Went to Wal-Mart today to get a gift for my grandson’s birthday and took a stroll along the housewares section looking for the “$3 mug” someone had mentioned. I found it. Here’s one version of it: there are 10 different styles/glazes/colors. And, actually, it’s not $3, it’s $2.46, 80 cents cheaper than the birthday greeting card I got for Alex’s 2nd birthday. A 16-piece (dishes, bowls, mugs) costs $40. There’s also an $11 stoneware baking pan, a $6 pie pan and a $13 covered casserole. All of it made in China, of course. There’s no way that I can compete with those prices!
Until now I highlighted the “handmade” character of my work. I am the only person involved in the entire process in my studio, from wedging the clay to throwing the piece to mixing glazes to firing to marketing and shipping. However, as the photo shows, now Wal-Mart is selling stoneware pieces made in China that are prominently marked with a sticker that states “Handcrafted: Special Glazing Technique Makes Every Piece Unique.” Wow! This blows me away!
These pieces are not unattractive and they make it possible for people who can’t afford my $18-$24 mugs to enjoy stoneware pieces in any of 10 designs. But they make me sad. Maybe I’ve become a pottery snob, but I feel that they lack soul. The Chinese “hand crafter” has left no indication of his/her presence on this mug; there’s nowhere on the mug that you can say “Aha! Here’s the mark of the maker’s hand!” When I first started this blog, my first postings were about this idea of the importance of handmade pots. I quoted Carla Needleman’s notion that “a mug can save the world.” Now, faced with this reality, the only response I can come up with is to continue to make my pots with even more passion and trust that there are enough people who want to own handmade pots as much as I want to make them. Or, as Kevin Crowe, has said “making pots has become an act of civil disobedience!”