There has been a lot of talk going on concerning pulling handles and I have to admit that it is my least favorite task in the studio. I haven't pulled a handle in a while so I was avoiding making mugs. But all of the current talk about handles renewed my interest and I actually enjoyed making these. For those of you that are experts, this may be old news, but I know that when I was beginning, I used all of the little tips I could find! So, pulling a handle requires a gentle, patient touch. They say its like milking a cow, but I wouldn't know (even though I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan). I focus on keeping the clay damp and work over a bucket for easy access to water. Then I gently drag my hand with very little pressure, flipping the ball of clay from front to back quite often between pulls to make sure the handle has even thickness and width. I make extra handles because there are always a few that get dented and lose their flow of line. When the handle is longer than necessary, I tip it upside down to set for a while. Take a look at the pic above to see how the handle begins drying in a curve when set this way. Make sure to set them at the edge of a table so the handle can drape loosely without getting distorted.
Once they are set a bit, I cut the top of the handle off of the ball of clay at quite an angle. I attach and then flip the mug upside down so the curve does not get pulled down by gravity. I trim off the end of the handle flat and attach. Then I leave the mug upside down to dry with the handles facing in so they dry a bit slower than the body of the mug. I keep them covered for a day to slow the drying time as well so that the handles do not dry away from the body. It is also a good idea to turn the handles away from the walls of your kiln to avoid shocking them during the firing process.I usually add a little stamp or circle to the bottom of the handle. This not only adds a little design element, but ensures that the handle is stuck on properly. I hope you can find a new little trick in this post because I love buying new ceramic mugs. I have a shelf full of them in my kitchen. Any potters up for a mug swap?