If you’re looking to show off your love for the Natural State (or perhaps one of its neighbors) with something that is both beautiful and functional, look no further than Stately Ceramics, a small business based in Fayetteville specializing in ceramics that mimic the shape of Arkansas and other states in three dimensions. 


Ryan Rogers, Ph.D., is the owner and founder of Stately Ceramics. A native of Jonesboro, he earned an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, followed by a doctorate in theoretical chemistry from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2020. Though his love for science remained, after decades in school, he was eager to try out one of the more artistic ideas he had come up with during graduate school. 


“People love the shape of Arkansas,” Rogers said. “Especially up here, when I moved to Fayetteville, there was Arkansas-shaped everything. And I thought, people make things like coasters with the outline of the state, but you’ve never seen it in three dimensions; you’ve never seen it round. And I thought, well how do you even do that? One obvious answer would be to take the flat shape from a map and then extrude it out, but that’s still just a two-dimensional shape with some thickness on it.”



Arkansas Vase


The idea of turning a two-dimensional shape into a round, three-dimensional one turned out to be a tricky process. After not having any success with a free CAD program, he eventually discovered a proprietary (and therefore undisclosed) process that got the job done. He started with cardboard models for both a mug and a vase, showing that the process could work at various sizes. Soon after, he began using a 3D printer to create his models and started selling the Arkansas mug in 2021.


Once he figured out how to make Arkansas, Rogers realized that the process he had created could be used to make 3D models based on practically any 2D shape. Not all states are good for the same thing, of course – while the wide top of Arkansas makes it perfect for a mug, Tennessee’s horizontal length made it a good choice for the company’s second product, a bowl. 



Tennessee Bowl


Rogers is eager to make more and more states, and is confident they can make almost any state into something useful. As for rectangular states like Colorado and Wyoming, he joked, you can already get those – they’re just regular mugs. He also has big plans for Texas, as its three horizontal sections could make for a unique planter or dish with three separate sections for different plants in the case of the former, or for chips, salsa and dip in the latter. Should the idea come to be, he noted, it would likely be an extremely limited piece, perhaps with only 10 to 30 ever being made. 


“We’ve got some really unique plans to use the states for what they want to be, and make some really, really cool products. It’s just a matter of time,” Rogers said.


Though Stately Ceramics’ products are available on its website, Rogers recommends going to see them in person at a retailer to get a look and feel for them yourself. 


“They can feel the ridges and they can spin it around and really figure it out for themselves,” Rogers said. “Do they think it looks like Arkansas and not just a tornado? That’s what most people say the first time they see one. Some people get caught up in the three-dimensionality of it. They say, ‘I don’t see Arkansas, but I’d like the tornado mug.’ So it’s been pretty interesting to quiz people, hold it up and ask what they see.”



Ryan Rogers


Though Rogers says Stately Ceramics has become a bigger operation than he had ever anticipated, the team behind it remains small at just six people. Moreover, all of their products are handmade. While traditional pottery-making technique with a pottery wheel is perfect for symmetry, Stately Ceramic’s products are explicitly not symmetrical. 


Instead, the team uses a process called slip casting, in which a liquid clay called “slip” is poured into a mold. The slip begins to thicken as it dries, and once it reaches the desired thickness, the remaining liquid is poured out, leaving a shell in the shape of the mold. Like all other ceramics, the shell then needs to be dried, glazed and fired. 


For those hoping to see their favorite state, the Stately Ceramics website has a page where you can help choose the next product, with a selection ranging from a Louisiana cup and saucer to a Georgia stein or a Vermont highball cup. Likewise, there’s an ongoing contest on the company’s social media: Try to guess the state based on the hints in the image for a chance to win their next new product for free.


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