On Sundays I reflect.
Happy Mother's Day! In honor of my mother, the reason I’m here, I’ll be zooming with my family to celebrate Mother’s Day. I wish we could all be together in person, but I’m glad to be able to spend this time with my family virtually. Before I head off to that, here's a bit of what we've been up to around Drinking Vessels this past week.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week. I definitely thought about tasting the “Hazy Potter” triple IPA from 450 North Brewing Company that was featured in my photo shoot, but resisted the urge. Shoutout to my guy Turner from Taglia Tool for bringing a few heady craft beers out to my show in February that made great props for lifestyle content!
So yeah, we had a lifestyle photo shoot featuring social distancing and what not. It’s a weird world we are living in for sure. The girls modeling are roommates; Nani who has shot with me before and Lizz who is currently midway through a mural at my studio that has been on hold because of quarantine. Skinny shot, and he and I both maintained space between each other and the models, primarily shooting outside. Thanks to all the creatives (models, photographers, cup makers) that have collaborated with me on this content. I really feel like it brings the brand to life, in a way that a lightbox never could. Sure, all of these cups are works of art but one of the most beautiful facets is the function and ability to use them in our day to day lives. As I write this blog I’m drinking a smoothie I made in a fumed pint glass from Jason Gordon and my Heady Hydrator handmade water bottle from Kevin Howell is just an arm’s length away. My EWGG mug is on my other side with tea, and those are just the three cups currently in rotation at my desk. These are not just objects to put somewhere and look at, but something that can be a part of your daily routine. They’re certainly a part of mine.
This week I had very little time to blow glass. I’m not even sure if I turned on my torch. I have been so busy, that it feels like I have never worked more in my entire life. We have hit a point where I cannot source enough drinkware to keep up with the demand at $100 and below, my most frequent selling price level. I got 18 cups from EWGG on Monday and sold out by Wednesday night. The two remaining pairs from a prior release sold Thursday and now I am weeks out on more with none in stock. I’m down to one blue pint from Ned but once he gets a case of tubing I know he will have more for me. I put up a callout on Instagram for new artists and got a few leads. For the record, I am not complaining. This is the best problem I could have encountered.
When I haven’t been handling sales and shipping, I have been working on a top secret project that has finally come to life. I have actual physical prototypes, after years of development and trying to find the right people to help make it happen. I can’t share the results yet, but I can confirm that it is possible and will be moving forward. There are still thousands of hours of work to bring this to where it’s going, but we are on the right track. Sorry to be vague, something I am terrible at. I promise the final results will be worth the wait. I am grateful to be able to collaborate with some of my favorite artists and heroes, by integrating their illustrations and paintings into borosilicate cups!
I’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Cooking and eating wastes more of my time than anything else in life besides sleeping, and I hardly do that. I’m definitely looking for a full time chef to prepare my meals weekly. The pay is awful, and the variety is terrible. I basically want to eat the same few things every day. It just takes so damn long to make food, eat it, and clean it up.
I’ve never sold more glass in my life, and I’m not really sure what to attribute it to. First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who purchased something this week and every week prior. I feel so privileged to be able to do what I do, and I am really enjoying most of how I spend my day. I have a new intern starting this week, who will be helping this summer with graphic design and social media. JCost has been helping with projects from SoCal, and my brother has been a tremendous support from down in Miami. I am discussing bringing on a local friend who has worked with me over the last few years to be the DV shipping manager. 3 days a week he would come in to Bat Country Studios in the morning to pack and ship our orders every other day. Currently I pack and ship every order myself within 48 hours. Usually, I have orders packed within the hour they are purchased and I go to the post office at least once daily Monday-Saturday. Sometimes Jensen will take a few things for me when he goes to drop off stuff for Weston Snowboards next door, which I appreciate greatly.
Reda will be coming over to shoot more products in the light box Thursday, even though she is still working on edits from the last shoot. For the last few months i have been trying to figure out how to have her shoot product once a week. Quarantine thwarted that plan a bit, but now I feel like we are close to revisiting that idea which is scary and exciting. I never realized what it would look like for things to get this big. In a time of such uncertainty, it feels really good to be able to be paying people. I am especially pleased to put that money directly in the pockets of artists and creatives relying on their passions to support themselves often without job stability or guaranteed paychecks.
I saw a post from an artist I have long admired this week. He posted a photograph of his open refrigerator with two gallons of water and nothing else. He wrote that he had not gotten a meal that day. He shared that he grew up without food and that he would continue to find a way to get by. I have encountered his work on a few occasions in the past but have had to pass on purchasing. He works in a classical Venetian style, which has not been as marketable as pints and mugs for me. Frankly, up until now I was not in a position to purchase his work, knowing that it would not sell promptly at the time. I sent him a message and had money his way within ten minutes. We spent the next few days back and forth sending pics and discussing pricing. Ultimately, I sent a second payment to get more of his work and cover shipping. I have a few boxes on the way from this artist, including stemware as well as tumblers and stemless. I have added a very special collaboration to my personal collection that the artist made with another artist ten or more years ago. I am looking forward to carrying more of this artist’s work, and I think we have come up with some awesome products and price points to share with you.
I immediately reached out to a mutual friend of this artist and myself, whom I would consider a “top” artist if you will. I told him about what I had seen on our friend’s Facebook post, knowing that he was not on Facebook himself. I had just asked him if he was available for a project the day before when he told me he was too busy to take on more work. When he got my text about our friend in need, he told me he had prep for collaborations that he would make before anything else if I would commit to purchase. Of course, they were ready the next day and will be with me soon. The same “top" artist took on a project collaborating with another friend in need just a few months ago, and I was able to scoop that as well. I couldn’t afford the entire payment upfront, so the artist let me pay him weeks later, just so that I could get a payment to our friend in need. Of course I settled up on the balance when I was able to, but I am so eternally grateful to be working with such an amazing team of people who are genuinely trying to lift up their peers.
I share this story with respect to the artist’s privacy to illustrate the reality of what we are facing with you. Sometimes, even the top artists are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Social media distorts our perceptions and we are limited to seeing only what is shared with us. It is easy to create our own pictures of other folk’s realities based on what we see, but often times there is much more there than what we see. I feel so grateful for the relationships that I have developed with so many incredible artists through this project. I spend as much time as I can getting to know the people I work with on a deep level. i spend hours on calls, and texting, and video chats, and traveling to studios just for face to face time. I learn about these people’s stories and their families. I learn about what they need to get through a month and keep the dream alive. I spend time engaging with collectors and clients to share this information with them, so that they can learn about these important stories behind the art. Simultaneously this project keeps artists producing, spending less of their time worrying about the rest of the details so they can be undistracted in creating their work. It is really a fascinating ecosystem with many moving parts all interdependent.
If you have read this long, I appreciate you tuning in. I have been listening to Afterlife by Arcade Fire a lot this week. It has probably been on repeat for a few days at least. I tend to lose track of time that way, in conjunction with quarantine. I called my brother on a weekday just to ask him about his day. I often call my brother and get straight into work mode, but I do make an effort to call him just to check in on him and his life. It must have been Monday, and he said he was stuck behind a screen all day and didn’t make it out on his kayak that day. I told him I was confused why he would spend his Sunday stuck working inside to which he laughed. Sometimes I just don’t know what day it is because it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t get referenced. That time, I was sure it was Sunday but it was definitely Monday. I guess what I’m getting at is that I feel like I am living in my own little world and I want to thank the people who put up with me. I’ve gotten in a few Zoom hangouts with my friends around the country, and I have a few friends that I video chat sporadically throughout the week. We had a big party on Cinco De Molly to celebrate my college friend Molly’s 30th birthday. We reminisced on the hangovers and the parties, and the time we walked to graduation on her birthday eight years ago with a dugout in my pocket for us to share. I recently made her a second twisty cup which she shows off during our video hangouts. All my friends use chillums I have made for them over the years, and even though they aren’t fancy my friends love them because I made them. I told them all its time to upgrade their collections so I will be working on a batch of spoons soon. I haven’t made spoons in a long time.
I like making things for my friends. I have basically cut off custom orders for my work, but there is an exception for some of my friends. Max ordered a set of four twisty cups. Kevin ordered a few more ashtrays. It forces me to turn off work and just blow glass for a few minutes, and they give me a little spending cash to spend on anything but work. I have this problem where I am in work mode 25/8. I think it's an artist thing combined with an entrepreneur thing. I spend every dollar I make on this business and I spend every minute I have thinking about this brand. Kevin sent me an extra $50 with a note that said “treat yourself to a steak”. Thank you to my friends who believe in me, support my vision, and also force me to separate myself from the brand. Even if it’s just one dinner or a few hours on a video call, I couldn’t do this without them.
To wrap this one up I am going to touch on a more somber note. This week I lost a cousin named John Glasspiegel at the age of 71. I just want to share a little bit of my memory of Johnny here today. To start, Johnny has been sick for most of my entire life, since the early 90’s. I have only recollection of him in an electric chair, and mostly with aides assisting him full time. He had Neurofibromatosis, a condition I know virtually nothing about. I do know that while his passing came as a shock, it was just as shocking that he made it to 71. My cousin John was a genius. He was a master bridge champion, though I don’t play and never got to enjoy that side of him. My connection to Johnny was over music. During my life he struggled to play his trumpet and piano, but I’m told that he was once reasonably prolific. He was a pediatrician who saved many lives, due to his astute skills as a diagnostician. I think he was a ballroom dancer. He drove convertibles, and was considered the cool uncle by his nieces and nephews; my cousins. It is hard for me to picture that, even though I have seen the photographs. He looked like he could have been a movie star.
Like I said, I have only known Johnny as a sick frail man needing assistance and struggling to blow through his trumpet, despite countless hours of practice. I would go over to his place in Chicago when I could to take him a meal and chat for a few hours. He would show me the music he was practicing, and I would sit through his struggle to produce each note. He still nailed each one. Most of Johnny’s body did not function in all the time I knew him. As a child I remember being confused about his condition, and not understanding. As I got older I would see him at family events and primarily Thanksgiving every year. I would always make sure to get to spend time with him, discussing music and art and life. I cherished my time with Johnny.
It is strange to not be attending a funeral or a memorial due to the quarantine. I’ve contacted many of my relatives, and gotten to catch up with some family I am not sure when I would have otherwise spoken to next. I have been conscious about communicating with the people who are important to me during this time of reflection. This is one of the amazing benefits of technology, the ability to be in touch like we are. Please don’t take it for granted.
As always, thanks for tuning in. Enjoy your Sunday!
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