On Sundays I reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week. I struggled with alcoholism for almost half of my life. These days I rarely think about drinking, aside from each Sunday when I proclaim that I made it another week without drinking. This has become somewhat of a meditation for me every week. This weekly reflection is one of the longest standing practices in my life now.
So many things have happened this week I do no know where to begin with this essay.
I could speak to my encounters with racism or anti-semitism this week, neither of which were directed at me personally. I could speak to the evolving political arena as we near a major election. I could speak to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I could look back at last year, or ahead at the year to come. While I knew that Rosh Hashanah was coming up soon, it was not until Thursday evening that I realized the holiday would begin the next night.
I rarely know what day it is, and I struggle to operate within the social structures that most people engage with. 2020 and all it’s chaos has not helped with this at all. For most of my life I have felt as if there was some kind of program everyone else was participating in, and I have never been able to figure out how to be a part of it. Academia imposed feelings on me that I had to be a certain way in order to succeed. The entire premise was that I needed someone else’s approval for everything I did. I felt confined like a dog in a cage. Over the last decade I have spent most of my energy trying to break free from that feeling, and create a new reality for myself that suits me better.
Creating my own business and building my own space have been two integral steps towards my independence. Over the last five years I have built a community around cups, as well as a culture for cup collecting. We continue to see more artists making cups, and more impressive cups being made day after day. Our Instagram account is about to reach 20,000 followers any day, a number we have reached organically together. What I mean by this is that aside from a few hundred dollars a few years ago we have not paid for advertising nor exposure. Instead of giving money to billionaires and corporations, I have chosen to put that money in the pockets of artists and individuals. I would rather pay artists directly for cups that will get attention online without our having to pay to be seen. I would rather pay the independent photographers we work with to create original content and share with our audience.
Every day I am faced with these kinds of choices. The other day I grabbed my paint marker at the studio and wrote “Support People. Fuck The Machine!” on my office door at the studio. Over the last three and a half years, I have been building my studio and creating my space. I would consider that to be the most important part of my existence and without my space I would be unable to run this business nor create my art. Next month we will begin expanding into the unit next door which we will share with Weston Backcountry. I bought a stove/oven from our other neighbors Hector and Hector, and will begin building a kitchen in just a few weeks. Currently we are operating on a double burner hot place, a fridge and a microwave. There is virtually no surface area to prepare food, and no cabinetry to store our dishes.
In addition to a kitchen we will be creating an area to sit and eat. Currently most people in my studio eat standing up, or sitting in a barber chair. We will build at least one office with a door that closes so phone calls don’t have to happen in the middle of the room. Currently my office is the same room as our inventory and shipping department. Our fridge and microwave are currently also in that room so it is rare that someone is not coming or going through the door. Our lightbox for the product photos we shoot is in a corner blocking a door stacked on two tupperwares. It will be a relief to have more space and specifically differentiated spaces for the different aspects of the operation. We will build a table for the lightbox to permanently reside on so Skinny or whoever is shooting doesn’t have to sit on the floor to get a picture.
I have been using the word “we” a lot. Drinking Vessels has evolved from just me (and my brother helping behind the scenes) into a full team of people working towards a common goal. Especially over the last two years, I personally have struggled to distinguish “Ben Belgrad” from “Drinking Vessels”. Moving forward our content will not be first person any more. I will be making a conscious effort to separate my personal life from my business, and set boundaries for myself in how I engage with my brand. I have been taking steps towards this on my Instagram account specifically, and will continue doing so in order to allow the brand to grow untethered to my personal life. This will also allow me to grow as an individual and an artist, providing me some much needed personal space for growth. As I can begin to look at my brand more objectively I believe that I will be able to make better decisions and achieve my goals for the brand.
Right now everything feels more polarized than ever before. It is exhausting.
I registered to vote. I hope you all do the same.
To be honest with you all I am very distracted right now and hardly present for this week’s reflection. I don’t think I can continue rambling any longer about my personal life but I definitely want to share a CUPDATE before signing off.
Stephan Peirce @stephan_peirce just wrapped up his first order of stemware for me. Some of it has arrived, and some of it is delayed in transit. Of the four pairs of stemware, two sets have presold. Stephan also made me a pint glass titled “The 9th Cup” which is identical to an actual pint glass in every dimension and features a few gorgeous encalmo bands of color. This incredible piece will be joining the special collection of my friend Vinscent Van Grow. Stephan has a busy month ahead but will be back to drinkware in a few weeks for the next batch!
Jason Gordon @gordons_glassware sent me his first batch which were presold and are already with their new owners. His second batch should be coming this week, and I will continue filling my presale list orders first but as soon as those are completed we will be releasing some on the website. He (like me) has also gotten into some resin projects, and I’m not ready to show you his first table he made (for his mom’s birthday) but I am hoping to have some of those available soon as well!
Adam McLaughlin @zooted_glassworks sent me a big box and we got most of his pints up on the website. His first batch sold out super fast a few months ago so I ordered another 20 of them. One of the best options for a $100 cup in my opinion!
Justin Brinson @littlebglass also sent us a batch of etched fumed pints and all I can say is WOW! He sent me a tester batch a few months ago and the new ones are a million times better! The orb found a home already but two are listed on the site and two more are coming soon!
So thanks for tuning in as always. My Trashterpiece will be transported to my client in California this week but until then I am going to spend quite a bit of time just being in its presence and taking it all in. I have spent hours looking at the piece and every time I find something new inside. Hopefully you enjoy the photo and sorry I made you wait for it!
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