Thursday, February 10, 2011

I just bought my first $68 mug!

Ok, ok, don't judge me here.  I haven't bought someone else's handmade mug in years- mostly I buy espresso cups for the mister in my life because I don't make those very often and the mug cupboard is filled to the brim with my seconds, oldie goldies and trial mugs that won't be making it past the studio door.  Seriously, I do not need another mug in my life.  Well, except for Molly Hatch's mug.  Yes, I think I very much DO need her mug in my cupboard because- well, HELLO!! She's pretty amazing and I've been in awe of her work for, well, forever!

Last year when this post came out in Design Sponge I scoured internet land to see how I could possibly get a hold of one of these mugs with teacups on them.  Because of a little story that goes like this:  when I was in my 4th year of Art School, I found an Arts & Crafts Movement  book (don't remember what the name was) in the library and basically fell in love with pages of hand-drawn textile, wall-paper, glassware and ceramic designs.  There were also tea-cup patterns and tea-cup designs, which were really similar to the drawings on Molly's mugs.  PLUS, my mom has a very extensive teacup collection.  So, a teacup on a wheel-thrown mug is just my kind of thing. 

Which brings me to the other topic of discussion:  the high price tag.  For sure, this mug is worth every cent.  And I know a lot of other 'super star' ceramic artists who also have $68 plus mugs that are well worth the pennies saved.  So this leads me to a recent negative gallery/shop experience about the value of hand-made mugs.

This past December I got a very unsettling email from a shop that was trying my work out, that basically said my mugs weren't worth their '$40' price tag.  The  story kind of goes like this.  Gallery owner emails to say that my work isn't selling and that everyone else's work is selling.  My mugs are the highest priced mugs in his shop and a 'well-respected' potter (who shall remain nameless) came in and said they weren't worth the price.  So, long story short, my work is no longer in said gallery.  So it had me thinking, and worrying about my prices.  And frankly, being really mad that the going rate of mugs is so low that people don't value hand-made mugs nearly enough.  Mugs are really hard work to make.  They really need to stand out from everything else out there. I mean, you don't have to spend more than $4 on a nice mug if you don't want to- just head down to IKEA and buy the whole lot of mugs there.  They will all matchy match, be well-designed and last for years.  But if you are really looking for something special- something that becomes your mug that you use daily, the one that brightens your face every time you pull it out of the cupboard and make your tea in, you will want and need to pay a lot more.  And it will be worth every penny- I guarantee it!

The icing on the cake was in January, when I received an email from someone who had bought 2 of my mugs at one of my Christmas sales.  She wanted 6 more.  She had given the 2 away to friends and each time she gave one away she felt like she wanted to take it back because she realized how special they were.  So she decided for her birthday to buy 6 of them, just for her.  When she picked them up she said to me "You've figured out how to make the perfect mug- everything you've done here is so right!  I just love them!"  So there you go- shop that doesn't value my mugs! Maybe it's not me, it's you!


Tami said...

Having someone else tell you the value of your craft is insulting and oversimplifying. Its about finding people that value what you do, and I for one am one of those people. And I love the neverending conversation about how different people value things. Many things I would pay high prices for others wouldn't and vice versa. And $68 for something that gives you joy for a lifetime is certainly money well spent! Its a little piece of art. Good for you!

monica said...

I'm so glad this post ended on a Happy note.

agreed with Tami too.

dahlhaus said...

Yes, it's hard not to take it personally when someone questions the value of your work, especially coming from a gallery owner who sells hand-made ceramics, and especially when they are taking 50% of that $40 price tag.

Danielle said...

heather i think your stuff is priced just right. and yay for you buying a $68 mug!! if you adore it, why not?! speaking of adoring mugs, i love my heather braun dahl originals and they make my morning coffee taste great!!! hugs
p.s. i still wanna buy more (ones i saw at the crawl) and my birthday is also coming up, muah haha...!

ang design said...

I think theres room for all in the market place.. we all place different values on our work!!

dahlhaus said...

Thanks Danielle for your feedback and yes, ang, there is room for everyone in the market at large. I guess as someone who tried to make mugs for under $30 in a gallery setting (ie artist gets 50% of retail price), I found I wasn't making enough on that price point to even cover all my costs let alone pay myself. I just couldn't keep up- between the demand for my work and the not having any money in the bank bit- either one has to make more work to balance the scale, or less work for more money. I chose the latter because I decided I wanted to make the work myself, without assistants.
I guess my comment about the undervalued mug is that within a gallery setting there are mugs by 'established artists' for $24. That means they are taking home $12 and perhaps they set up their studio in the '70's and don't have a mortgage/high rent or a family to support so over-all consumers come to expect the cost of a handmade mug to be between $20-30. Also the fact that a 'respected potter' had de-valued my mug kind of suggests that there is an under-lying negative attitude that doesn't really support potters who choose to price their work higher or well. I found that quite discouraging.
Thanks for the comments everyone!