We are ‘over the moon’ announcing the addition of Moonberry to our growing glaze collection. While astronomers recently discovered seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away, our production team has encountered their own findings. This out-of-this-world glaze color is now available for your next American-made Signature Stoneware™ order.

          Sunset Hill Stoneware launches Moon berry glaze color.

Previously, Moonberry had been available on a limited basis as a specialty glaze color at an extra cost. We are pleased to offer it as part of our standard glaze collection of 60+ beautiful choices. Our Moonberry glaze reflects a dark rich purple color featuring beautiful speckles of sky blue flecks.

         Sunset Hill Stoneware launches Moon berry glaze color.

From previous blogs you may recall that creating new glaze colors is a science dependent on the chemistry of all components fitting, melting and interacting. Customers select our handmade stoneware for our artistry – and functionality. Our Signature Stoneware mugs are 100% lead-free – making them food safe and perfect for everyday use. We’ll continue to work hard on our processes and efficiencies to ensure you receive beautifully made stoneware each and every time. We love what we do – to the moon and back.

Keeping watch.  Pat

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This time of year makes Wisconsinites yearn for green. After a long winter, we take joy in seeing green grass, green foliage – even a green beer sounds pleasurable.

Late last year, Pantone unveiled their 2017 Color of the Year as Greenery. Calling it a refreshing, revitalizing shade, Pantone stated that Greenery is symbolic of new beginnings. The color green can create a sanctuary from the stresses of modern living, helping us restore back to a sense of well-being.

                   Request a color glaze chart from Sunset Hill Stoneware greenery blog

At Sunset Hill Stoneware – green is important to us. You will find 13 pretty shades of green glaze colors – and if you’ve had the opportunity to view our facility, you’d find many energy-smart ways where we do our best to make a difference. 

                                  Sunset Hill Stoneware offers 13 green shades of glaze colors, similar to Greenery

Celebrate this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day thinking about ways you can contribute to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Start small. Use less paper. Recycle more. Use canvas bags. Or simply breathe deeply and kick back with your favorite brew to reflect on your options.

Keeping watch. Pat

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To be more precise, the Navy Seal Museum located in Fort Pierce, Florida. The museum is the only institution dedicated solely to preserving the history of the Navy SEALs and their predecessors.

                    Navy Seal Museum offers hand thrown Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces (SEALs) were established in 1962. This elite maritime military force is skillfully trained to deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the resources of standard military forces. Their training is intense and secretive – requiring fast thinking, unbreakable commitment and invincible will. When the exclusive squadron took down the world’s most wanted terrorist in 2011, America knew of the fact only after the mission was accomplished. They are simply the best of the best.

                             Navy Seal Museum offers Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs thrown by Wisconsin artisans

The National Navy SEAL Museum and Memorial was formally dedicated in 1985 and is the only national museum in Florida. They receive no federal funding and are 100% dependent on private donations. A tour of the museum will trace the history of the Navy SEALs, while providing visitors with a perspective of our nation’s constant vigil for freedom spanning more than 70 years. Visitors will learn of the SEALs dedication to duty and the cost of elite preparedness.

                   Navy Seal Museum offers American made Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs

Inside the museum they display authentic artifacts. When you go, make sure you take the time to pick up the replica weapons to gain a sense of what it takes to hike with a gun for several miles through suboptimal terrain. Outside you view a 9’ tall bronze sculpture of a modern Navy SEAL giving you time to pause and pay your respects, along with a children’s obstacle course to test their athletic and mental abilities.

                   Navy Seal Museum offers custom made Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs

Time spent here makes you proud of these brave individuals who serve America. Thank you for your service today – and every day. Our Sunset Hill Stoneware team is happy to be part of your story.

Keeping watch. Pat

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I’m not talking baseball; I’m referring to brewers as in beer. The brewery market overall is growing – in fact, it never really stopped. In 1873, there were 4,100 breweries in America; today there more than 4,200.The market bottomed out during the prohibition years of 1920-1933. That’s when members of my husband’s family tree ran whiskey in northern Wisconsin for Al Capone. Since that time frame, our family history has become a bit more uncertain while breweries have rebounded and the battle for the best beer extends from major players like Budweiser to the small, independent and traditional craft brewer.

In fact, each year the Super Bowl provides the perfect battleground for rivals. Last year, when Peyton Manning held up his favorite ‘big name’ beer after the game, the craft brewers responded by sending him a care package of more than 4,000 small and independent craft beers. Ah, point taken and message received.

In Wisconsin, statistics confirm we have 121 craft breweries in the state and we drink 7.6 gallons per 21+ adult annually. In fact, Wisconsin ranks #8 per capita in the most craft beer produced in the US. Many Wisconsinites take pride in following the Green Bay Packers, cheese and visiting their favorite pub. Some of our home state stoneware favorites.

Stevens Point Brewery
Celebrating 160 years in 2017, this brewery provided beer to Civil War troops. That’s a bit mind boggling and satisfying at the same time. During prohibition, the company produced near-beer products and soft drinks. In 1990, they began distributing their popular Point Special Lager outside of Wisconsin and eventually the brew was available throughout the Midwest.

In 2003, Point Special Lager received national recognition when they won the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival over Miller Genuine Draft and Budweiser. That’s quite an accomplishment for a craft brewer from a city that boasts a population of 26,000.

      Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins   Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins 

     Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins   Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins

Along with their brewery line, the Stevens Point Brewery also offers season brews, hard ciders and a line of Gourmet soda brands – and their distribution network has expanded to 25 states. Take time to visit the third-oldest continuously operating privately-owned brewery in the United States – right in Wisconsin.

Central Waters Brewing
Just a short 20-minute drive down the road from Stevens Point is Central Waters Brewing. In 1996, the business began in a historical building that began as a Ford Model-A dealership. Today the brewery has expanded its product line to 18 beer styles and services more than 200 retail locations in Central Wisconsin.

Important to the owners is their environmental footprint – from upstream product sourcing to downstream management. Bottles are sourced from a manufacturer using green initiatives, packaging is post-consumer recycled and, most importantly, they work with local farmers for their hops and barley. Solar technology for heating their water, using T-8 fluorescent light with motion sensing, conserving and reusing brewing chemicals when applicable all play into their strategic plan. Even their sampling room has been created from recycled materials.

                       Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins  

All of these combined initiatives gained them recognition as the first brewery to be named in Wisconsin’s Green Tier program. Today they remain the only brewery in Wisconsin’s Green Master’s program. They are simply a model for environmental stewardship – and for producing a great brew.

HopCat – Madison
Located in the heart of the city, close to the State Capital, University of Wisconsin and the popular State Street, HopCat-Madison offers Wisconsin’s largest selection of craft beer on 130 taps. The company is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has achieved much recognition since their 2008 start up. In that time, they’ve been named as one of the top 50 bars in the US by Draft Magazine, #3 beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate Magazine, #2 beer bar in the US by Craftbeer.com and #1 brewpub in the US by ratebeer.com.

What’s created all the excitement? HopCat has one mission: To bring you great beer.

                     Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins

They have 11 HopCat locations in six states with more sites in the works. If you’ve gone to one HopCat location – you haven’t gone to them all. The company is adamant to not take a cookie-cutter approach to their business allowing each beer manager to customize the business to their location and local flavors. And each location, offers a full menu including fresh takes on local specialties. In fact, Food Network magazine has named their famous Crack Fries as one of the top 10 French fries in America. Beer and French fries – now that’s a taste of Wisconsin you won’t forget.

Port Huron Brewing Company
Established in 2011, Port Huron is Wisconsin Dell’s newest production brewery producing both kegged and bottled beer. This family-owned business is named after a 1917 Port Huron Steam Traction Engine. The 22,000 pound engine has been part of the family since the 1950’s and still drives and powers antique farm implements.

Tanner Brethorst is the chief brewer. Prior to opening Port Huron Brewing he finished his studies in Madison, Chicago and Munich, Germany while working at a number of other breweries to confirm his career path.

The brewery specializes in four tap beers with many seasonal flavors. Recent claim to fame was Port Huron Brewing Company being the featured beer in the movie ‘Uncle John’.

                       Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins

You’ll find the Engine House Tap Room open Wednesday through Sunday where you can view the brewery floor through windows while you sample. Then you shop for apparel, drinkware and purchase a ½ gallon Growler full of your favorite brew so you can enjoy ‘fresh from the tap’ from your home recliner.

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.
This family brewery is celebrating 150 years this year. Founded in Chippewa Falls by Jacob Leinenkugel, his German heritage and work ethic has set the foundation for the next six generations of Leinenkugel’s® legacy. Today, Jacob’s descendants are building on the family’s German brewing traditions working to get more of their beers into more markets.

You may know that beer is 92 percent water. For that fact alone, the company relies on pure water for their Signature brews – it’s why they created Canoes for a Cause. This group effort organizes volunteers to clean up local waterways by removing debris to improve and protect waterways across America.

                        Wisconsin brewers use Sunset Hill Stoneware steins

You can become a Leinie Lodge® member – it’s free! You’ll receive The Legend, a monthly email newsletter giving you access to great offers and special event notifications. And for the full flavor of all things, you can take a tour of Leinenkugel’s historic brewery even requesting a Leinenkugel family member to conduct the tour. In the end, you’ll end up at the Leinie Lodge® where you can find wearables and collectibles to take home.

Those are some stories of Wisconsin Brewers. Let’s hope at the end of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers create their own story.

Keeping watch. Pat

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If you follow our brand story, you know we operate a bit differently than most companies. Much of that has to do with the people who work here. When hiring, I’m looking for that customer service focus, but I’m also looking for that person’s creativity. How well is that potential employee going to transition a customer’s two-dimensional black and white logo into an artistic clay mug that develops an emotional attachment? Our customers depend on our people, originality, knowledge and follow through.

Reverse Glass Painting
Shelly, our goddess of sales, stands out in talent. She has a gift that she discovered a few years back. She paints, in reverse, on glass. You ever hear of this? Reverse glass painting is an art form consisting of applying paint to a piece of glass and then viewing the image from the other side of the glass. She paints from the backside starting with the foreground and works herself into the background. For me, it’s a bit incomprehensible how someone can do this – but she does it, quite remarkably. Even more astonishing is how she uses her talent with customers. JTH Homes and She-Brews Coffee are two customers who have benefited from her artistic talent.

Sunset Hill Stoneware creativity initiated at reverse painting studio  Sunset Hill Stoneware creativity initiated at reverse painting studioSunset Hill Stoneware creativity initiated at reverse painting studio  Sunset Hill Stoneware creativity initiated at reverse painting studio

JTH Homes
Jason and Tricia Handy own JTH Custom Homes. Working together as husband and wife, they have been buying and building homes for 20+ years. The family-owned business started when they made updates to their own home and friends saw what they did and asked if they could refurbish their own homes. Well one thing led to another, and they have a business a little bit like what Chip and Joanna Gaines do on Fixer Upper – except JTH Homes started up more than 20 years ago.

As Jason and Tricia developed their building and refurbishing business, Tricia called Sunset Hill Stoneware wanting to use our mugs as client giveaway gifts. The problem was, Tricia had no logo or identity established for their business.

Now that’s a bit different for us as our business is Signature Stoneware™. We press customer brands into clay and attach that artwork to a clay mug. We’re not an ad agency – but we do end up educating and helping much of our customer base with their corporate identity. Tricia connected with Shelly and after a discussion of branding, decided to do something a bit similar to our SHS brand – using their business initials as a signature of the craftsmanship they provide to their customers.

                   Handy Homes brand set in Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs      Handy Homes brand set in Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs 

As the years have transitioned, their artwork has evolved, yet their brand has remained consistent. We all know that if uniformity in branding is important to large companies; it is vital to small companies like JTH Homes and Sunset Hill Stoneware.

She-Brews Coffee
This past year Tricia called Shelly with a new challenge. Jason and she had bought a new coffee house located in the state of Washington. Tricia needed a business name, logo, mugs – and Shelly’s help!

Here’s where the story gets a bit uncanny. As they are pondering names back and forth, they eventually come up with She-Brews Coffee. Now we know that a good company name and/or tagline should express what the business does. They did a nice job with this.

                       Shelly reverse paints images for Sunset Hill Stoneware 

Now they needed an image. Remember when I told you about Shelly’s reverse painting capabilities? Years ago, Shelly painted a photo of a woman simply because she loved it – it had no significant purpose. When she began working with Tricia, Shelly realized that the painting of the woman she had done years ago actually looked like Tricia. Shelly ended up mailing Tricia the painting as a token of their friendship. Grateful for the gift, Tricia placed the painting in her home on her mantle where it stayed for years – until the day she called Shelly about needing help with her coffee shop’s business identity.

                           Tricia is Handy Homes and She-Brews Coffee owner

As the two settled on the business name and pondered image possibilities over the phone, Tricia looked up at her mantle and saw the painting. It was in that instant that Tricia knew. The painting represented a strong, powerful woman and She-Brews was her. It was the very root of who she was and what she wanted their business to be.

                                          Sunset Hill Stoneware artwork for She-Brews Coffee

           Sunset Hill Stoneware mug for She-Brews Coffee  Sunset Hill Stoneware mug for She-Brews Coffee  Sunset Hill Stoneware mug for She-Brews Coffee

She-Brews Coffee now had a name, a logo – and just a few weeks ago, they received their mugs with the She-Brews brand set in stone(ware).

                                           She-Brews Coffee reflects brand set in Sunset Hill Stoneware

                   She-Brews Coffee mugs hand thrown by Sunset Hill Stoneware artisans

It’s one of my favorite stories that make our stoneware.

Keeping watch. Pat

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According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Women typically purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. Each year, I send a few Valentines to some of my favorite people. They enjoy knowing that I put effort into remembering them with a handwritten message in a handmade card.

Love & Art
We live in a world where most things are mass produced. That’s why people tend to embrace, appreciate and treasure handmade items. The very fact that someone took the time to hand create something – whether it’s a card made of ribbons, a bench from your favorite oak tree, an oil-based painting or a wheel-thrown mug – the item reflects the pride of the maker and the very fiber of joy the consumer values on the maker’s creative spirit.

After all, an artisan can’t duplicate their art. As much as they may want to, there will be variations in color, shape, texture and grain. It is fulfilling to know the final piece is one-of-a-kind and not manufactured by the thousands.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, I asked a few of our account specialists to share one of their favorite stories. Our team sells artisan-thrown stoneware to buyers across the nation, helping select the style, glaze and artwork that will retail best in their store and/or reflect their organization.  Many times, the account specialist doesn’t get to see or hold the final piece. The pieces simply get shipped out in bulk and we eagerly wait for the buyer’s reaction to the shipment.

Proud to be a Pepper
TomM is an account specialist with Sunset Hill Stoneware. (We call him TM to avoid confusion with our owner, Tom Dunsirn.) One of TM’s favorite accounts is the Dr. Pepper Museum – it’s an iconic brand and it also reminds him of his dad, Donn. Dr. Pepper museum sells favorite Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

Donn is 86 years old, and like most that grew up during the depression, he tends to save things. One of his treasures is a plastic-branded Citgo coffee mug that has an innovative base that could be adhered to a vehicle’s dashboard. Donn’s children were cleaning house and they asked him to let go of it. In turn, Donn asked TM if he “would have use for it.” Well TM works with Sunset Hill Stoneware artisans who throw amazing handcrafted mugs for a living; stepping down to own an old plastic cup from his Dad’s cupboard wasn’t the most appealing treasure. So TM responded with a laugh and a kind, “ah, no Dad.”

Now you may recall from a previous blog that we’ve been fortunate to have signed an exclusive manufacturing agreement with the Dr. Pepper group. TM manages this account and for Christmas this past year, TM purchased his dad a new Dr. Pepper mug to honor his dad’s childhood love for the product. Donn was appreciative of the gift and uses it daily. Like many other items in Donn’s life, this mug is a keeper.  

Nag to Riches
We encourage employees to work on the accounts they love. Our audience base is so diverse – national parks, museums, Fortune 500 corporations, associations, mom and pop shops, breweries; it’s easy to get distracted during the day as you uncover another market to research.

Anne is an account specialist and has always admired horses. Her daughter Gemini, also a fan, operates Gemini Stedl Photography that specializes in affordable equine photography. When Anne came on board, she pursued the iconic Santa Anita Park.

                       

For more than 80 years, this historic Southern California race track has set the stage for the most dramatic moments in thoroughbred racing, where legendary racehorses crossed the finish line into infamy. The racetrack is known for the inspiring story of Seabiscuit – the true account of the famous undersized depression-era racehorse that lifted the spirits of the nation and gave Americans hope during a difficult time. The movie inspires its audience with its story of determination and love.

                 Santa Anita Park sells favorite Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

This great American story was filmed in 2002 at the famous Santa Anita Park. Their brand is now set in stone(ware) and stands as a constant reminder that diligent perseverance does pay off.

Sweet Tradition
Many times our stoneware mugs serve as 1st, 2nd, 3rd place award recognition trophies for marathons and contests. That was the inspiration for Brandi, our account specialist who works with The Omni Grove Park Inn. For more than two decades The Omni Grove Park Inn has conducted a National Gingerbread House Competition™ with open entry categories for adults, teen, youth and child.Omni Grove Park Inn sells favorite Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

It began in 1992 with a small group of gingerbread houses built by community members. Since then, it has evolved into one of the nations most celebrated and competitive holiday events. More than 150 entries from the United States and Canada were received in 2016 all competing for the $5,000 grand prize. The well-covered media event has been broadcast on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Travel Channel and the Food Network and is judged by nationally renowned food, arts and media professionals. The entries are on display each year from Thanksgiving into the New Year, with the exhibition now a holiday family tradition.

Brandi had the pleasure of working with the resort to create memorable takeaway mugs for guests. We hope our creative readers consider entering their own sweet gingerbread creation The Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition™ in 2017.

We hope you enjoy some of your favorite things this week. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Keeping watch. Pat

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Powerlifting is a true measure of one’s individual progress. You are competing only with you and the weight – you either lift it or not. This individualized sport challenges a person to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition in the squat, bench press and deadlift. It can strengthen your skeleton while building muscle and reducing fat.

                Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club is selling highly-durable Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

When competing, every lifter is allowed three attempts at a lift. A lifter’s total is determined by the sum of their best lift and the individual with the highest total is considered the strongest lifter in the division.

Our local high school has a powerlifting program for students; in fact, Neenah High School is celebrating their 28th year of competition this year. Participants lift as individuals and as part of a team. On February 11, 2017, the high school is holding the Neenah Powerlifting Invitational. Individual qualifiers will advance to the WHSPA state meet. What does it take to advance? A 114 pound high school girl needs to lift 515 lbs. A 181 pound high school boy needs to lift 1,150lbs. That’s takes a lot of physical and emotional strength – all good attributes for a person’s future.

                        Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club is selling highly-durable Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

At many high schools, powerlifting is considered a club and not a school sport. That means the athletes and their parents are responsible for all participations costs. These costs include the suit lifters wear in the squat, knee wraps, wrist wraps, shoes, training clothes and entry fees for the regional meets. The Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club is instrumental in helping raise funds to alleviate some of the expenses for athletes to participate and to help purchase equipment for the program.

           Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club is selling highly-durable Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

If a lifter makes it to the State meet level, the booster club pays for the lifters to attend. If athletes are chosen to be part of the National team, and their State lift total qualifies them for Nationals, the lifters have a fundraiser called Penny-a-Pound where they ask people to sponsor them based on the total number of pounds they lift at the Neenah Invite meet. If the athletes raise $200 or more, the booster club pays their trip to Nationals. If not, the athlete pays their own way. 

           Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club is selling highly-durable Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

Fundraising Efforts
To date, the team's largest fundraiser has always been the Team T-shirt Sponsorship. The T-shirts are worn at each regional meet as well as the State and National Meets. The lifters and families seek out local businesses and ask them to sponsor their business on one of the two sleeves or the back in a small or large logo or they can be listed as Friends of Neenah Powerlifting. With the money generated from the t-shirts, the team is able to purchase equipment for the weight room such as ER racks and kilo weights. A main purchase this year was geared towards technology, including a new scoring light system and large screen televisions to display lifter information for spectators, lifters and coaches, as well as some additional equipment.

This year the Neenah Powerlifting Booster Club wanted to offer something new and bring excitement to the club's fundraising efforts. When a parent suggested Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs and presented design ideas, the booster club was ecstatic. The mug styles and colors were chosen to represent the Neenah Powerlifting Team and have already been a huge hit with the athletes, parents and powerlifters across the country.

  

Many non-profit organizations use our hand-thrown stoneware for their fundraising needs. Our products provide an excellent return on investment and provide the morning ‘lift’ to start the day.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Downtown Neenah is hosting their 3rd annual Warm Your Heart event on Saturday, February 11. More than 20 downtown Neenah businesses will be participating by offering samples of warm foods, beverages and snacks. The $15 admission fee includes warm samples at each of the participating businesses, plus a limited-edition Sunset Hill Stoneware mug. They limit the event to 225 participants so store owners can plan appropriately. 

                    Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.

The Warm Your Heart event sells out quickly each year – so hopefully you’ve already registered. Conducted between the hours of 11:00am-3:00pm, participants can pick up The Potbelly Morning Mums mug at the Future Neenah office. It’s there they will receive a list of the warm items being served at participating stores. It’s a fun couples and/or girls day to browse, buy and donate. Your donation of new adult socks and/or white t-shirts allows participants to receive an additional discount or coupon toward their purchases. Last year more than 425 pairs of socks were delivered to the Warming Shelter.

                   Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.           Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.

So many great specialty gift shops downtown to walk through – my personal favorite is the Red Door Mercantile, it is like shopping a modern-day general store and Vintique where you’ll find retro gifts, along with vintage clothing and accessories. That’s just for starts – you’ll find unique children toys, Wisconsin’s largest selection of delicious oils and vinegars and many, many wonderful dining cuisines. 

Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Warm Your Heart Neenah event.

All of this for $15. It may be the best deal in Wisconsin. That warms everyone’s heart in February.

Keeping watch. Pat
 

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This year marks the 50th annual Feast of the Hunters' Moon. The actual celebration will take place this year on September 30th and October 1st at Fort Ouiatenon Park near West Lafayette, Indiana.

The mission of Tippecanoe County Historical Association members, donors and volunteers who organize this event is to enrich the lives of local residents and visitors with their preservation of history. Every fall, the Association holds the Feast of the Hunters' Moon event. Held on the banks of the Wabash River at Fort Ouiatenon, thousands of participants re-enact the mid-1700’s gathering of the French and Native Americans in the replica area of a French military and trading post.  This event allows visitors immerse themselves in history and bring the period back to life in a meaningful way.

Feast of the Hunters' Moon celebrates 50th anniversary with Sunset Hill Stoneware steins.Feast of the Hunters' Moon celebrates 50th anniversary with Sunset Hill Stoneware steins.

Last year, their Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs were sold out by Saturday night; this year they are starting the party early.  You can order your commemorative Feast Anniversary mugs in advance by emailing tippecanoebattlefield@gmail.com or purchase tickets for the event by visiting the Association’s website.

Feast of the Hunters' Moon celebrates 50th anniversary with Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.Feast of the Hunters' Moon celebrates 50th anniversary with Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs.

Sunset Hill Stoneware is pleased to be a part of their American-made story.

Keeping watch.  Pat

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There’s so much written about instant gratification. We all want it – now. The millennial generation has really taken it on the chin with this concept. It’s really not them – it’s all of us. We’re more impatient – at the store, in the car, when we are Internet searching. If we can do things faster, we believe we can get more done each day.

It’s the same in business. If a company can get product manufactured and out the door, there’s time to take on more opportunities. Many times an engineer can invent a way to speed up a printing press or bottling machine to increase production. Not us.

For a company like Sunset Hill Stoneware, it’s not that simple. We don’t have machines that will go faster at the turn of a switch. We employ artisans who hand throw mugs on a pottery wheel – one at a time.

               

The Process
From start to finish, if everything goes well, our mug-making process for a single unit is 5-7 days. That means that nothing can go wrong during manufacturing.

What could happen? Breakage, wrong artwork or color applied, natural glazing minerals melt differently during final firing, kiln misfires, artwork cracks, etc. When that happens, we hold the order and redo what needs to be replaced (yes, another 5-7 days).

Merchandise on Display
Retailers rely on Sunset Hill Stoneware to have American-made products on their shelves. They say the faster, the better. Why the urgency? Many of them have seasonal shops. Think about Yellowstone National Park. They have 12 shops typically open from April through October. If we ship in November, they could end up with months of costly inventory. It’s the same for a bed and breakfast or gift store. Every business has a peak season and we coordinate our work within those seasonal demands.

                         

Manufacturing Secrets
We can’t make our potters throw faster, but we can improve their efficiency without sacrificing quality and consistency. It starts with our pottery wheels. Our wheels are custom designed and maintenance free. What does that mean?

A typical potter throwing 200 mugs a day will most likely need pottery wheel maintenance at least every six months. Our Sunset Hill Stoneware pottery wheels have no downtime and require no maintenance. And our computer-engineered wheels allow a potter to select how fast they want to start and stop, along with adjusting their throwing speeds. Why is this important? When a single potter is throwing 200 mugs a day, every second counts. During an 8-hour day, there is 480 minutes. Divide that by 200 and our potter’s are throwing a new mug in less than 2-1/2 minutes. (Watch us in action!)

                Sunset Hill Stoneware potters throw mugs individually on pottery wheels

And every production employee has the tools they need within reach of their work station. It’s this investment in duplication of work stations, cutting tools, sponges and water supply that makes us more efficient and speeds up our processes.

                Sunset Hill Stoneware has the tools needed within reach to make them more efficient and speed up their processes.

Speedy Drying Times
Wet clay contains a lot of water; in fact, it is at least 25% water. So after a mug is thrown, it needs to dry. As it dries, the water evaporates and the particles of the clay are drawn closer together resulting in shrinkage. We expect about 12.5% shrinkage and our potters plan for that. What becomes more challenging is controlling the drying time during the different stages of manufacturing. The clay pieces have to dry uniformly. If they dry too fast, the medallion artwork could fall off, handles won’t adhere, pieces could have cracked bottoms or the mug overall will appear warped.

                Find consistency and beauty with Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs

We control the drying process a few ways:

  • Using building automation to control our heat and humidity levels. This maintains 45% relative humidity in our facility during every Wisconsin season.
     
  • Designing proprietary mobile damp carts for each potter. These innovative damp carts slightly dry our pottery while maintaining optimal moisture content for the next manufacturing step of properly applying handles and medallions.
     
  • Engineering a specially-designed drying room. This aerated environment dries our pottery for the next manufacturing step in less than 30 minutes vs. the piece having to air dry overnight.

These expedited drying methods help us deliver the quantity of product needed at the right time with minimal waste.

Visibility Drives Efficiency
When a business can streamline their processes and gain visibility to their procedures, it will help them gain momentum. That’s what our newly implemented HawkPoint MRP II system does for us. It helps us plan our day, week and month more efficiently.

            Processes drive success at Sunset Hill Stoneware

We can enter our orders and visually communicate with our artisans what style, glaze and artwork is required for each piece, along with any details of special artwork placement and bottom stamps. After the final firing, the stoneware pieces are carted via traveling workstations into our shipping department. It is there where transport details are automatically imported into UPS, packing lists are auto generated and tracking numbers are auto emailed.

Speed and Strength Achieved by Process
Well-run organizations from small start-ups to larger players have a need for process. Structure and visibility helps a business evaluate their strength and weaknesses, identify areas for improvement and react quicker.

The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of our products and services; deliver consistently to our customers in the timeline needed while increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Leveraging our processes helps us deliver new products and services quickly and efficiently without reinventing the ‘wheel’ every time. For us, keeping our wheels spinning is vital for success.

Keeping watch. Pat

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