drink mee pray without spilling or you will [pay] thre shilling
February 8, 2018 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Puzzle jugs were intended as pub or dinner party games, in which you had to figure out how to drink out of one without pouring the alcohol all over. Michelle Erickson, ceramicist, shows how she made one while artist in residence at the V&A.
posted by jeather (18 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Neither eBay nor Etsy are satisfying my desire to add a puzzle cup to my shopping cart, and then back out of the purchase when I decide it's too expensive.

Any help?

I also suspect that if you went into a pub 400 years ago, and showed the clientele your smartphone running Quiz Up, you'd be asked if it could wait as ol' Jack the Miller is having a crack at the puzzle cup.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:28 PM on February 8, 2018

Ignore that, found one.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:31 PM on February 8, 2018

The video of the ceramicist fabricating a replica by hand is amazing.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 3:39 PM on February 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

Also...eBay UK to the rescue!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 3:44 PM on February 8, 2018

I love watching people throw and glaze pots after binging on The Great Pottery Throwdown. Puzzle jusgs would make a good finale challenge next season.
posted by Duffington at 5:02 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

If I try to drink from one of those and get annoyed, I will be throwing a pot myself.
posted by Splunge at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is so cool!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:15 PM on February 8, 2018

Prithee sir, wilt thou test thy wits with my craz-ed straw? For it be pink and full of twistes, like unto the innards of a goat.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:22 PM on February 8, 2018 [22 favorites]

Oh man, now I want to make one of these.
posted by limeonaire at 5:49 PM on February 8, 2018

The unwitting guest who attempted to drink from it without covering the holes would find himself drenched.

18th-century lulz
posted by limeonaire at 5:52 PM on February 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

after binging on The Great Pottery Throwdown.


posted by GuyZero at 6:21 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yay! Another pottery thread for me to dump useless knowledge into!

There are several items in the US folk pottery tradition that go by the name "puzzle jug." The first is more of a puzzle mug and works similarly to the jugs in the linked article. Probably came from the same English and Germanic customs.

The second is quite striking, known as the "ring jug" elsewhere, the puzzle is not in how to drink from it, but rather in how it is made (thrown on its side and then a spout and handle attached). This probably comes from the Germanic tradition, and folklore holds that it was hung on saddlehorns during hunts. True? Dunno, but they sure look cool. Very common among potters in the southeast, currently.

The final variant is simailar to traditinal "moonshine jugs" but you'll either have one large one and several smaller one with interlocking handles or two to three similarly sized ones with interlocking handles. The puzzle is which jug holds the beverage. Very rare, but found in some North Carolina communities in the early part of the twentieth century. Occasionally called "monkey jugs."

All of these fall under what is known as the "grotesqueries." Non-utilitarian pots made for whimsy or trade. The big well-known style is the face jug, popular in The SE US in the early twentieth century, but also the toby jug from the English tradition and the Bellarmarine jar from the Germanic tradition. Other flights of fancy include toy pottery and doll house pottery. What makes this "whimsies" so much fun is their relative rarity, and the fact they were often a "show off" or test of skill for a master pottery to prove how small or large, or craftily they could make a pot. In some cases, children of potters recalled making small pots alongside their parents to be sold in the store. Again, most of these works were very rare (in the US at least), until the rise of tourist traffic brought them back to the forefront in the twentieth century, where they could function as an attractive pot to lure in out of towners, and create a market above and beyond the usual utilitarian wares most of these potters would make. As such, these pots are a bridge between the potter as craftsman in the pre-industrial setting and the potter as artisan in the modern era.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:05 PM on February 8, 2018 [17 favorites]

Neat! So glad the potter decided to display how it was supposed to be used. I was really NOT grokking how the whole thing workes.
posted by Samizdata at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2018

Non-utilitarian pots made for whimsy or trade.
Hmmm - A Brief History of Toby Jugs
If you look closely at the table to the right hand side of the picture, you can see a Toby Jug sat upon the table! This suggests that Toby Jugs may well have been used in Taverns and Clubs as a functional item for serving beer and ale and not just for decorative purposes.
Anecdotally, my grandparent's had a pub in Kent from after the war and had two Toby Jugs behind the counter that were both used on occasion but not regularly. They also had a blue glass, silver filigree, musical drinking pot that my parent's brought back from Hong Kong displayed alongside the jugs. This was never used for anything other than elastic bands and foreign coins.
posted by unliteral at 8:37 PM on February 8, 2018

I am now officially an Old, because my first thought was, "That'd be an absolute pain in the ass to properly clean."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:09 AM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Don't feel bad, Leo. My first thought was, "Yuck, the drinky part is all unglazed."
posted by davelog at 6:37 AM on February 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

unliteral: Not utilitarian in the sense it's not just the most basic form needed for the job. You can still totally use them, I made a face jug years back for the jug player in a jug band and if that's not use, I dunno what is. Really, the distinction is usually between fully utilitarian and purely decorative and there's a lot a grey area left over. But, then again, I'm the sort who likes to use the fancy guest soap, so what do I know.

davelog: As far as the "drinky part" being unglazed, as long as the clay is fully vitrified it should be fine. In fact, in some hot climates the "storage part" of the vessel will be left unglazed to allow evaporation to cool the liquid. Some work has been by the UN done using unglazed crocks to bring a primitive form of refrigeration (swamp cooling, basically) to places without electricty as it's quite efficient.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:44 AM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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