Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Handcrafted Mugs at Walmart for $3

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!”

8 comments:

Dirt-Kicker Pottery said...

That's Walmart for ya.

Graciela Testa Lynt said...

It's not just Walmart... there is the equivalent of $3 mugs everywhere... and I must admit that they serve their purpose... What bothers me most is the fact that they are advertised as "handcrafted"

Mellow Tones/Sandra said...

Seeing that sticker must have left you dead in your tracks. I know I would have stood in the aisle shaking my head for a good minute or two.

We all need Heart and Soul. Just keep doing what you do!

Natalie -- NKP Designs said...

Yes, I know how you feel. I was in Starbucks and they are doing much the same thing -- trying to make the commercial mugs look handmade.

Thank goodness that real pottery lovers though know the difference.

Lee Love said...

Ugly crap is always cheap. Just wait until they start copying studio pottery in China.

Butterfly Farm Pottery said...

That's crazy. If Walmart is charging less than $3 for the mug, how much $$ is going to the people that "hand glazed" the mugs? It had to cost more to ship them to the US. And let's not forget what wonderful toxins that might be in the "hand glazed" mugs. Someone should purchase a mug and send it to have a glaze analysis. I wonder how many of those mugs Walmart bought. I blame Walmart because they strong-arm the businesses to drop the prices rock bottom. Selling too low can be bad for the economy, bad for the US.

JNpottery said...

The only way I can fight back is to continue to promote hand made and LOCAL!

Pottery from China is not doing much for the local economy. It may be hand made, but as Butterfly Farm said, how much is that maker getting for their work?

There are still a lot of people who appreciate and purchase truly hand made items, from local artisans.

Dancing Dolphin Pottery said...

Thanks for the head's up, Graciela--and Keith for posting it on FB. Seriously depressing. The Walmart's of the USA have been killing our independent shops in our local communities for years; now they're also striking at the local ceramic artists. Urgh!! Yes, how can my $22 'made from scratch with my own two hands' mug compete with a $3.00 mass produced mug made in China? There are so many people in our area still unemployed that I don't blame them for going the cheap route. (Scratches her head)...