Northern Star



NIU ALumni

Northern Star

Northern Illinois University’s student news organization since 1899


Ensure student journalism survives. Donate today.

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

DeKalb-inspired mug brews community attention

Courtesy of Ashley Klockenga
A mug sits on a marble counter. Ashley Klockenga, an NIU alum, has created a mug that embodies the spirit of DeKalb. (Courtesy of Ashley Klockenga)

DeKALB – Coffee drinkers can experience a taste of DeKalb’s community after a NIU alum was inspired to create a mug that reflects the city. 

Ashley “Ann” Klockenga, an NIU alum, created a mug that displayed the history and essence of DeKalb’s culture. The mug is decorated with distinct symbolism and landmarks recognizable to most who have visited.

The mug displays DeKalb-centered buildings such as the downtown DeKalb strip, the Holmes Student Center and Huskie Stadium. 

There are many iconic DeKalb features on the mugs, including a Huskie statue, barbed wire and many other local symbols. 

“It (the mug) tells us the history of DeKalb but also what’s happening now,” Klockenga said. “It’s a place of education, it’s a place of development, and so I just captured the essence of people who are working hard and doing things to bring good to the world.” 

Klockenga said mug-making began as a holiday surprise to those in her community. 

“We give Christmas gifts every year to the elders, and so we decided to make an iconic mug for the area of Cat Lake, Michigan,” Klockenga said.  “We printed enough for the elders, and everybody just loved their mugs, and people in the community were just asking for more – it was just a really big hit.”   

Klockenga said she wanted to create something that capsulized her NIU experience.

“I wanted to capture places and activities and just scenery that capture NIU – and not just NIU but the greater DeKalb area,” Klockenga said. “Part of my artistic style is having it read, like, when you’re enjoying your morning coffee, you can kind of just look around the mug and experience it like how you would experience a cereal box in the morning as a kid. And there’s always something new to find. It just evokes nostalgia of living in a place with just those cherished memories.”

Klockenga is currently working as a full-time missionary while working on her master’s degree. She said she worked on the mug project when she could find the time, which resulted in many late evenings. 

Though skeptical of the mugs’ success, Klockenga said she was surprised by the attention her artwork was attracting. 

“We ordered 72 mugs; ‘are they even gonna sell?’ And they put them out on the shelf, and, like, 24 hours later, they’re all gone,” Klockenga said. “Then people from back home were interested in having us make a mug. That’s how we got connected to Cast Iron Coffee, and we made the DeKalb mug exclusively for them.”

Klockenga’s DeKalb inspired mug is available solely at Cast Iron Coffee, but she said that she’s thankful for the likes and supportive comments she’s gotten on Facebook

“It’s been great on the Facebook community page to just thank people for grabbing the mug and having a place to connect with them,” Klockenga said. “I’ve been overwhelmed by it that gather just so much support, and I’m just so encouraged that other people love to help as much as I do.”

More to Discover