Michigan, Mugs and Medieval Art

Michigan is a hand-shaped State, or some might say Mitten-shaped. Its like a hand on a figure from one of the pieces of Medieval art I’m learning about in my Early Christian and Byzantine Art class. To paraphrase my Professor: the faces of figures aren’t as important as in some cases art was de-faced after a conquerer conquered, and later restored, so faces in that case wouldn’t tell us much about the original. Instead, we pay attention to the form and gestures of the figures to understand whats being communicated.

If Michigan were a Medieval art painting, what would it be saying? I think it’d be saying with its open handed gesture, “Hello” or “Welcome,” although one could say that the hand is upright, and may signal “Stop!,” but if it were saying “Stop,” I think it’d be saying so as in “Stop here! Come visit me!” Regardless of what it might be saying, its a lovely image to have on a coffee mug – its like the mug is saying “Hello” or “Welcome” or better yet “Stop here! Come visit with me!”

There’s probably a story behind every mug, even if it boils down to a purchase or gift – there’s a location for the purchase and a gift-giver of the gift to be remembered. This Michigan Mug belongs to my sister.  The story behind the mug is that it was a gift from the University of Michigan to incoming graduate students at a welcoming ceremony sponsored by the Rackham Graduate School. I can’t claim it as my own, but the other mugs I own and keep, tell my stories. A story of a generous labmate who gave her fellow labmates a frog-shaped coffee mug to say “Thank you” (our lab worked with frogs as a model organism). A story of one Christmas when my parents gifted my sister and I with matching snowman mugs. A story of my freshman year at Goshen college when an alum who works with pottery, donated mugs to incoming students. And a story of a Starbucks pour over coffee cup set that was mistakenly discarded by my parents since it was believed to be broken, and I rescued it (see white mug and silver pour over lid in picture below).
What’s the story behind your mug? What stories do your mugs tell?

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