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What a mug: why the humble cup is having a Covid moment

Ceramic sales soared during lockdown - Nathalie Marquez Courtney finds out why the humble mug is having a moment

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These cheerful mugs and cute coffee pot are new to HK Living’s hand-finished ’70s ceramics series. Ceramic mug, €6, coffee pot, €40; aprilandthebear.com

These cheerful mugs and cute coffee pot are new to HK Living’s hand-finished ’70s ceramics series. Ceramic mug, €6, coffee pot, €40; aprilandthebear.com

Another retro hit, this piece will add warmth and texture to your morning coffee set up; oliverbonas.com; €11.50

Another retro hit, this piece will add warmth and texture to your morning coffee set up; oliverbonas.com; €11.50

This hand-thrown beauty from Dublin studio Arran Street East is generously sized for those who don't like to skimp on their morning brew; arranstreeteast.ie; €40

This hand-thrown beauty from Dublin studio Arran Street East is generously sized for those who don't like to skimp on their morning brew; arranstreeteast.ie; €40

chloedowds.com

chloedowds.com

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These cheerful mugs and cute coffee pot are new to HK Living’s hand-finished ’70s ceramics series. Ceramic mug, €6, coffee pot, €40; aprilandthebear.com

The prevailing wisdom has always been that a home should focus most on how it makes you feel, rather than how it looks, what it will be worth or, God forbid, how Instagrammable it is. All those other things have their place - they can be fun (who doesn't love a good #shelfie?) or practical (if you're thinking of selling in six months, maybe skip painting the walls purple for now) but, ultimately, good home design should be all about how things feel. But a well thought-out home is one you contentedly exhale in - it's comfortable, cleverly designed, not overly fussy. The same is true, it seems, of mugs. At the height of lockdown, the mug became the must-have interiors item.

Just my cup of tea

Cool, handmade, organic mugs showed up in 'self care' product shots, alongside cosy throws and cashmere socks. And now, with restrictions closing in and winter looming, interest is spiking once again.

"We've definitely noticed an increase in interest and sales in our ceramics," says Siobhan Lam, owner of interiors store April and the Bear. "We're at home now, all day long, so people are taking the time to invest in pieces for their lives and homes that look beautiful and that they will use every day."

And like so many interiors trends right now, there was a strong leaning towards '70s-inspired pieces, with rustic stoneware, earthy textures, organic shapes and warm tones top of the pops.

Haute handmades

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A collaboration between Tan France, the style guru of Netflix's hit show Queer Eye, and Etsy resulted in these beautiful limited edition stoneware mugs, LittleWrenPottery on Etsy; €21.45

A collaboration between Tan France, the style guru of Netflix's hit show Queer Eye, and Etsy resulted in these beautiful limited edition stoneware mugs, LittleWrenPottery on Etsy; €21.45

A collaboration between Tan France, the style guru of Netflix's hit show Queer Eye, and Etsy resulted in these beautiful limited edition stoneware mugs, LittleWrenPottery on Etsy; €21.45

But more than that, there is a growing appetite for handcrafted objects. Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods, saw a whopping 66pc increase in searches for mugs in the last three months alone. "It's because everyone has such an incredible focus on home and all those things that make you feel good about home - your favourite mug being one of them," says Dayna Isom Johnson, trend expert at Etsy. "It's about grounding yourself and feeling more comfortable and cosy."

This spike in mug sales isn't just a symptom of the many cups of tea we're now drinking or the many coffee shop flat whites we're foregoing; it's rooted in a bigger shift away from the mass produced and forgettable and towards the special and unique.

"People are becoming inherently more focused on being conscious about the items they're purchasing," says Dayna. Many of us want to shop more sustainably, opting for beautiful handmade pieces that we know we'll use, that are made from natural materials and in small batches. "Knowing who you are purchasing from and who your money is supporting is huge," adds Dayna, adding that now, more than ever, we want to get to know the people behind our products.

One such maker is Wicklow-based ceramist Chloë Dowds. "I've had a huge influx of orders since lockdown started," she says. Chloë works almost exclusively with porcelain. "The beauty, mystery and history of the material itself inspires me," she enthuses. "Its whiteness and softness is so beautiful at every stage of the making process."

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We love the nostalgic tones and chunky shape of this '70s style mug; rockettstgeorge.co.uk; €13.55

We love the nostalgic tones and chunky shape of this '70s style mug; rockettstgeorge.co.uk; €13.55

We love the nostalgic tones and chunky shape of this '70s style mug; rockettstgeorge.co.uk; €13.55

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Handles with care

When purchasing a mug, many people make the mistake of not thinking about how it will feel in the hand. "It's all about the user's experience," says Chloë, who designs her mugs "to be as tactile as possible". Rims should be thin and pleasing to drink from, handles should be easy to grip, and the shape of the mug should make it comfortable to cradle.

"Thought and careful consideration are key to making a great mug," says Chloë. "It's certainly one of the positives that's come out of this pandemic- people taking care of their space, taking time to enjoy their tea or coffee using slow-made, handmade mugs."

I'll drink to that.


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