The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 10, 2013

The Clay Studio's guerrilla mug assault

Posted by CSchwartz

Do you care about the environment? Do you love coffee? How about unique, handmade artwork? Well then you may be curious to hear about a recent project by Old City’s Clay Studio. The Guerrilla Mug Assault, a project which received a 2012 Knight Arts grant, provided hundreds of free coffee mugs to the Philadelphia area.

A wall of mugs for sale as part of The Clay Studio's Guerrilla Mug Assault.

Ultimately, the idea of the Guerrilla Mug Assault was to pepper downtown Philadelphia with groups of Clay Studio volunteers who would distribute handmade, ceramic mugs to passersby on November 8, 2012. In bustling Center City Philly, there were more than enough people to receive these clay wares, so the goal was to find pedestrians carrying paper cups from the many coffee shops and cafes located in the surrounding area.

Elaine Kelly Clay Studio Associate Artist Elaine Kelly distributes some of the handmade vessels. Photo courtesy The Clay Studio

The unwitting caffeine enthusiasts were then offered a trade: a reusable, artist-made vessel for their mundane, disposable cup. Obviously the “muggers” had no problem distributing their 500 finely-crafted and functional artworks in a short period of time. The recipients were then asked to post about their experience and the relationship they develop with the mug they chose.

Cafe Ole Owners of Cafe Ole in Old City show off their mugs made by artists Theo Uliano of Pennsylvania (left) and Posey Bacopoulos of New York (right). Photo courtesy The Clay Studio

From an environmental perspective, the Guerrilla Mug Assault encourages drinking from washable and reusable mugs. This waste reduction is a notable byproduct of the project, but specifically it is intended to stoke interest in handmade objects. Originally part of a larger program called “Made by Hand”, the main goal has been to explore the nature of handmade art in the 21st Century – its function, social implications, and its ability to serve as a reminder of times, places and people. Clearly, a unique object is much more adept at these tasks and more beautiful and meaningful as well.

Beyond the free distribution as part of their barrier-breaking street art, The Clay Studio is also offering similar mugs for sale in order to help reach their matching grant from the Knight Foundation. Be sure to swing by The Clay Studio to see their current show and perhaps acquire a mug or two while you’re there!

The Clay Studio is located at 137-139 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia; 215-925-3453;

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