You’ve seen Tangle Chocolate’s fabulous new Hot Chocolate Kit that includes, in addition to a tin filled with shaved Tangle Chocolate and a whisk for blending, a hot chocolate mug made especially for us. Meet the talented potter behind the mugs, Helen Thelen of Black Cats Pottery!

Helen is Amherst, Massachusetts born and raised, and she had her first experience with ceramics while in elementary school. She has practiced other art forms over the years, and as a fiber artist, even raised Angora rabbits in order to spin and knit their fur. But her love of clay re-emerged a few years ago when she was uberstressed and overworking, and signed up for a pottery class. 

She says, “I totally fell in love, so much so that I signed up for the second round of classes before the first round was over — and the second round wasn’t going to start for two months!”  

Helen has apprenticed with two well-known potters, Joy Friedman and Milia Rhodes, and was Artist in Residence for a year at Clayworks Community Pottery Studio in Ware, Massachusetts. She started teaching at Northampton Pottery in January of 2020. 

One of the classes Helen teaches is Couples Night. “It’s a fun way for couples to get away and do something that most people have never tried,” Helen says. She adds, laughing, “Some couples can get pretty competitive!” 

And yes, classes are running again at Northampton Pottery after a months-long COVID-induced hiatus. Helen teaches all adults, whether they are first timers or seasoned at the wheel. She let Tangle visit and observe a class (see photos), and it was absolutely mesmerizing to witness a lump of clay being magically transformed into a finished mug. 

While in normal times Helen would sell her work at craft fairs, COVID has changed all of that for 2020. She takes commissions, sells through Facebook, and will be at Snow Farm for their annual Seconds Sale taking place on three weekends beginning Thursday, November 12. 

The mugs she makes for Tangle Chocolate are unique for several reasons. One is their size. The hot chocolate is strong since it’s made with Tangle Chocolate’s bean-to-bar dark chocolate, so Tangle commissioned small mugs to encourage people to savor a serving without regret. The mugs don’t have handles so that the hot deliciousness warms one’s hands while drinking it. And the pure white glaze, though a bit difficult to work with, shows off the beautiful hot chocolate. 

Why is the business named Black Cats Pottery? “It’s named after my four black rescue cats,” Helen explains. “There is so much superstition about black cats that many of them end up in shelters. Black cats are much more likely to be euthanized than any other kind. This is my way of raising people’s awareness about their plight and just showing appreciation for the cat members of my household, whom I love and spoil a lot!” 

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