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Ode to a mysterious cup

I am amazed by of my new coffee cup. It has a glaze to daze and dazzle.

Joel and Pam Nilsson

Joel and Pam Nilsson

I acquired this cup for what some would say was a pretty penny. I say cheap at twice the price. Since then, I find a cup of coffee most unsatisfying if I do not use this cup. We have a very nice collection of cups, mugs, thermos cups for the car, cups from Mexico, China (what isn’t from China?) and even this country. But they are unworthy vessels. Not even the cup from the JFK library compares.

My superior cup was made by Phoenix potter, Joel Nilsson. In another life, he was a reporter for The Arizona Daily Star. We met there more than 40 years ago. He moved on to the Arizona Republic and wound up his career there as an editorial writer.

As potters go, Joel isn’t particularly ambitious. He has no shop. He has no Internet presence. He has an active Facebook page, which is how to connect with him. He say he does not want to become an industry. He is truly an artist.

Joel and his wife Pam last month showed up at the Oracle Arts festival. I met them there and bought two bowls. As an afterthought, I bought the cup. What a buy.

It sat around for a day or two and I tried it. This was a different experience. The cup’s surface was room-temperature ice, smooth, slightly textured. Very, very different. It was very odd, but oddly outstanding. I tried other cups to test my sanity. They had no textured smoothness to surface. I asked Edie to try it. She said, “Huh, unhuh.” She already wonders about me.

And well she should. I am a bit fussy. I have been roasting coffee for better than six years. I have roasted green coffee beans from Hawaii to Yemen. As I write, I am sipping a coffee from Burundi called Muyinga Murago. I have a burr (as opposed to blade) grinder. I have drip coffee maker that heats water to better than 190 degrees, the minimum needed for a proper cup of joe.cropped-DSC_0018.jpg

But I’d never given much thought to the cup. I asked Joel how he made this glaze. He said he did not know. He said he could not explain why the glaze was exceptional. It may have had something to do with oxidation, and how the gases interact in  the kiln. Or maybe it had something to do with the handle. In the end, he said, it was all a crap shoot.

Thus the Mystery of the Glaze, a conundrum that is perhaps best left unsolved. Lends mystique to a cup of coffee. I should be grateful. Thanks, Joel. By the way, the bowls are elegant.





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