The last year of the 2010s was a big one for Sunset Hill Stoneware. With this decade drawing to a close, join us as Sunset Hill Stoneware looks back at 2019. We’ll also give you a sneak preview of some of the things we have in store for 2020, so read on to find out more!
The Decade in Summary
Sunset Hill Stoneware has undergone a lot of changes since 2010. In fact, we’d argue there are so many to list that we’ll let that be its own article. But, to sum it up, we grew. A lot. Thanks to a combination of technology and some of the best artisans in the world, we went from making a few hundred mugs each week to making a few thousand.
With that, we also found a new home. Up until 2012, we ran our shop in the hamlet of Dale, Wis. However, since we needed more space for our bigger crew and ever-growing number of products, we set up shop at our current location in Neenah. This bigger space has allowed us to develop some custom technology, such as our HVAC system and other ventilation methods, to keep our employees safe and reduce our impact on the environment.
We also did some experimenting. During the middle of the decade, we tried our hand at making products like vases, shaving mugs, housewares and dog dishes to change things up. While we still have a few pieces like this in the showroom at our office, we ultimately chose to archive them and focus on what we do best. However, we’re always open to different ideas, so you may see some of these pieces make a comeback someday.
With that brief look back at the more distant past, let’s take a closer look at what we accomplished in 2019 and what we’ll have to share with the world in 2020.
In case you missed it, we finally mastered our formula for tricolor glazes this year. In addition to a host of new single and two-tone glazes, we brought three tricolor glazes into the mix. Old Glory was the first to arrive on the scene in the spring. Then, in time for Christmas, we also debuted Poinsettia and Blarney Stone.
While most of these glazes are perfect for different holidays throughout the year, they’re also an excellent choice for events all year long. Everyone from coffee companies to military units has brought Old Glory onto their custom mugs. While we saw an influx of Poinsettia mugs ahead of the Christmas season, we also predict they’ll make a great option for Cinco de Mayo and other Mexican heritage events, along with Italian-themed events. Blarney Stone is perfect not only for St. Patrick’s Day, but for Irish heritage festivals and anyone looking for a unique color option all year long.
While we’re not sure what else the new year will bring for our next batch of glaze options, you can bet our mad scientists have been working some late nights trying to come up with the next formula for a new tricolor glaze, along with some single and double color options we haven’t even touched yet.
You can find all three tricolor options and dozens more in our Glaze Gallery.
Amazon Handmade and Zulily
We’d been thinking about getting our products onto Amazon for a while. We finally made our big debut on Amazon Handmade in the latter half of the year and haven’t looked back.
Amazon Handmade is a relatively new service from Amazon that allows artisans to sell their handcrafted products to millions of people. Since the platform is exclusively for artisans and only has one flat referral fee for each product you sell through them, this was the best way for us to get our feet wet. In the months since we started using it, we’ve debuted new products through Amazon Handmade and sold countless exclusive mugs and steins. We even made a few of our top-selling products available through Amazon Prime, which allows us to get our mugs to people who want them even faster.
In 2019, we also made our big debut on Zulily. After applying to work with their business, we made some special exclusives to sell during two of their weekend flash sales in 2019 and have been coming up with more to use in the future. While the application process may be tricky for some, we were glad we did it because of how many products we ended up selling to their massive user base during these three-day sales.
You can find some of the designs we made for these special flash sales on Amazon Handmade now.
Improving Our Output
We were already one of the fastest potteries in the world. But, in 2019 we got even faster. Thanks to a few adjustments in our shop that streamlined our production, we managed to increase our output by leaps and bounds. Even during our busiest time this year, we were still able to deliver custom mugs weeks before our competitors could get them out. We wouldn’t be able to do that without a combination of custom technology and skilled artisans.
Part of the reason we’re still the fastest pottery around, even at our busiest time of year, is because we use cross-training. Many members of our crew are trained at multiple stations. That way, any time someone is out sick or taking a hard-earned vacation, other members of our team can fill in for them. We put extra emphasis on cross-training in both our shop and our office this year, so now we have crew members that can work in prepping but also switch over to pressing and applying medallions if we need them to. We’ve also trained members of our sales team to handle customer care questions, and vice versa.
Breaking World Records
In November, the fastest potter at Sunset Hill Stoneware became the fastest potter in the world.
We’ve mentioned Mike Weber and his speed at the pottery wheel before. For Guinness World Record Day in November though, he made an attempt that would officially make him the fastest potter on Earth. He broke the world record for the most pots thrown in one hour by an individual, making 212 and shattering the previous record of 193.
Mike’s world record was months in the making. He wanted to prove to himself that he could break the record, so he trained for months throughout the summer and fall leading up to the big day on Nov. 14. Much like he’d train for a marathon, Mike had to have the endurance to keep throwing pots consistently at the wheel for an hour straight. With the help of our master potter, Jason Sonsthagen, Mike could throw a single pot in 15 seconds in the weeks before he broke the world record.
However, Mike believes that he couldn’t have done this without his team. In addition to the pit crew that fed him rounded slugs of clay, we had an entire crew counting mugs and making the attempt official.
You can read all about how to achieve a world record in this blog post.
Looking Ahead to 2020
We’re planning on making the new year and the new decade a big one. While we can’t say just yet if we’re going to switch to designing all our mugs with an art deco touch, we’re still excited. We’ve got new products on the horizon that feature prohibited plants, as well as the return of a few classics.
We’ve also got some elegant new features on the horizon that will give your mugs a dark flair, so stay tuned to see what we have in store for your custom mugs. People looking for custom mugs might also see the potential for some new kitchenware pieces and white clay mugs.
You can also expect to see more about the hardworking crew that makes your mugs next year. We’ll go live with our cameras so you can get to know each member of our family and see how they work every day. Each member of our team is creative, so we’re looking forward to working with them to show off their talents.
Ultimately, we don’t know all of the surprises 2020 will bring. But, we’re ready for whatever may come this year and in the decade beyond. To stay up to date with the SHS crew and all of our newest products and announcements, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.