Meet Elwood. Magical unicorn. Party animal. Coffee buddy for life.
Elwood’s fairy tale begins in an Effort, Pennsylvania ceramics studio. It may not be an enchanted forest, but it is a charming place, bursting with creativity and inspiration. It’s where JoAnn Stratakos develops original designs, like everyone’s favorite Rainbow Unicorn, by letting the clay guide her imagination.
“My inspiration for Elwood probably stems from my very early days of reading Sci-Fi-Fantasy fiction,” says JoAnn. “Anne McCaffrey wrote an entire series of books with dragons, elves, fairies and, of course, UNICORNS! I began collecting anything unicorn, and soon all my family and friends began gifting me unicorn things.”
When someone asked JoAnn to make a horse mug for their farm, it didn’t take long for her imagination to conjure up something a little more magical.
Of course, Stratakos relies on more than whimsy and wonder to bring creations like Elwood to life. To make magic happen, Stratakos has to put her hands to work and apply the skills she’s honed over time.
“I was never a ‘young’ designer,” she told us when we visited her for a Studio Tour. “I started learning to make pottery when I was 40-plus years old. The best lesson I learned [as a budding designer] was the harder you worked, the luckier you got!”
First, Elwood’s sweetly stout “belly” is thrown on a potter’s wheel. The subtle variations created in this process give each piece its own unique personality. Additional appendages, including the feet, tail and that signature horn, are then lovingly sculpted and attached to the mug by hand.
Before Elwood can earn his rainbow stripes, he needs to be kiln-fired—doing so before glazing helps the clay dry completely and boosts its durability. Then, each mug is hand-dipped in a creamy base color, and all of the details that make him extra-special, like his colorful mane and tail, are painted on by hand. Finally, the vibrant colors are set by sending Elwood to the kiln one more time
When completed, Elwood emerges—all fired up, and ready to add a little magic to your next cup of coffee or tea.