The Bay-area ceramicist, Rae Dunn, crafts a distinctive line of kitchenware that sells out shockingly fast.

By Liz Steelman
Updated January 18, 2018
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Rae Dunn mugs

If you’ve been scrolling through your Instagram feed, you’ve probably come across Rae Dunn mugs. They’re made of white ceramic. They look handmade. They’re always emblazoned with a distinctly intriguing, though imperfect, capital case font. They’re just as endearing as a coffee mug can get. But you’ve probably thought that these mugs, serving platters, bowls, and other kitchenware items are crazy expensive or exclusive to only celebrities, like everything on Instagram. Or, you know, a classic too-good-to-be-true scam. But unbelievably, these items are: a. just as perfect in person as they are in photos, b. ridiculously affordable, and c. available at discount home décor chains. There is, however, only one catch: the stuff sells out fast.

The Instagram-famous mugs, kitchenware, bakeware, and home accessories are created by Rae Dunn, a ceramicist who has been making pottery in the Bay Area since 1994. According to her website, her pieces are highly influenced by wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic based on the ideas of impermanence and imperfection.

But why is Rae Dunn suddenly so popular? Besides wabi-sabi being one of home design’s hot new trends, Dunn’s ceramics are now sold at TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Marshalls, and Nordstrom across the nation, as well as through Magenta Inc, a homeware collective that includes other ceramic creations by designers like Brenda Holzke, Silvia Dotto, and Whitney Smith.

Since Dunn’s designs and $4 mugs have popped up in stores across the nation, her and her creations have gained a serious following. Dunn herself has 123k followers on Instagram and 41k followers on Facebook. #raedunn on Instagram has nearly 250k posts by fans and there are groups across Facebook with thousands of members like “Rae Dunn ADDICTS,” “Rae Dunn Black Market,” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Rae Dunn” where fans can buy, sell, and trade new, used, and rare ceramics with one another. Since supplies in-store can sell out quickly, there is a large resale culture among Rae Dunn fans. Many fans flock to Mercari, an online market place “to connect people who want to buy and sell things of emotional value through their mobile phones”, where, at time of writing, there are 4.8k listings for Rae Dunn ceramics.

Just this past fall, selections from Rae Dunn’s Halloween bowls were so popular, the under $20 Hocus Pocus-themed two-bowl set was selling for as high as $341 on eBay, according to PopSugar.

Hot items right now include a kitchen crock with “tools” scrawled on the front (right now the under $20 canister is going for upwards of $50 on eBay), a set of three utensil holders that say “spoon,” “fork,” and “knife,” on each (which is selling for $67 on Amazon), and a cake pan that says “cake” on it (on sale for $48 on Amazon).

But even when Rae Dunn fanatics score these hard-to-find, must-have pieces, it doesn’t mean that they use them in their kitchen. Instead, there’s a whole culture of Rae Dunn displays, where fans set up their hauls and share them on social media. Talk about a cult following. Happy hunting!