Meet the British Artisan Building Inclusion Into Her Pottery

For Nicola Swann, the art of drinking tea is about more than beauty alone.

Potter working in clay or ceramics

( - Yuri A /

Drinking tea is a beloved ritual in the lives of Brits, and for people in many other countries around the world. This is perhaps why potter Nicola Swann takes pride in the bespoke, “Digni-TEA” disability-friendly mugs she creates. These are all lovingly-crafted pieces of art that don’t scream disability aid, and allow disabled users to continue drinking hot beverages as they have always done. As she tells local newspaper, The Linc, about her “Made With Mud” business,  ”The whole purpose behind it was to allow somebody to be able to drink out of a mug that looked like everybody else’s, rather than having to drink out of what generally look like baby sippy-cups.”

Restoring dignity to the disabled
Underlying this potter’s focus, as Felt Magnet points out, is a hefty sprinkling of love, caring, and respect. 

Swann started making these bespoke mugs a couple of years ago to help a man who had lost strength in his hands and arms. In addition to adding an extra handle to the mug, she lowered the handles to allow for silicon lids to fit on top of the mug.
Today, in her potter’s studio near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, England, and with the support of her studio dog, Buddy, Swann makes mugs to fit her customers. She tweaks her creations to add features like flared bases, or extra handles, creating what is also known as
adaptive pottery that is functional for everyone.

“I love making pieces of art that can be cherished and used every day, like my beautiful drippy glaze mugs,” Swann explains on her Made With Mud website. Her work is inspired by nature and the magic of the glazes that she works with.

Importantly, BBC News details, Swann isn’t surprised that customer’s report that her mugs are a game-changer, and she explains why: “People who wouldn't drink in a social setting because they were embarrassed at having to drink out of a plastic cup - now they can use a mug like everyone else in the room and they don't feel like they're having to use a medical aid,” she shares.

Other Swann creations include a mug for folks in wheelchairs with headrests who are unable to tip their heads back to finish their beverages. One satisfied customer is artist Angharad Brawn, from South Wales. She reveals that it has a cut out where her nose goes so that she can put it right back and drink up all of her coffee. 

Spilling the tea on social media
Swann’s Made With Mud enterprise has garnered almost half a million likes on TIkTok due to its disability-friendly mugs, reports The Linc, after she accepted the social media site’s offer to feature her work on its “TikTok For Good” section. And since this social media video about her modified mugs went viral earlier this year, reports BBC News, she receives around 100 messages daily, and is struggling to reply to all of them. 

As Swann tells The Linc, she went from expressing concern that her products weren’t getting to the people who needed them most,  to feeling bewildered about meeting the hugely increased demand: “It’s been quite overwhelming. I went viral on Instagram and TikTok at the same time and I’ve still not caught up with all the messages I’ve received,” she admits.

Swann reports being touched by multiple messages of support from people saying her mugs are going to transform lives, and grant much-needed independence to users, with many telling her that they’d wished her mugs had been around before their loved ones passed away.

Swann has developed some installment plans to help more customers afford her adaptive mugs, and has also employed another local business to get involved in the creation of handmade mugs and molds for the most in-demand models that she can then glaze and send out.

This changemaking potter believes that this local help will free up some of her time, allowing her to develop a mug for people suffering from arthritis. This would involve angling a new, thicker handle, as BBC News details.

New Airplane Design Allows Passengers to Fly in Their Own Wheelchairs
Explore These 5 Yoga Poses for Your Core
Awesome Iowa Teen Grows Food to Share With Locals