Well, I think I found the problem and fixed it.
Just to be clear, the original internet legend says that you’re supposed to be able to use oil-based Sharpie brand pens to create awesome designs on already-glazed porcelain. The advice they give, though, is that “the cheaper the glaze, the better it sticks.”
Eff a bunch of that noise, in my opinion. I like high quality mugs, I like solid cups that I can trust to not have obscene levels of lead or mercury or whatever the newest cost-cutting Chinese second-rate glaze is made of this year. (Did you know there’s no industrial regulation in China? That’s why it’s so cheap to get stuff made over there – any standards have to be enforced by the company that runs the factory.)
My personal favorite is BIA Cordon Bleu mugs. I love the sizes, I love the shapes, and I love the glaze. And I don’t love how even only hand-washing my hand-painted mugs, the designs started falling right off. (Bloody stupid Sharpies…) Oh, and the amazing rich-color designs I love to do? Sharpies fade to bizarre and not-okay colors. The amazing journey of the sea turtles through the blue-and-green ocean turned into the sludgy trek of the sea turtles through brown-and-sickly-ochre sewage.
Not good eats.
Y’all know how much I love painting on weird things I shouldn’t normally be painting on, so I went on a quest to find out out how the hell to make it work, and I think I solved the problem.
Testors enamel such as the kind you use to paint model cars is much more durable than oil-based pens. But wait! Isn’t that pretty NOT food-safe? Why, you’re totally right – until you cure in it a low oven in the same way you would the Sharpie mugs, which is the same reason you cure the Sharpie mugs. I repainted the Darling Beloved’s gryphon mug with the enamel pens, and the only place the enamel has come off was where the old Sharpie paint was still hanging on – and that’s after being put in the dishwasher several times!
And just to revisit the “low oven” method: Let the painted mug sit for at least 24 hours after the last bit of painting is finished before curing it. Place the mug on a cookie sheet in a COLD oven, turn the heat on to 350º F (175º C), leave it there for around 30 minutes, and then turn the oven off and LEAVE THE MUG IN THERE. Do not open the door. Let the heat come down nice and easy. This is not about the mug being too hot to handle (though, DUH!), it’s about exposing the porcelain to such a massive temperature change that it violates the integrity of the material, which can cause cracks that will turn to breaks either immediately or over a slightly longer period of time.
For instance, have you ever gotten a really nice hand-painted mug from a friend of yours, used it for hot coffee, gone to pick up the mug, and then ended up with just the handle and part of the mug in your hand with the rest of the mug on the table and the hot coffee all over your papers and magazines and autographed copy of “Stardust” that happened to still be on the floor where it landed the night before after you fell asleep reading it?
So, to my crafty friends, that’s how to get around the embarrassing problem of making amazing-yet-temporary art-on-mugs. Go pro or go home. To my other friends, this means that my Etsy store will soon have an excellent selection of muggings available for purchase. (Yes, I know it’s still a little rough around the edges, don’t judge me just yet, I’m working on it.)