1) What led you to start your business?
Abi: I started my business at the start of the second UK lockdown as I took a year out of university due to COVID. I spent the first half of the year working at my service job in order to save up for a kiln to start the business (not the glam side). I then started making TikToks of me trying to start up my own business. I've always wanted to be an artist but as I was on a year out struggling to make ends meet I realised I wanted to find a way to monetise what I was doing. I consider these small pieces of functional art. Luckily, I was allowed to use the space above the restaurant I was working at, which had beautiful Welsh landscapes at the windows. I think this along with the ups and downs of me trying to start the business got people behind me. I started making TikToks at the perfect moment. There was a big movement towards small businesses and people inside a lot, and spending more time on their phones as well as wanting to decorate their homes and take comfort in things, like daily ritual, so people were more willing to buy things like mugs.
Hatti: I've always had an urge to start my own creative business. I follow so many talented people on various social media platforms and have always thought what a dream it would be to have a lil business of my own! I graduated during the pandemic in 2020 and I really struggled to find a job as a result. I thought I could turn this setback into an opportunity and decided that I would give the whole small business thing a go!
2) What has been the biggest challenge in building your business?
Abi: The biggest challenge was definitely trying to refurbish the old kiln. I found a kiln offer from a couple locally, who was moving to France, so they sold it to me very cheaply. However it was 50 years old, and it needed wiring into my house and the mains electricity. It also didn't have a controller, so I needed to learn coding and mechanics in order to get it to work. Which was a challenge. It took a couple of months to get launched, and a lot of time and money. My mind goes back to that firing where all my pots exploded.
Hatti: The biggest challenge I've experienced so far is keeping up with the demand for my work! For some reason people really seem to love what I’m doing and in just 5 months my Instagram account has grown to over 10,000 followers! Whilst I am absolutely over the moon with the love and support, there is a great deal of pressure to go with it, so it’s been challenging to manage it at times.
3) What has inspired you to hand make all your pieces?
Abi: I love the handmade look that comes with hand building. I think it looks so unique and it's so tactile to run your hands over the smoothed surface covered in cold glaze, however, you can feel every indent where my fingers have been. I love the contrast between the wobbly surface and the intricate patterns on the mugs. Also, I never learned to use a pottery wheel.
Hatti: I started Uglie Mug during the pandemic which meant that pottery workshops were not open. I had to find a technique that I could easily carry out at home. I found YouTube really helpful for this as there are so many tutorials exploring a range of techniques, one of which being hand-building. I love the way handbuilt pottery looks - the wobbly structure makes each piece extremely unique!
4) How would you describe your brand’s style?
Abi: I think BigJugs is cheeky and novelty, I love kitsch things. I find it really hard to describe my work to people without showing pictures so normally when I'm asked things like this, I just show them the mugs and they kind of get the idea.
Hatti: Definitely cute, and very playful! Colour plays a big part in my brand’s style - I love incorporating bright colours into my work because who wants boring mugs, right?
5) How do you want your pieces to make people feel?
Abi: I consider them small pieces of functional art that you can have within the home. They are very special, they are not a regular mug, jug or plate. If you spend that much money on it it's probably your favourite mug. I like the thought of it bringing somebody joy every day. I think of them more like a painting.
Hatti: Most people enjoy a hot beverage at some point in the day so I want to make this experience extra special! I want people to really romanticise their tea break when they use one of my mugs and for them to feel like it’s not just a mug but a piece of artwork!
6) What is the best piece of advice you have for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs right now?
Abi: I always tell people to start using TikTok, I also have a full guide on my Instagram that goes into detail about how I grew my following and all of my advice. There's lots of different pockets of advice all over my TikTok and Instagram. It's kind of hard to pick which I think is the best piece of advice. It’s such a complex topic but I go into full detail about it in my guide on my Instagram.
Hatti: If you have an idea in your head, just do it! There is absolutely nothing to lose by starting something you're passionate about. You don’t need to be perfect straight away! It took me around 5 months of trial and error to make mugs that I could sell. Try not to get disheartened if things go wrong - this is part of the creative process and you can only learn from it!
7) What role models have inspired you throughout this journey?
Abi: I always find this question really difficult to answer I guess in terms of TikTok people like Eva Malley and Female Alchemy who were already making kind of similar arts based content about running a small business. It's really hard to choose people as there are so many young female entrepreneurs who I find inspiring, but my role models change constantly.
Hatti: There are a handful of small business owners who I have looked up to for years as inspiration. I’ve also discovered so many more talented creatives as I’ve grown as a small business myself! Polly Vadasz from Sighh Studio was a massive inspiration for me to actually start my business. She is immensely talented and I really love how she uses her Instagram to involve her followers in her day-to-day life! Other creatives who I’ve met along the way include Soph from Soeuf Shop, Jade from Ponky Wots and Molly from Molly Smith Design! There’s an amazing community for small businesses on Instagram and it’s so nice to be able to discuss so many things with other creatives!
8) Do you drink tea? What part does tea play in your day (i.e. what is your tea ritual)?
Abi: I drink tea at night normally which- I'm not really sure how much caffeine is in tea, but yeah, I normally have tea and biscuits together. I used to have a really intense tea ritual when I lived in Yorkshire. I like my tea really Milky and with quite a lot of sugar, normally Earl grey. I used to have my nice, sweet tea with five chocolate fingers and I do that thing where I bite off both ends and turn it into a chocolate finger straw. Then I suck the tea through said straw and it melts the chocolate in a way that's really yummy. People always laugh at me when they see me do it for the first time but then I get them to taste the chocolate finger and they're like Oh my gosh this is incredible you just look really weird doing it.
Hatti: I love tea and will find any excuse to have a cuppa! My favourite time to have a cup of tea is in the morning as I get the opportunity to relax for a minute and think about the day ahead of me!