreciates that Tom Dunsirn comes to the shop regularly and asks everyone how things are going and chats like they’re family. She also appreciates the benefits SHS provides, including free lunches and parties.

“I don’t know if they realize how much we appreciate it,” Linda said.

Linda has a vital supporting role in bringing our pottery to you. As with the rest of our team, her work keeps us running smoothly and helps us improve every single day. That’s why we honor her as our shop mom and appreciate everything she does to help us deliver your pottery mugs faster.

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  2. Sunset Hill Stoneware - Sunset Hill Stoneware on March 9, 2020 at 8:02 am

    […] they’ve applied the handles, this team also applies the medallions to your mugs. Once they’ve done that, the mugs are ready to air dry and move to the next […]