The work that goes into making your custom coffee mugs requires more finesse than you might think. Even the act of stamping the bottoms of our mugs and sealing them requires a delicate hand. That’s where members of our prepping and stamping crew like Mike Fredericks come in.

Mike has been with Sunset Hill Stoneware’s team for almost three years. In that time, he became the third place winner of the first annual Sunset Hill Stoneware Beard Growing contest. However, he also became a pro at applying the custom stamps on the bottom of our mugs and adding other fine details. As simple as it may seem, it’s a process that requires care.

Sunset Hill Stoneware’s Many Seals

If you look at the underside of a Sunset Hill Stoneware mug, you might notice a custom stamp with our logo or name. Almost all of our mugs, steins and other stoneware have this stamp or another custom stamp on the bottom.

Mike says that we have more than 460 different stamps for the bottom of your mugs. Other than the custom stamps with our logo, these can include customized logos for everything from lifestyle brands to breweries. We even have scores of stamps for America’s national parks, monuments and historic sites. Each of these has an educational fact about the park for which we made the mug.

Most of these stamps not only show our name. They also include the stamp labeling it as handcrafted in the USA.

Mike and the rest of our team apply these stamps with potter’s ink, which withstands the heat of our kilns. Once they’ve applied the stamp, they seal the bottom of the mug with wax so the stamp is still visible after we finish firing it.

Applying wax to the bottom of the mugs also takes attention to detail. If someone on the prepping and stamping team misses a spot when they’re waxing, it can make the glaze stick to the bottom of the mug after we finish it.

A Promotional Product You Can Use

Mike covers several different jobs from day to day at the shop. In the mornings, Mike and his coworker Jordan Johnson stamp and wax the bottoms of each mug. Once they finish that work in the early afternoon, they get to work sanding the extra glaze off of the medallions on the mugs. Since we also cross-trained Mike in glazing, he can also apply the glazes to the mugs whenever someone is gone.

However, stamping, waxing and glazing aren’t as easy as Mike or any of his coworkers make it look. Each step takes a careful hand and an eye for details. For example, they have to make sure there’s an even coating of wax all over the bottom of the mug, with no bare patches. Stamps can smudge or look faded. Even more, glazing can be very tricky.

“Each glaze has their own particular way of dipping,” Mike said. “Different ones are thinner and they run, so you have to be quick. But, with some you have to do a slow dip.”

Stamping in particular is deceptively tricky. Everyone on our prepping and stamping crew can easily apply our classic logo bottom stamp without trouble. However, things get trickier whenever we have a new stamp. Mike also noted that some of the mugs that have numbers on the bottom get a second stamp so he can number them.

“Being able to just go down the line and get 10 right in a row does take a bit of practice,” Mike explained. “Some of the bottom stamps have such intricate designs that you really have to know how to apply them in order for them to show up correctly.”

Mike had worked in other manufacturing jobs before he joined us. Before coming to work with us, he’d been working a swing shift at a previous job that had him switching from working 12 hours during the day to working 12 hours overnight. Plus, by his own admission, he likes the product he works with a lot more now. One of the things he enjoys most about this job is that people all over the country and the world can use it for years to come.

“I’d never really learned anything about pottery, but I was interested in being able to make something that people would use,” Mike explained.

Working at Sunset Hill Stoneware also comes with the ability to do things you wouldn’t be able to do in other manufacturing facility. Part of it is because we’re a pretty laid back work environment while still paying close attention to safety. But, our team is also full of skilled, fully-trained artisans.

“You can put your headphones on and just blast through a cart,” Mike said. “Being so close together and working in a team where everybody knows what they’re doing is pretty cool.”

All in Stitches

With a toddler at home, Mike doesn’t usually have a lot of downtime. However, when he does have some time to himself, he enjoys cross-stitching. It’s a hobby he learned from his grandmother when he was a kid. About seven years ago, he picked it up again and hasn’t looked back.

But, the pieces Mike cross stitches aren’t the sampler patterns you used to make in home economics. His current work includes art based on video games, including characters and symbols from games like Minecraft, Pokemon and the Legend of Zelda. He’s recently started an Instagram for his work. It features everything from items and icons from all of these games and more. Each piece has incredible detail and colors you’d normally never see in cross stitching.

“I’ve been relegated to giving them away as gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but I’ve taken pictures of everything I’ve made,” Mike explained. “I wanted to get that up for people to look at.”

Mike makes each of these pieces by hand. Because of that and the fact that making each one takes such a long time, he hasn’t considered selling these pieces at scale; but he is looking into creating a storefront on Etsy so people can find his pieces.

You can follow Mike on Instagram to see more of his unique cross stitching pieces. You can also meet the rest of the crew through the link below.

Meet Sunset Hill Stoneware's Artisans