I love making mugs! It's fun to see all the different ways other potters make theirs, which give me inspiration or make me think how I'd make other choices. They are great to collect from other potters, too--they are compact enough to fit a bunch in my cabinets, and each is a great snapshot of the artist's work. There are so many choices I can make in this simple object, just a small vessel with a handle, but I can shape the walls, the handle or the rim, to better suit a user's ergonomics. I can change the physical and aesthetic balance of the pieces as well, to make it comfortable to hold and to look at. I've arrived at a form that I'm pleased with-- for now, at least!
Even though I try to make a small impact on the environment in the rest of my life, I know that making ceramics is pretty high up on usage of nonrenewable resources and energy. I know that what I make has the potential to last for centuries without decomposing, and I want what I make to be of a quality that I'm proud of. In the course of pursuing my work to the best of my abilities, I make sure that I am not forgetting the principles of conserving and recycling along the way that can make a big difference.
One thing I try not to do is purchase new plastic items. It's great when I am able to get things like buckets or containers that were previously used for something else. Like Trader Joe's cookie containers! They are great as water buckets for me. I keep one in my splash pan as I'm throwing and then when the water is too slippy to use, I pour it into my reclaim bucket.
I learned the value of a five gallon bucket while working as a community garden organizer in AmeriCorps. We were the epitome of thrift as we'd try to scrounge every free resource we could get our hands on. We used five gallon buckets to haul soil and mulch around in the gardens because we didn't have a lot of wheel barrows. Restaurants and stores can be very generous in giving these to you if you can pick them up when it's convenient for them. I've also gotten many smaller two gallon buckets from my Costco that were used for icing in their bakery department. I use these buckets for my glazes, reclaiming clay, rinse water (to keep clay from going down the sink) and even mopping the floor.
Other plastic I reuse comes from packaging of items I buy. I don't know when it became necessary to encase everything in plastic (I mean really, why does a vacuum cleaner need a plastic bag around it inside a box??) but when I get the long, lightweight kind, I save it and use it to cover my pieces from drying out too quickly. One piece was long enough to be a complete cover for a bookcase that I turned into a damp closet.
Thrift stores! I love thrift stores! I have to say one of my happiest finds was my Ohaus balance scale. I had to buy extra weights for it and it doesn't have a tare beam, but it is still so nice to have. I knew I was going to need one once I started mixing my own glaze recipes, so seeing it waiting for me on a shelf felt serendipitous. I took it home to test its accuracy and found it was worth the $15 investment! I've also bought plastic tablecloths, bowls, rolling pins, and other various odd items at thrift stores over the years. Sometimes I can find inspiration for projects by looking at the randomness in a thrift shop. A pattern, color or shape that was in fashion decades ago may really strike me.
I have slowly but surely been building up a studio that is really working for me. Lots was trial and error, and just spending time thinking about how I use my space.