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weird mug/coffee economics

updated sat 15 apr 00


elizabeth priddy on tue 11 apr 00

Hendley has hit on something here...

maybe we should all jack the prices on our mugs
and put a sign near it that says

"Shouldn't your mug be worthy of your coffee?"

Yupsters will naturally assume we are referring
to price and put two and two together...there
goes a $100 mug worthy of their very best
imported Hawaiian Kona!!
Elizabeth Priddy

Clay: 12,000 yrs and still fresh!

On Mon, 10 Apr 2000 15:22:01 David Hendley wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>The economic values of middle class America are
>indeed very strange. In John Baymore's example,
>the consumer 'won' the money game because he
>saved $18 by buy buying a $2 mug at Wal-mart.
>Now jump over to what goes IN the mug.
>The same consumer who wants to save money, is
>happy to plop down $2.25 every day for a 'cafe americano'
>(regular ol' coffee) at Starbucks. In a crappy paper cup.
>People will indeed pay a high price for perceived
>High priced coffee is 'in' now.
>It's hard for potters to make a high priced mug seem
>important to the general public. We are competing
>for the public's attention with corporations that spend
>millions to add the illusion of value to their products.
>David Hendley
>Maydelle, Texas
>----- Original Message -----
>From: John Baymore
>Sent: Sunday, April 09, 2000 8:00 PM
>Subject: Weird Economics / Not
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>I still feel strongly that the economics surrounding good clay work is
>weird as hell. So many incredible potters abound. So few make a good
>That is highly strange to me. We have to eat from vessels. Why do we
>consistently choose inferior ones, even though we are educated?
>It certainly feels weird to us potters........... cause I think we are
>generally more aesthetically educated than the general population of the
>USA. This goes back to some of the comments from the $20 mug discussion of
>a few weeks ago..........and the comments about how those outside the
>pottery field look askance at such pricing.
>I think the issue is that we (the generic and inclusive "we" that is
>intended to make a generality about our culture as a whole) are not
>visually or aesthetically educated, and we are accustomed to pretty poor
>functional design out of the available industrial goods. Of course
>generalities are very dangerous.... there are plenty of US citizens that
>are well connected to the aesthetic and there are some good industrial
>products out there....... but I do think that does not fit the majority
>As to why we (USA) tend to chose inferior ones.......I think it is because
>of the criteria which is used to select. In other words, how do you define
>the word "inferior"? (Oh...oh....sound like Clinton here ) That is the
>likely root of the problem. In the USA, the main criteria that is stressed
>in our culture revolves around money. Money is at the forefront of most
>everything that we value. Making it, saving it, spending it, and getting
>the most for the least. So for a lot of Americans, money issues are
>heavily weighted in the decision making process about most anything.
>So if one is weighing the "percieved value" of a plain, thick, white,
>plastic Walmart mug against a well concieved, interesting, handmade
>craftsperson's piece.....(see PS below) of the first things
>that crosses many American minds is the price difference of the two items
>relating to the function of the object in the person's life. If there is
>no real understanding of the aesthetic qualities offered by the handcrafted
>piece.... and how that might affect the person's life....... then that
>issue does not figure in to the decision making process very much.
>So the pure functional aspect becomes foremost. Both hold coffee, both get
>it to the mouth. If the lip of both fits the mouth, the handles fit the
>hand, and the balance point of both is OK for the individual's
>preference........... they are therefore pretty much equal in the
>functional department. (Some of the more subtle functional aspects of
>which potters are aware are not in the typical realm of the average
>One mug costs $2.00 and the other $20.00. Value for the dollar goes to the
>Walmart one by our consumer's selection criteria........ and he/she is
>considered a smart consumer because he/she has saved $18.00. They won the
>money game.
>That aesthetic issues could be worth about $18 to their lives is
>unfathomable. They have not been brought up (since they were kids) to be
>aware of or even to value the aesthetic side of life. Mass media has
>probably been the main aesthetic education in their lives, cause it
>certainly did not happen in the typical American public educational system.
> Until that most basic value system is changed, the market for "the
>aesthetic" will remain limited.
>What we do is not a mass-market endeavor..... it is a serious niche'
>market. Thank God that there are still people that value and understand
>the aesthetic part of life..... cause they are the ones that tend to
>support us. Let's keep working at education of the public whenever we can.
>PS: And just to clarify...... I do not automatically equate "handmade"
>with "better". In some cases the plastic mass produced item may be
>aesthetically and functionally better than the handmade one.
>John Baymore
>River Bend Pottery
>22 Riverbend Way
>Wilton, NH 03086 USA
>603-654-2752 (s)
>800-900-1110 (s)
>"Earth, Water, and Fire Noborigama Woodfiring Workshop August 18-27,

--== Sent via ==--
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Bryan on wed 12 apr 00

>Hendley has hit on something here...
>maybe we should all jack the prices on our mugs
>and put a sign near it that says
>"Shouldn't your mug be worthy of your coffee?"
>Yupsters will naturally assume we are referring
>to price and put two and two together...there
>goes a $100 mug worthy of their very best
>imported Hawaiian Kona!!
>Elizabeth Priddy

I have gotten a comment that my mugs make mediocre coffee taste good.
I think that it is synethesia (a phenomon, that some people
experience, where one type of perception is percieved as another).


Cindy Strnad on wed 12 apr 00

Elizabeth Priddy wrote:

>>"Shouldn't your mug be worthy of your coffee?"<<

Whoa, Elizabeth! I like it--no, I love it. I think I'll make signs that say
exactly this and give them to all my retailers, then jack up the prices.

Cindy Strnad
Earthen Vessels Pottery
RR 1, Box 51
Custer, SD 57730

Nikom Chimnok on wed 12 apr 00

At 14:50 11/4/00 EDT, Elizabeth Priddy wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>maybe we should all jack the prices on our mugs
>and put a sign near it that says
>"Shouldn't your mug be worthy of your coffee?"
Last week on the way to Bangkok to pay final respects to an old friend whose
time had come to be turned into bone ash, we stopped at a service station. I
was surprised to see an outdoor coffee bar there, with the menu in
English/Italian. Even tho the price of a cup of Arabica was 30 baht (about
70 US cents)--pretty pricey for one of my means--I decided to go for it,
remembering a line from Jim Carroll: "You get nothing back for all you save/
Just eternity in an spacious grave."

I went to the toilet and when I came back, there was my coffee, in a ceramic
cup. Thinking my imperfect Thai had been misunderstood (it wouldn't be the
first time), I said, "I wanted that to go." The lady smiled and said, "This
is to go." The manager of the pottery, with whom I was traveling, joked,
"See, buy a cup and the coffee is free."

I said to the coffee vendor, "We're all from a pottery, and I'd really like
to know how much that cup cost you."

"Five baht," she answered. Which comes to around 13 or 14 cents. After I'd
finished drinking the coffee I looked the cup over. It was imperfect. Nobody
had polished the foot (would you, for that price?) and there's a lump on one
side, like no one had screened the glaze, either. Still I was amazed--the
first time in my life I'd ever gotten coffee to go in a real cup. Those
coffee vendors are really cleaning up. Farmers here sell Arabica beans for
about $1.25 a kilo, and the roasting and grinding don't cost much, so the
vendors when selling coffee for $.70 a cup can afford to give the cups away.

So watch out, Starbucks: I think you'll find the competition pretty stiff in
these parts.

Nikom (this morning drinking Mocha from my 10 baht cup, which is really far
superior to the 5 baht giveaway)

Jeanne Wood on fri 14 apr 00

Hi Nikom,
I really appreciated your comment on the coffee cup
"that saved my life", made me think of coffee cups
I've loved. I think I remember all the cups I bought
from other potters even 25 years ago. The blue
salt-glazed mug with the flat bottom that looked like
it had been slapped against a board, the tall
porcelain cup which had been altered to the extent of
its plasticity from the interior.
In my case, I think I bought them partly because I
admired the risks the potters took because I wasn't
courageous enough, at the time, to take them myself
but somehow I wanted to be part of it.
Maybe that's one reason why potters will buy a $50.
mug, they admire the out-of-the-box thinking which
goes into its creation and want to be part of it.
Just Wondering.
Jeanne W.

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