On Sundays I reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week. Sometimes it feels strange to have a cup brand and not drink alcohol. Sometimes it confuses customers. We will be talking and they’ll ask me about my favorite beer or whiskey. I mention that I gave up alcohol a few years ago, and they ask how I can sell cups? I share that I use a handful of handmade cups every day for my water, tea, smoothie, and various other drinks I enjoy.
My smoothie game has been strong lately. I have added a new ingredient for extra protein because Body Builder Ben is back! The ingredient is a secret like the rest of my recipe, but the hint is that it's not a subtle flavor. My whole world tastes different now. (If you can guess it right, we’ll throw a coaster in with your next order.)
And I don’t want to gloss over my fitness. In addition to a morning yoga/stretching routine I have had in place most days over the last few years, I am now pumping iron. Back in college when I was pledging the frat I did extensive workouts. I took multiple fitness classes in college, and at one point I hit the gym or played basketball at least five days a week, if not more. During my junior year a roommate and I would attend group exercise classes at the gym, where we were typically the only two guys in a room full of sorority girls. It may have been funny at first, as we probably looked like uncoordinated stoned idiots. By a few weeks in we were taking it more seriously than all the fitness chicks, and the results of the high energy nonstop hour workout had me feeling great. If I was feeling great when my drinking was at its prime I can only imagine what a regimen like that would do for me now. Back then I was drinking almost every day, and my dietary habits were even worse.
I think they say “Oh to be young again.”
So I wake up between 6 and 7 a.m. every day. I typically start working when my eyes open. I’ll make a cup of tea and bring up my computer and the notepad from the night before. In my new routine I make a list every night before I go to sleep of what I need to remember to do the next day. I used to just keep it all in my head, which I think was exhausting me. It feels great to cross things off the list, and even better to put it in the recycling bin at the end of the night. Sometimes things carry over into the next day.
By the time my tea is gone, I’m on the floor stretching, which gives me about ten or fifteen minutes to be apart from my phone. This is a rare window of freedom, and admittedly my mind sometimes wanders to the devices on the other side of the room. After my headstand, I check back in. Now, recently added to the routine, I spend about 45 minutes lifting weights. During these sessions I hardly think about my phone or work. The first few days were brutal, as my trainer gave me an ambitious routine. By the third day I could comfortably get through most of it. Everything I am doing is low resistance high rep work with opposing muscles paired in alternation. In homage to my college days, I find myself spelling my pledge master's name through every set of jumping jacks and repeating a four word phrase during my wall sits as I reach my arms up, bring them down, and then extend them out wide before back to center.
After the workout it’s smoothie time, followed by a shower before I pack my things for the studio. Somehow by the time I get to the studio it's noon, at which point I make a bacon egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. Truly sometimes that sandwich doesn’t happen until 2 or 3 p.m. which seems to be the latest I can make it without hitting a wall. By that time I have packed multiple boxes every day with cups going out. We have also had a handful of cups come in from new artists that are helping fill cup supply for the growing demand.
For the first time I cannot keep up with the demand for handmade cups.
My friend, and an artist I rep, Ned @nedglassman has had auctions consistently selling for almost double what I sell his cups for. He is still making me cups when he can, but it can be hard to rationalize selling work wholesale when demand is so high that people will pay the artist twice my retail price directly. I have offered a few of my consistent artists a bump in pay for products that they have been making me for years. This is amazing, just to be clear. Artists wages are going up in a time when many are wondering how they will keep the bills paid month to month.
Another artist friend of mine, Anthony @fritglass, has been too busy to sell me cups for months, if not years now. I carried his work early on and his cup sales are out of control. His $80-120 clear cups have started auctioning for over $300 almost every day. His dibs deals are sold out in moments with ten backup dibs in line every time. I completely understand him not being able to get work to me to release, as he has to supply his own demanding market.
To me it feels like we have reached a tipping point. I’ll never forget struggling to sell one $50 cup a month. It wasn’t that long ago, less than five years. Back then you could only get cups if you were gifted them, if you had an in with an artist, or in a few shows or shops that had them. I see cups selling every day on Instagram. I see new artists making cups every day on Instagram. I get DMs from artists every day asking if we can rep their work and I remember when I had to beg artists to make cups.
All of this can be attributed to the culmination of Cup Culture, which has always been there and is gaining exposure every day. I think it is part of a bigger movement towards handmade artisanal objects and a shift away from mass produced machine made. I think it is a return to growing our own vegetables instead of buying them from the store. I think it is a return to valuing objects we interact with on a daily basis, instead of taking them for granted. We have over consumed the resources of the earth and if we don’t come up with a solution to scale back consumption we can never sustain. As quarantine has affected the supply chain, it has brought some of these changes about more rapidly and the results seem clear.
I have never sold cups at the rate we have been. One new client bought a $250 mystery box on the website mid week. The next morning he purchased a $500 mystery box on the website, and that evening he purchased an $80 and a $50 mystery box from the site. Friday he received the first package and gave a shoutout on his Instagram. He messaged me and said he couldn’t wait for the rest to arrive. Last July I had a total of 45 sales on the website from four years of being a website. Today we have 146 website sales, less than a year later.
So how did I spend the rest of my week besides exercising and shipping orders?
On Tuesday I began training my new college intern, who will be spending the summer in the Vail Valley. Bibi Oestreicher @_barelyb is entering her senior year at CU Boulder where she is studying computer sciences including graphic design and digital media. You’ll be able to learn more about Bibi and how she ended up here this week in my artist interview blog, but I have decided to start the hashtag #pray4bibi knowing all the work she has ahead of her. My dude JCost can definitely empathize from California, where he has been quarantined for the last few months. Fortunately J has been helping me in the interim and has been helping to onboard Bibi this week.
In addition to helping me with studio stuff and social media, Bibi began painting a frog mural in the studio filling in one of the last white wall spaces. I have been a fan of her art since we met a few years ago, and I am glad to finally have one of her paintings in the studio. We will share progress pics in the interview, so make sure to keep an eye out in your email when that goes live.
Speaking of new blogs, my new friend Sam @myshiftdrink created his first Shift Drink Saturday recipe in the Cocktail Corner here at Drinking Vessels. Sam is from Aspen and has an awesome new brand that I found online. We have a handful of collaborative projects in the works starting with his weekly blog for cocktail lovers. Check out his page www.myshiftdrink.com and tune into his Instagram for a top resource in the cocktail community.
So after what feels like a long winded essay, it's time for a CUPDATE.
Reda came by for a product shoot this week, so we can keep the website current with inventory. She will be working on edits and we will get the new stuff live ASAP!
I got my first shipment from Merritt @merritt__badge, and two of the six went to my friends down in Miami. Merritt makes staircase style marbles, some of which have an opal encased in the center. These double layered patterns are fixed inside the cups like my “Shit in a Cup” series, but his tulip shapes are much nicer than my barrels. I am stoked with the first order and can’t wait to get more. I think I will have an extra one in the box that I will be adding to my personal collection too!
Many of you know the first shot glass from Jake C @jake_c_glass sold as soon as it listed, but I was able to secure another one. Now that we have photos it should be listed soon on the site! This one is a bit smaller than the first one, but features another similar pattern created from layering patterns, sleeving, carving and polishing. It is incredible to me how many hours can go into such a small object.
SALT @saltglass has a special project in the works that should be coming my way shortly. So far I think there are three cocktail cup collaborations with someone coming my way, but we will see. These will be unlike anything you have seen from SALT, and I am SUPER excited about them.
I can’t remember if I mentioned this last week but if so it can certainly be mentioned again. If you have not seen the mug coming from Stephan Peirce @stephan_peirce in collaboration with Scotty Moan @scomomoanet then you may have missed the cup of the year. 2020 has had a lot of heat but this one really hit it out of the park. Stephan referred to it as his favorite in the series, and told me that there will not be another in that color scheme. While it is not the most expensive I have gotten or even sold, the price tag has been intimidating to most who have inquired. Stephan and I were chatting on the phone the other day about pricing, and he told me he wished he had been able to bite the bullet and purchase some of his favorite collaborations he has made over the years. I am very grateful to have been able to add as much of Stephan’s work to my collection as I have which leads me to another acquisition of the week.
I am working out a deal to obtain all three goblets that Stephan produced at last year’s Michigan Glass Project @themichiganglassproject excluding the Eusheen @eusheen collaboration that tragically didn’t survive. One is an Eric Goldschmidt collaboration Tazza, which would be the second to join my collection. They made the first one last July together for their first time working together and the second at my show this February the Vail Cup Collector’s Club. The second is a three-way collaboration Tazza with JMASS @jmasswhat and Zack and Katie @northernwatersglass featuring crystals and sherlock sculptures for the stem. The final and maybe most magnificent is a Martini glass. Another three-way collaboration, this one features a splashing stem from Certo @certo.glass with a little ducky from Reno @sdryno amidst the splash. I had tried to acquire these last July but they came down on the last night and I was already heading back to Colorado. I can’t wait to add these to the collection and ultimately find them homes. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get to keep one in my personal collection!
I got a batch of shapely pints from Bob @whitefireglass with wig wag bottoms after the shoot, but will get them shot as soon as possible. I also got a new line of ceramic slip cast cups from Jessica @butalaclay from her “Wave” series. It’s fun for me to unbox new artists and see their work for the first time. It’s kind of like the mystery boxes I send out sometimes when I order a large variety batch from someone.
I have been making progress on my top secret project, and should be able to release the first series this summer. That is all I am going to say about that.
I am out of oxygen until Wednesday so I won’t be blowing glass for a few days. One of the days I have to go back to Everdream Studio to meet with the guys and pick up a few things. No, they aren’t cups… yet.
As always thanks for tuning in and enjoy your week!
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