Behind the Mug

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[A]s café culture shifts in the direction of artisan, local, and bespoke, companies like Veak Ceramics  are making their mark on coffeehouse aesthetics right alongside white subway tile, succulents, leather aprons, and customized espresso machines. It’s a welcome change from bulk chinaware. Veak’s focus on creating beautiful, usable pieces meshes perfectly with the modern coffee and tea movements, with their emphasis on local, sustainable, transparent sourcing.

Veak is named after its owner, Sarah Veak, who began the business about a year and half ago after years of internships and schooling in ceramics. Though trained in fine arts, and despite the fact that, as she says, “functional pottery went out of style years ago,” Veak has a passion for artful items that can be used every day. “Honestly, one thing I love so much about what I do is being able to talk with the people who use my pieces,” says Veak. “I love hearing what they put in their bowl every morning, or how they like their coffee mug handles.”

Veak Ceramics Feb '15-7
Photos courtesy Jennifer Elrod Photography.

Around the time she made the plunge into crafting usable vessels, a friend with a blog in Nashville featured her work, giving her a boost in sales, and shortly thereafter she moved to Denver to further her business. “This city’s been great—lots of coffee shops and connections—and I’m really impressed with the local culture.”

Recently Veak crafted a pour-over set based on the Hario V60 that’s been making waves in the coffee world. “The pour-over uses a standard V60 filter,” she says. “I wanted to create a piece that was clean in design, yet still had that handcrafted look. I use a carbon trap Shino glaze that tends to look different on every piece, creating a smoky look that complements the clean lines.” She adds that the pour-over will be available online soon and is hitting shelves at Hey Rooster in Nashville, Amano in Minneapolis, and several Denver shops, but that because it is so labor-intensive to make she doesn’t plan to offer it in large amounts anytime soon. “At this point I am making them for the coffee lover who enjoys a good cup of coffee in the morning at home, and wants a delicious visual experience.”

Veak Ceramics Feb '15-6

Pottery for Veak begins with sketches, she then throws the pieces on her wheel (she can throw ten to fifteen an hour), following up the next day with trimming. She decorates in the sgrafitto style, painting on the slips when still slightly wet and carving through to create her signature graphic designs. Bisquing, glazing, and firing follow. The resultant aesthetic is rustic yet precise, warm, and playful. Veak began her pottery career working under a wood-fired potter in Ithaca, New York, and moved to working for a production potter. Her technique is her own, she explains, though built on tradition.

Veak hints at future beverage-ware, like single-serving tea mugs (complete with strainers), and more coffeeware. For now, her strong hands will keep crafting the functional shapes she envisions, and delighting in the process.

—Emily McIntyre is a regular contributor to Fresh Cup

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