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Making Tiki Mugs

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In another topic area, someone asked about how to make Tiki mugs. That sparked my interest as well. How the doodle do they make mugs anyway? So I did some research. Since the college I work for has an art campus, resources were plentiful.

It would seem that the ideal method would be using a ceramics/pottery method called "Slip Cast". So if you are looking for how to make Tiki mugs, look up the "slip cast" method.

I came across two delightful books, one is practically a pamphlet and the other is a veritable tome.

The pamphlet info:
"Slip Cast Pottery" A.T. White, The Dryad Press, Leicester, England, 1970 16 pgs.

The tome info:
"Ceramic Design" John B. Kenny, Chilton Book Company, Radnor Pa., 1973 320 pgs.

I really like these books because they are concise and have that all too cool 60's/70's instructional thing going on.

Perhaps some day I will make a series of mugs and other items. It looks like a lot of fun.

Anyone have any resources to add to this?


Okay, I see this post is getting read. Is anyone out there interested in learning more about making tiki mugs? Anyone have anything to add to this? Anyone, Bueller, anyone....?


i inquired at a couple of local places here. the initial cost would be at least a few hundred dollars. the prototype or original must be sculpted, finely detailed and then preserved. 'greenware' is very fragile. they can only fit so many mugs in the kiln at a time. there is a success rate of about 60%; a lot of things can go wrong. you can't use red paint [or you must be very careful in your choice of red] because the red of the past was poisonous. i'm still considering it.

Actually, my cousins and I talked about doing this about 3 or 4 years ago. (Long before I knew there were other people in the world like me that enjoyed this sort of thing!)

My cousin Greg had recently graduated from Ohio State and was big into his art, specifically pottery. But, as my luck would have it, nothing really developed. I was always working here and there on assignment…they were starting off on their own lives.

Greg has all of the equipment (In fact, I just helped my uncle unload it into his garage…whew! That crap is heavy!) But the hardest thing was coming up with an ORIGINAL idea. We were adamant that we would not rip off any idea, but create something cool and retro, but original.

Oh yeah, we’d come up with some cool sketches and then find out that it looked similar to existing tiki mugs that we had never seen. (Example: That wide grinning mug “Frankoma” from Sweetheart Luau found on page 176 of the BOT). Then we’d be saying a few curse words then, “Back to the drawing board”.
Keep in mind that this was before the Book existed to us and before we knew that there were so many tiki bars and restaurants. Hell, we thought there was Hawaii…and the Kahiki. (Not really, we just didn’t know there were so many! We were totally unaware of the real tiki-culture and that era.)

I think the creativity and imagination of creating an original mug far out weighs the knowledge to actually manufacture one. The process itself, I know very little about, except for what I have learned from my cousin and what I remember from high school art class.

Yes, the equipment needed is quite expensive, but more importantly, it is very space consuming! You need a place to put the kiln and work space.

I keep hoping that someday, my cousins and I can come up with something very unique and call it ours. But for now, his kiln and firing equipment and molds and test materials are all in a garage now. My ideas, tucked in a sketchbook somewhere.

Thanks for the resources though. I think I’ll make my way to the library and try to see if those are available. If not, I’m sure Greg has some he will lend me. (If I find some new ones, I’ll let you know.)

Good luck. If you create a line of mugs, I’ll be jumping in line to get one.


I make mugs from vintage molds I find. They are very hard to come by. I am looking to design a tiki mug soon. The biggest expense is the equipment and a place to do your work. The greenware is very messy to clean, not something you would want to do at your house. It takes a lot of time to finish a mug. You have to pour the slip into the mold, empty the mold after 30 to 45 minutes, let it sit a day or so, depending on humidity, take it out of the mold. Let it dry and clean it. Usally you will break a few cleaning them. Fire it, remove it from the kiln. Paint it with 3 coats of paint. Fire it again. Put two coats of glaze on it and fire again. Wallah, Tiki MUGGGGG! Sell it on ebay for a low price. Anyone want to sell a Tiki Mug Mold, Let me know.


I have been making my own mugs and molds for about 7 years now. everything said above is true. I started because it seemed pretty simple. Make model, make mold, make mug, make Mai Tai! But have found that it is a lot of work and money for the small batch maker. I only make 50 or so a year for My Luau, and I am pretty happy with that. Granted, I have to start about three months before each year, but I guess it is the price you pay. My success rate is now at about 90%. I had looked into going "commercial", (producing mugs for general sale) but found that unless I jobbed out to Mexico or China like everyone else, it was not very profitable,(unless I sold for an "art" price) and also, I like that my mugs are more of a souvenir than just a purchase. Sometimes I sell a couple after the luau (if there are leftovers) but they usually sell out each year. It is not really "difficult" to produce your own mugs, but it is REALLY messy, very time consuming, fairly expensive, and takes a few go arounds to really get it down. Oh, and did I mention messy? Make sure before you start that your wife/husband/domestic partner/housmates don't mind weeks and weeks of mud on everything inside and outside the house, and then weeks and weeks of clay dust on everything inside and outside, followed by weeks and weeks of finding glaze spatters on everything. Other than that, go to it, and lets see some pics of your creations!


Kewl, that's the participation I like to see.

I definitely agree it has to be done as a loved hobby/art not as a commercial venture (unless of course you sell out to the man!) Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I have a few themes I would like to work with so I'm going to keep looking into it. I can't really come up with individual mug designs without coming up with a them that will generate 3-5 designs.

I think the best bet is to do the dirty work at a cermaics store that does classes and such and has a public kiln.

My aunt used to do ceramics and had her own electric kiln. Maybe I should give her a call. I'm interested in doing more than just Tiki mugs (did I say "just Tiki"?!?), I'd like to progress to the level of ceramist, doing all sorts of projects.

Should one want to farm out to the Mexico's of this world, where would one begin?

TikiKing- I saw your Luau 2002 mug on ebay. That was very impressive! I am definately gonna try to get me one of those babies!
Keep 'em commin!

I am getting to the point where I hate ceramics, but it pays for my children going to private school. So remember, when you buy my mugs, you send my children to school. Here are my mugs for sale now. http://cgi6.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewSellersOtherItems&userid=nedyahr&include=0&since=-1&sort=3&rows=25

I hate ceramics!!! I did 20 years in that freakin biz and I'm done!! But, if you want to have fun, build your own kiln in a hill side and fire it for 24hrs.. Make a "Salt Trap" too. Ceramics Magazine has all the ingrediants. circa 1950's sometime? We did it out in 29 palms. But don't get me wrong, ceramics as a biz still sucks!!

Ceramics has its ups ands downs as everything.
My dad has been doing ceramics ever since he was in highschool/college. From there he made a career out of it. So naturally growing up around it I picked it up. My dad, After being in the wholesale market for over 20 years making bath products(for huge department stores), tiki was a dream come true.
I myself out of highschool(6years ago) allready had my own ceramic line of hand thrown bongs called "stonedware". Hey, we all went through that stage. Was selling to stores on haight ashbury and in santa cruz, While trying to push my band for a few years.
I never wanted to get into to mass production at all, But as the market demands it you have to make it. I am extremely happy to be able to support myself on tiki mug's alone.

The most aggrevating thing about the process would have to be the mold making process.Oh yah,the parting lines(where your pieces of the mold will be seperated) of your piece, thats probably THE most improtant thing. An original mold generally takes a whole day to complete. If you can make a good mold the rest is easy, but of course I have 24 years of growing up around it and learning from my pop.
If you are interested in making mugs though getting a mold making book would be the first thing I would recommend.
Anyways, sorry if Im babbling, I just woke up.



Stuckie, thanks for the insight. Fortunately the college I work for has an entire arts campus with a ceramics program, so I can get ahold of a book an almost any aspect of ceramics.

Turns out my aunt sold her kiln long ago. Bummer.

I don't really have an ideas of ever supporting my family on ceramics sales, but everyoen, I think, needs a creative vent.
I was considering blacksmithing, but if you think a kiln is expensive and dirty, try a forge. That, and the fact I live in the city.

What ceramics as a hobby offers me is the ability to go, somewhat, at my own pace, to create items that I want, to create items that are usable. And, if a friend says they really like something I made, I can reproduce it fairly easily and they can have a great gift that may even become an heirloom.

But that's just me.

Pages: 1 11 replies