ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — An art studio in Essex is giving back to local food banks and inspiring a sense of community with a custom mug sale.

Businesses throughout the state have had to get creative in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis shutdowns. One of those businesses is Earth & Fire Art Studio in Essex. Owner Julia Bonilla decided to turn to art to not only heal herself but also her community– making hundreds of mugs for her ‘Mad Love Mug Sale’ which she launched back in April. 

“The ‘Mad Love Mug Sale’ is my regular mugs that I had placed on sale for a $5 reduced price,” she explained. “In addition to that, $5 of each mug that was sold was donated to the local food banks.”

The idea is simple: customers can support her local business, give back to local food banks, and get to take home a mug to remind them of the power of community. 

“Being able to give back to this community that I love, it helped me through this,” Bonilla said. “We have raised over $1,300 and it has been split between the East Haddam Food Bank and the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.” 

A donation she says wouldn’t be possible without her patrons.

“It makes me feel really good,” she added. “It makes me feel like it wasn’t just me. It was a whole lot of us that contributed to that.” 

To date, Bonilla has made over 250 mugs for the sale– each one unique in shape and color–and she has no plans of stopping any time soon.  

Customers can call or email the studio to place an order and will be able to pick out a mug of their choosing in-store when it’s ready. 

“I think it’s great, I love doing it,” said Bonilla. “People are super excited to come in and pick up their mug.” 

And although her studio was closed and suffering during the pandemic, she says giving back was something much bigger than herself. 

“I felt like this wasn’t a personal problem, this was a worldwide problem, a community problem,” Bonilla explained. “And I felt a need to do something about that in the little way that I could.”