Artist captures essence of St. Charles in coffee mug design

Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for a family member in St. Charles?

Coroco coffee has just the thing: a St. Charles-inspired coffee mug depicting favorite local landmarks.

The mug was designed by Ashley Klockenga, also known by her artist pseudonym Ashley Ann, and is one of many in her line of mugs celebrating her favorite places.

Klockenga and her family live in a remote reservation in northwestern Ontario and visit the U.S. every spring. This year, her family stayed in St. Charles for six weeks, and during that time, Klockenga created the St. Charles mug.

The mug hit the shelves of Coroco Coffee in November, and owner Karen Weckerly said they have been selling well, with several being shipped out of state as Christmas gifts. The St. Charles design is sold exclusively at Coroco Coffee.

Weckerly and Klockenga met this summer while Klockenga was staying in St. Charles and was inspired by Coroco Coffee. Weckerly said she loved the quality of the mug and the way it communicates Klockenga's connection to the local community, architecture and history.

"The design and quality make this mug a future family keepsake," Weckerly said. "They make a very special and personal gift."

Klockenga is originally from Brookfield, and moved to DeKalb to study at Northern Illinois University where she met her husband. After graduating, the couple moved to Texas where they trained to be missionaries.

The Klockengas moved to the Cat Lake region of Canada, a remote area in northwestern Ontario. She said every year, she and her husband make Christmas gifts for the elders in the community, and in 2017 she gifted them custom coffee mugs.

Klockenga said she decided to try and capture the essence of Cat Lake in a mug, and unbeknown to her at the time, created the first of many regional mug designs.

The first mugs Klockenga designed never were intended for sale. She said their creation was completely in the spirit of gift giving, and it wasn't until years later that she had the idea to start making more.

In 2019, while Klockenga was expecting her fourth child, the family flew in to a nearby hospital in Sioux Lookout, and while waiting, she began to sketch some of her favorite landmarks in the area.

Before her daughter was born, she brought the design to a local coffee shop and was told they wanted to sell them, she said. So, she ordered a batch of 72 mugs. She said she remembers being nervous that they wouldn't sell, but within 24 hours on the shelves, they were sold out.

After seeing how successful the first mug was, Klockenga began sketching more and more designs, and today she has roughly 30 different mugs being sold across North America. She said in the past year, her business has ballooned as her family's connections in Illinois have put her mugs in stores around the suburbs.

Her first mug design in Illinois was in Crystal Lake, her husband's hometown. Conscious Cup coffee shop commissioned five designs from her for their Crystal Lake, Barrington, Cary, Libertyville and Palatine locations.

Klockenga said she has created mug designs for just about every place she or her family has ever lived, including Naperville, DeKalb, Genoa, Plainfield, Brookfield and La Grange, with Tinley Park, Hampshire and North Aurora designs to be released this holiday season.

Klockenga became acquainted with St. Charles this spring, when her family stayed in the city for six weeks thanks to a connection with a local church. She said that was when the St. Charles mug began to take form.

Klockenga begins every mug design by sketching the places most nostalgic to her. She said she draws inspiration from her own sights and memories, but also does a lot of research on each place's history and interviews people who have lived in the areas their whole lives to find out which places are special to them.

Klockenga said she still is treating the mug designs as a hobby, though the demand has been growing rapidly. She works full-time, home-schools her four daughters and is going to school for her master's degree, but still finds time to work on the mugs in the evenings.

She said the creative process is a lot of fun, and she enjoys learning the history of each place. "I guess it just brings a greater appreciation for things that we just drive by all the time," Klockenga said.

More mug designs are in the works, all of which are in collaboration with local shops. Klockenga said she has been receiving more and more requests from new and expanding shops to commission her designs, and she has no plans to stop creating.

To purchase the St. Charles mug, visit Coroco Coffee, 101 S. First St., or reserve a mug for in-store pick up via Coroco's mobile ordering system. Fans of the St. Charles mug should look for Klockenga's other mugs' pages on Facebook.

"I'm so thankful to St. Charles for their outpouring of support," Klockenga said. "I just absolutely love that it's local businesses supporting local artists, and it's just really cool."

Ashley Klockenga works on the design for her St. Charles mug while staying in the city in April. Courtesy of Ashley Klockenga
Ashley and Matthew Klockenga with their four daughters. An Ontario-based artist, Ashley Klockenga designed a St. Charles mug while staying in the city in April. Courtesy of Ashley Klockenga
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