By now you’re probably familiar with our Artist Collection: a series of mugs featuring the artwork of artists from around the United States and the world
These mugs use a process we rarely get a chance to talk about: decals! Mug decals are prolific. Any mug with a printed image from Staples or Walmart uses a decal process and often is photo-realistic in nature. However, using decals to customize pottery in the handmade world is still rare, especially at larger quantities. One of the best-known artists using decals today is another Indiana local, Justin Rothshank. Be sure to check out his work!
Our decals start life as a powdered glaze stored in our specially customized printer. Only around 20 of these printers exist in the United States; talk about rare! After setting up a print file in Photoshop, our team prints this file onto a special decal paper. The sheet is then laminated with a waterslide paper. This is the start of the real magic!
We try to pack as many decals on a single sheet as possible because printing decals isn’t cheap! The team cuts the sheet apart and organizes them by mug or bracelet order.
Just as clean water is important in life, clean water is essential to getting a good image transfer. Water that has clay dust or leftover glue residue causes the decals to break, ruining a whole mug. Instead, decals are dipped in fresh, filtered water to create the best image possible.
The team then slides the decal loose from its paper and places it on the correct part of the mug. Then they squeegee excess water from between the decal and the body of the mug. Ironically, water that is trapped underneath the decal will destroy the decal around it during a firing. A yellow rib is the best tool for ensuring the best-looking image.
Decaled mugs are then loaded into the decal kiln for their final firing before they’re ready to be sent home. This firing is nowhere near as toasty as our other kilns, about 1500° instead of 2100°. The firing process ensures that the final image is permanent, ready to withstand daily washings for a lifetime! After 14 hours, the mugs are cooled down and ready to be packaged and shipped to you!
Thanks for taking an inside look at this little-known process with us! Take a look at our most recent Artist Collection and support artists from around the world!