It’s been said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ That is true, but we all know when it comes to art, beauty can be very subjective. A piece that is viewed as priceless to one person can make another tilt their head and say, ‘I don’t get it.’
That perception can be a challenge in our business. Everything we do is by hand. Throwing on the wheel, handle/medallion application, bottom stamping – including hand dipping our pieces when in bisque form.
Now trouble can start during any stage of the pottery making process. For instance, when the greenware is fired for the first time, components of the clay body (proprietary blend of clay, minerals, sand and grog) will undergo chemical changes that will transform the color of the clay. We understand how our clay body recipe will react; now our artsy glazes – that’s a different story.
Due to their natural components, every glaze is formulated differently – and will react differently. Some glazes are thinner than others; meaning they will ‘run’ further on a piece vs. a thicker glaze. This isn’t too much of a concern unless you are ordering a two-tone color. It is here that you will experience different drip lines. Some glazes will ‘run’ more – like our Royal Green and Seaspray colors pictured above that drip behind the medallion, where thicker glazes will most likely rest on top of the medallion similar to our Glacier Frost and Ivy Mist colors shown below. Different minerals, temperatures, even kiln placement has an impact on a final piece. It is virtually impossible to match the style and characteristics of different formulated glazes and get them to react the same way.
That’s why our stoneware is called art. Each finished piece is very similar yet different, due to the handcrafted quality and natural earth components. It’s the chemistry of the potter, clay and glaze interacting together that creates one-of-a-kind timeless pieces designed for daily use.
Watch us in action. Pat
Discover Wisconsin is the nation's longest running tourism television program. The weekly program walks viewers through the breathtaking natural beauty of Wisconsin and outdoor activities for all seasons. While the show carefully highlights Wisconsin’s many great vacation treasures, it also showcases the arts, crafts, foods and collectables that have made Wisconsin internationally recognized for top quality craftsmanship.
And that’s how Sunset Hill Stoneware was discovered. Discover Wisconsin’s Executive Producer Mark Rose received a Sunset Hill Stoneware mug from a friend and realized it was handcrafted in Wisconsin – right in Neenah. The TV crew found in between their stories of lighthouses, shorelines, waterfalls, caves and world class fishing was a team of creative artisans who crafted timeless pottery the old fashion way – by hand, on pottery wheels. Even more, SHS had engineered and invested in our processes to ensure employee safety, (even the continuous flow of fresh, clean circulating air) and we tightened up our production processes so we could hand produce mass quantities of customer-branded stoneware.
Our story inspired Discover Wisconsin to create a Master Craftsman designation that would honor Wisconsin’s skilled artisans. And that’s how Sunset Hill Stoneware became a first-time recipient of the prestigious designation.
We’re honored to receive the title. And we’re honored to work for the ‘best of the best’ customers and shop owners across this country. They’re the reason why we keep throwing. It’s heartwarming to travel this country and find an attractive, functional Sunset Hill Stoneware mug sitting on a shelf acting as a lifelong billboard of the represented brand. Our mugs are like owning a little piece of Americana. And it’s satisfying to read what our customer’s say about our product line and service.
Thank you for supporting our hand formed products. Take time to look for our products as you vacation and travel this summer; we hope you take a bit of us back home with you. Pat
Our team loves art. And we have an appreciation for others who have embraced the craftsmanship of the past and revitalized it for modern day purposes. One such craft is wood type and letterpress printing.
You may recall the classic western ‘Wanted’ poster from year’s past, but know that wood type was used broadly to sell newspapers, land, horses – even create circus posters. This art hasn’t been lost – thanks to Wisconsin businesses like the rauhaus design+letterpress and Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.
rauhaus is owned by Kevin Rau. He’s a professor, a singer and guitarist for a local rock n’ roll trio, loves ol’ cars, and happens to be a designer who owns a 1946 Chandler & Price ‘clamshell’ press. There’s a certain hand-felt beauty in holding a finished piece. Even more exhilarating is seeing the manual turn of an antique press producing modern day pieces – now popular for business cards, stationary, events and specially inscribed wedding invitations.
The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, founded in 1999, is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. The Hamilton collection maintains 1.5 million pieces of wood type, more than 1,000 styles and pattern sizes and an amazing array of advertising cuts. In its heyday, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company was the largest wood type producer in the country. Today the working museum hosts thousands of visitors who come to learn and understand the beauty of this art.
Both of these businesses have taken the simple application of the American alphabet and invigorated this past art with extraordinary enthusiasm so others can learn and enjoy. Their dedication is priceless.
Keeping watch. Pat
The historic city of Saratoga Springs NY started out as a quiet little settlement with beautiful scenery and magnificent natural springs. As more and more people learned of its healing mineral springs, the area quickly grew into a luxury resort city.
High-society from all over the world made a point to visit the famed "Spa City" and experience the springs for themselves. Today, Spa City is still popular for its rich mineral baths and fabulous culture, but the Saratoga Race Course steals the show every summer with its live Thoroughbred horse racing.
Sports Illustrated once named the Saratoga Race Course as one of the top 10 sports venues of the 20th century, right up there with Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and others. This year the Saratoga race course is celebrating 150 years of racing with a five-month-long celebration that will last several months and include a wide range of events and activities.
The interconnected events of Saratoga Race Course and the City of Saratoga Springs tell a compelling story about wins, losses and the horses and people that were a part of it. Sunset Hill Stoneware is pleased to work with Impressions of Saratoga and be part of their 150-year celebration. Congratulations on an American success!
Keeping Watch. Pat
Hidden in the solitude and silence of mountain wilderness, you’ll find the Monks of Mount Carmel. They are a monastic, cloistered Roman Catholic community founded in Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. With a love for God, a Carmelite monk lives his life in the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty for the Holy Roman Catholic Church and for the entire world.
The Carmelite Monks operate a small batch coffee roaster and sell through their online gourmet coffee bean store. They offer a variety of roasts, flavors and a special coffee of the month. Even new, fun offerings like Monk-Shots.
It’s their drinkware line that really got our attention. It’s there you’ll learn that it’s a long standing tradition that Carmelites drink coffee using both hands in thanksgiving for the fruits of the harvest. For that you need a beautiful, exquisitely detailed, 5-star rated double-handled mug.
Happy Valentine’s Day! May your day be full of mystic love. Pat
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship to the United States from the people of France. It’s a 15-story sculpture that stands tall on what we know today as Liberty Island in the New York Harbor. The Statue was dedicated in 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924, became a part of the National Park Service in 1933 and was restored for her centennial in 1986. This colossal statue is a signature American icon, as she views over the New York Harbor; proudly representing a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
To this day, due to the conditions created by Hurricane Sandy, the Statue of Liberty National Monument remains closed. While the storm thankfully did not harm the statue, the hurricane did manage to destroy infrastructure on Liberty Island. The Island remains without heat, plumbing and electricity. And the storm severely damaged the docks used by the ferries bringing visitors to the Island. The reality is it could optimistically be months before the island is reopened to the public, most likely later on in 2013.
Sunset Hill Stoneware is privileged to work with the Statue of Liberty Museum Store, where you were able to purchase our hand thrown ‘Made in America’ mugs. Since the museum’s online store is temporary closed, the store manager has given us permission to include mugs decorated with their “Statue of Liberty” artwork in our online store. Please know a portion of your purchase will directly benefit the museum – for us; it’s the greatest gift we can give them right now.
Keeping watch. Pat
Wordologies is a made up word – but after visiting the website, you realize real quick that the two women who developed the site have built wisdom in words by taking very simple meaningful terms to communicate powerful messages.
And there’s more. The website owners believe that living a balanced life is an inside job. At this time of year as we’re shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, entertaining, it’s a good time to remember that we do have the power to live our life better. Our Sunset Hill team is honored to cast their daily life messages in stoneware coffee mugs.
May your season be filled with happiness, peace and giving.
Keeping watch. Pat
Posted in Marketing, News
Tagged change, coffee mugs, giving, happiness, mugs, patience, peace, Sunset Hill Stoneware, wisdom, wordologies
We are proud to be a National Parks Conservation Association member – an organization that works hard to make the park system accessible to all and to preserve them for future generations.
The national park system covers more than 83 million acres, including sites ranging from the homes of historical figures, battlefields, national monuments, recreation areas, etc. These sites represent the heritage and spirit of America – and Sunset Hill Stoneware is privileged to work with many state and national parks across the country.
Throughout the years, many of you have requested to purchase SHS products featuring one or more of our national park brands directly from us. Today we are pleased to announce that we are obtaining licensing agreements to fulfill your purchasing requests!
We now have licensing agreements with two Alaskan parks: Denali Parks and Glacier Bay Parks. Buy their products online – and know that a portion of your purchase benefits our national park system. Our national park system is as American as baseball, peanuts and apple pie – one of America’s Best Ideas. And something about that feels really good.
There's many ways to show your patriotism. Make it a great day. Tom
Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to read about our new production facility. Energy Smart. Production Efficient. Employee Safe. These are the qualities Fortune 500 companies strive for – and our owners have delivered on.
Tom and his dad Duane are co-owners of SHS. Duane started his career in the label printing industry – as a start-up employee who worked side-by-side with his father; then as a co-owner of a progressive start-up company that he built and sold to a Fortune 500 company with his brother; and always as a forward-thinking inventor. Duane refers to himself as ‘Rock Solid’; I refer to him as our internal ‘Thomas Edison’. The guy doesn’t stop thinking of how we can improve our efficiencies so we can produce affordable, handcrafted stoneware for America.
Duane is amazing. The owner of many patents, he is most recognized in the label industry for his ingenuity used in creating the self-adhesive label that incorporated a peel-away top transparent film. This innovative labeling technology continues to be used routinely by leading manufacturers for couponing and promotional needs. Think about the removable game piece that McDonald’s uses for their Monopoly promotion and that is Duane’s label creativity at work.
So Duane retired from the corporate world a few years back and saw the fun his son Tom was having in the pottery business. Duane had always supported Tom in the business through the years, but now he officially joined forces with Tom and took the company's innovations to a new level unheard of in the art industry.
- Custom-designed pottery wheels that run so quiet you can hear a pin drop. And maintenance free to boot.
- Mobile damp carts that maintain a specific degree of humidity to ensure the piece reaches a dry stage ideal for handle and medallion application.
- Clean air units continually distributing fresh air throughout the facility.
- An entire facility and product drying process heated by the company’s 26 kilns.
I could go on, but a blog should only be so long. Duane lives by his motto, ‘Simplicity of design is the result of profound thought.’ That’s a simplified version of what Thomas Edison once said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others….I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent..“
Congrats to Tom & Duane on their relentless energy and vision to keep SHS employees safe while standardizing our processes!
I hope you have a team of Rock Solid employees growing your business. Pat
Posted in America, News, Technology
Tagged America, Duane Dunsirn, employee safe, energy smart, innovations, labeling technology, patents, pottery, production facility, safety, self-adhesive label, SHS, Sunset Hill Stoneware, Thomas Edison
Many times there’s more to the story than what meets the eye – that holds true for our Snowpeople Mugs featured in our HolidayWare collection.
These unique, made-in-America mugs were hand thrown by our pottery artists – and decorated by the rest of our production team. Each clay eye, smile, button and carrot nose was carefully placed to create their sweet faces. Then Kayla gave each Snowperson a name and personality. In fact, some of the personalities you may find reflective to some of our staff personalities. For instance, you’ll find Thomas Snowman who is great with kids; Kristin Snowman, our cheeriest snowbuddy and Jason Snowman, who’s a super reliable kind of guy. All in fun.
We have a limited number of these warm-hearted Snowperson Mugs available. Joe, Nicholas, Becky, Shelly, Jeffrey, Frederick, Willy, Jessica, Kayla, Lance, Ginger, Leo, Heather, Benji, Pat, Duane, Michael and Sarah are waiting to be adopted and put to work each day with your favorite beverage.
Bert, Janina and Cindy Snow recently left our SHS family, but we hear they are enjoying their new homes in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. No matter the temperature outside, these guys are designed to warm your heart for years to come.
Enjoy your week. Pat