Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everyone Struggles with Handles

I've been at this stuff for 10 years and have learned a thing or two. Can I make a decent handle that looks good and feels good? Usually. Have I ever made a perfect handle? Probably not but I keep learning and refining . I was taught to make a handle, shape it let it set up then attach it. I have tried putting a plug of clay on the pot, then pulling and I can do that but what works for me is a hybrid of the two. I pull handles, put them flat on a 1x6 and let them (or force them) to get dry enough to handle without marking them up. I score my mug, apply a little slip and while that settles in I cut the top end of my handle at a shallow angle and trim a half circle on the lower end. I hold the handle almost upright and blend the upper attachment area together. Then because the handle is still flexible, I make my loop and attach the bottom of the handle. A little clean up and refining the loop and it's done. P.S. I can pre cut the length easily because that 1x6 is 5 1/2 inches wide. I use that as a gauge and all my handle straps end up the same length. The best tip I can give is "attach the handle at the angle you want it to end up at and don't change it once it is stuck on the pot"

My handles have not always pleased me, some days they still don't.  I dug some oldies out of the back of the cupboard to review and discuss. The pictures are quickly snapped but should serve the purpose. Also I don't understand the optics of it but handles almost always look larger in a picture than in person. Go ahead and chime in in the comments section. I'm a big boy, I can take it.

Basic D handle This droops a little and could be a little beefier

The body could be shaped better. The handle is set too high but the size and shape aren't bad

pulled on the mug. upper end needs to be a little heavier.
 I think this method is easiest if you come off the mug at 90 degrees
 but that doesn't always look good.

Nice negative space and placement , but it is a little thin for a mug this size

Handle too heavy and there is a slight kink in the curve

Large soup mug Handle droops a little but works very well
the weight of the full mug has leverage that is counteracted by fingers under the loop.
In this style, the finger(s) inside the handle keep it from tipping and
the fingers outside the handle support most of the weight.

another big soup mug
Happy with this one

Good negative space, fingers are not forced against the hot mug

current handle I'm trying the lower placement and like it so far

Good negative space

Very large mug, beefier handle, even curves and
almost symmetrical teardrop shaped negative space
Pleased with this one

big 30 oz mug
I would like a little steeper rise where it attaches

Pretty happy with this one


  1. I get a lot of different requests for certain types of handles from customers. It seems to be a very personal thing. I have double jointed fingers and the balance of the mug is very important, otherwise bad stuff happens: joints give way, mug maliciously droops, hot liquid spills on me. A downward slope from where it attaches works best for me. I'm still trying to get a "handle" on what is comfortable for others.

  2. Thanks Melissa hardly anyone leaves comments anymore. I try to keep a variety of handles in the booth and encourage people to try them on for size. I am moving to tighter handles 1 or 2 fingers because most of the weight is carried by the lower fingers outside the cup

    1. Those tighter handles work for me also. I haven't done a lot with them yet, though.

  3. That's a nice evolution of handles and mugs. There's a reason for saving examples of work.
    Handles are wonky because they have to work in profile and full on, have a good shape and negative space, and be comfortable to hold. The struggle is part of the fun!

  4. Like Melissa, I look for features of handles that allow for a sure and comfortable grip since I have arthritis and a weak hand. My own mug and handle style has evolved to accommodate that, and it seems to appeal to my aging peers! I love your glazes and the dark rims on your pots.

  5. All I know is if it feels good in my hand; nice to see the progression and variations

  6. Hey Big Boy: I like to think of a handle like the branch on a tree. It should be wider at the trunk. I'd like to see you fatten it up where ya attach. My 2 cents. A person that asks for advice and listens is bound to grow. 10 years man you are still an infant. Best, T

  7. Thanks for sharing these. I have such small hands that i never seem to make my handles right for everyone else. I really need to make a bunch of handles and let people test them.


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