Comfort, reliability, honesty—these are qualities we’re craving more than ever these days. And since we’re spending so much time at home, we’re seeking objects that deliver that sense of ease and dependability in an uncertain world.
Enter #TheMug, the handmade coffee cup so wildly popular it’s garnered its own Instagram hashtag and sells out mere hours after it becomes available. The Asheville, N.C.–based company behind it, East Fork Pottery, creates the mugs from the red clay native to the region, along with a range of stoneware plates, bowls, cups, and cookware also in high demand. “There’s a humbleness and comfort that you can see in our pottery,” says East Fork Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder Connie Matisse, 34. “Our pots are not for everyone—some people want clean and stark. But we feel it’s an honest, grounded product you can live with for decades.”
That groundedness is evident in how #TheMug is made: one at a time and by hand, to create a product at once strong, substantial, and refined. Ideal for a generous pour of coffee or tea, the mugs retain heat well and are sturdy enough for the dishwasher.
East Fork is the brainchild of married couple Connie and Alex Matisse, and their friend John Vigeland. The project began when Alex, a potter and the great-grandson of Henri Matisse, built his own kiln on a North Carolina farm and began selling stoneware. This later led to a collaboration with Connie and fellow potter John, and the company was launched in 2013. Today, East Fork employs a sizable team of artists, technicians, and behind-the-scenes staff, and it is preparing to move into a facility 15 times the size of their current one.
The Covid-19 pandemic presented challenges for East Fork, which was already working hard to keep up with demand when it was forced to shut down the factory for two months. What helped was having a team that was unified in its mission.