The Ember temperature-controlled travel mug

By Don Stoll

Reprint by permission from Idyllwild Arts

Drop into a Starbucks and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll run across something invented by Clay Alexander, who graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in 1994.

Nearly 4,600 Starbucks stores carry the temperature-controlled Ember Ceramic Mug (named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2017), and about a thousand stores carry the Ember Travel Mug.

Ember, Clay’s Southern California-based company, reflects both his interests in lighting that he brought to the technical side of academy theater productions, and his interest in the transformative power of temperature control — cumulating in a new category of consumer products.

Idyllwild was where Clay’s love of technology grew. “I started inventing things with erector sets when I was two or three, and during my time at Idyllwild Arts Academy, I started to focus on the art behind the inventions,” said Clay Alexander. “This artistic point of view is reflected in our design-led products that are both useful and beautiful.”

Clay Alexander
Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts

Reflecting on his time at the academy, Clay remembers it as, “an awesome place for a day student who enjoyed staying on campus until late at night before walking home. For the theatre productions, I wasn’t just arranging the light, I was arranging the light in a way that would produce exactly the artistic effect that our director wanted.”

His inventing continued after graduation. Clay currently holds more than 80 patents worldwide and he is the inventor of General Electric’s LED light bulb, the GE Infusion™.

In addition to the temperature control mugs, Ember is developing additional temperature control products, including a baby bottle that eliminates the need to heat milk on the stovetop and test it on your wrist, as well as a dinner plate that will put an end to overheating and drying out leftovers in your microwave.

Looking even further ahead, Clay also is developing products outside of the consumer goods realm, in order to impact the lives of people all over the globe. The company is exploring temperature-control containers to transport vaccines and other medications in order to help poor communities where electricity for refrigeration is intermittent or doesn’t exist — not just making life a little easier, but saving lives.