The Dunoon Story
Do you have a brown, earthenware mug decorated with a mottled glaze somewhere at the back of your kitchen cupboard? Did you use a mug like this at home during your childhood? If you do remember one, chances are it was made by Dunoon in the early 1970s.
Dunoon began manufacturing their world famous mugs at Dunoon in Argyll, Scotland in 1974, initially producing just 72 display mugs for the Highland Trade Fair. The original mugs were of high quality stoneware, with beautiful earthy glazes. The mugs were soon selling globally – to the great satisfaction of the factory founders, Gordon Smith and Bill Harvey.
In 1982 the operation moved to Stone in Staffordshire, the heart of the potteries and a traditional area for ceramic production since the early 17th century. By now the company was working with designers and artists to create new ranges and shapes in both Stoneware and Fine China. New products were introduced including kitchenware and teapots. Gordon Smith’s sons had become involved in the company and the business was bought out from Bill Harvey in 1989. Today Dunoon export to over 60 countries around the world. A shop remains in Scotland and Dunoon has stayed loyal to its Scottish roots, regularly producing designs with Scottish themes. Dunoon remains a family enterprise; today, Gordon Smith’s grandchildren play key roles in the business.
The Making of Dunoon mugs
A new mug from Dunoon is produced every 2.5 seconds of the working day, always to the most exacting standards. The highest quality china clay is used, chosen for its translucency, whiteness and strength. The mugs are made using the slip cast process, which results in very fine and light yet strong china. Every mug produced by Dunoon undergoes seventeen different processes, (excluding the design and print elements), and each person who works on the production line takes personal pride in their aspect of the manufacture. The same man has been mixing the slip that is poured into the moulds for thirty years! The mug handles are fired separately and are always attached by hand, as are the lithographic transfer decorations. Rigorous quality control takes place three times during the process: after the initial biscuit firing, after the glaze has been fired, and after the litho transfer has been fired. At each of these stages any flaws found will be ground out and polished. Due to being fired three times, the final mug will be 12.5% smaller than its starting size.
Dunoon - Filled to brim with style!
Dunoon draws on a versatile and talented bank of experienced designers, both in-house and freelance, to achieve a wide variety of high quality designs. Below are just four examples of the outstanding artists who work with Dunoon.
Emma Ball is a much loved Nottinghamshire artist who has worked closely with Dunoon for many years. The British coastline is the inspiration for many of her watercolour designs which are instantly recognisable by their warmth, colour and beautiful style.
Jane Brookshaw grew up on a farm in North Wales, and has won many awards for her designs which now appear on a variety of gift products including mugs. She uses gouache, pastels and acrylics for her work.
Richard Partis has worked for Dunoon for over 20 years. He paints birds and animals, landscapes and flowers, tractors and spitfires and many more designs from musical instruments to leaping salmon. He was born in Somerset in 1964 and grew up in the Wiltshire countryside, developing a great love of the natural world and an ability to paint its beauty in great detail.
Kate Mawdsley was born in Lancashire and now lives in a converted barn in East Anglia. Kate began her career in the fashion industry before gradually moving into more illustrative work. Her work can now be seen on products ranging from Dunoon mugs to cross-stitch fabrics.
The company portfolio is constantly being updated and the design team is always on the look-out for new contemporary ideas as well as classic and traditional themes. Over the years thousands of designs have been produced by Dunoon, and every Christmas a special festive range is produced. Today this high-quality china is avidly collected by people from all over the world.
There is no doubt that Dunoon have always produced quality items; there are still some in our cupboard that date from thirty years ago! From artisan-style rough-glazed mugs to diverse designs that are popular worldwide, the Dunoon story has been one of innovation, evolution and inspiration. Next time you sip a reviving hot drink from your favourite Dunoon mug, remember how much how work went into producing it!