I’m a big fan of collaborations and the wonders they can produce, and Yas-Ming Ceramics is no exception. Begotten from a project between Yasmin Dilekkaya and Ming Wai Sun during their time at University for the Creative Arts in Rochester, these animal mugs, bowls and other items could give the Urban Outfitters homeware section a run for its money. Talking-pieces as well as beautiful kitchen thingymabobs, their handcrafted ceramics are slip-cast, with press moulding and hand building also used in their creation.
Fun is vital part of the brand and the product lines are named accordingly: Moo Cups, Rawr Bowls, Oink, Squeak and Nay. The mugs are my fave, available with an animal head or a bum on the mug instead of a handle, you can choose from a delicate giraffe, fierce lion, stern horse, cute pig, grumpy cow and majestic ram. There’s all sorts of other stuff too including bowls with animal faces and posteriors, dishes with adorable characters patiently watching you munch down your nosh, and even little ceramic chopstick holders that let your eating implements have a quick rest.
Having bumped into Yas at the Ohh Deer Pop-Launch and spent an evening with her talking about ceramics, I can confirm that not only are the products from this exquisite little brand lovely, but the people behind it are too. I spoke to Co-Founder Yasmin Dilekkaya about mugs with bums and getting a creative company off the ground.
Can you tell me a little about both yourself and Ming?
We met while we where studying on an Applied Arts degree, Ming Wai was born in Hong Kong and is now living in the UK with her husband and daughter. I have a Turkish Cypriot background, but born and grew up in England. Our multicultural backgrounds were a stimulus and inspiration to us while designing and making at university.
How did you get the idea for the mugs?
In our final year at uni, as a year group, we had to raise money for our end of year Graduate Show. At this point I was making a set of Turkish coffee cups and Ming Wai was making beautifully elaborate 3D ceramic picture frames that had animals coming out of them. We had the idea of attaching the animals to the cups so we had a product that we could sell around university. The cups were really popular so after Graduation we decided to see how much further we could push the idea.
Why did you start making the mugs with ‘bums’?
In the beginning we experimented a lot with cutting the animals in half and seeing where they worked on the cups/bowls and we thought it was a fun idea to have bums as handles as well as the heads.
Which events have you been at in the last year, and what do you have planned for future?
In the past year we have been part of lots of great events from trade shows to markets and pop-up shops. We have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic organisations. Highlights include being selected by The Secret Emporium to be part of their Christmas Market and their Boxpark Pop-Up. Also, exhibiting in Launchpad at Pulse, getting to meet lots of new potential stockists and being part of the Ohh Deer Pop-up where we have been asked to run a ceramic workshop. We have another pop-up with Crafty Fox and Brixi next month, with lots to look forward to in the coming months.
What kind of reactions do the pieces usually get?
They generally get a great reaction, sometimes it takes a while for people to register what they are looking at, and you can watch as their face goes from confused to a smile. There are always lots of smiles, laughter, and people love to pick them up and try out holding them.
Can you explain the process that goes into making the mugs?
We use moulds to cast the animals and moulds to cast the cups/bowls/dishes, once they are out of their moulds the two pieces are carefully attached together by hand and put into the kiln for the first firing. They then get glazed and put into the kiln for a second time.
Is handcrafting your products important to you, or do you think in future you would consider mass-production?
It is important to us, we use traditional techniques and are proud that each piece is touched and crafted by the hand of a skilled craftsperson. It gives the work personality and quirks that you would not get from factory mass-production.
Do you have a favourite animal?
That’s such a hard question, I have favourite animals for different products. I like the Rat Oink because I like the way he looks when he has sauce in the dish. The Cow Rawr is also a favourite, I use it for my cereal most days. The Giraffe Moo I also love as it’s is beautifully elegant.
What’s the greatest challenge of setting up a business?
Like a lot of new businesses we have had a huge amount of challenges, ours were mostly kiln problems and production issues at the start. Now we have some great people in Stoke helping us produce the products, the challenges have changed.
How do you take your tea?
Two sugars and not much milk.
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