There is also pottery that contains cobalt that I’m not able to discontinue today. For those pots, I’m working to reformulate my custom glaze chemistry to eliminate cobalt, but maintain beautiful blue colors. Those include any pot that has my custom “Oil Spot Black” glaze, specifically the “Cosmic” glossy black pottery, including all Cosmic Mugs and Moon Mug interiors for cosmicmugs.com.
Here is the exact glaze recipe for my Cosmic Mugs, with how much cobalt I use today.
Oil Spot Black, Cone 6-10
Silica 325 mesh
Calcium Carbonate, High Purity
Red Iron Oxide
Some of my pottery will still require cobalt, like the Neptune Mugs, which I make about 100 of per year. But for the other 5,900 pots I make per year, my goal is to eliminate cobalt entirely. I can’t guarantee I’ll succeed, but I’ll try.
Do you know an ethical source of “Cobalt Oxide” powder available for purchase? Please reach out to us anytime if you discover any solutions to this problem: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time flies. It feels like just yesterday Steven Pressfield and I began emailing back and forth. His books shook me, specifically The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Artist’s Journey. I asked if I could mail him a mug, as a thanks for his inspiration.
Flash forward two years and hundreds of emails between us. Steve is more than just a pen pal. He is deeply curious about where inspiration comes from, and how it serves humanity in the real world.
Steve and I share this obsessive search for meaning, through art. Steve, through writing. Me, through pottery.
Our shared curiosities culminated in a new website that we’re testing:
Steve’s curiosity even led him to discover a mug design in ancient writing by Plutarch. Steve has written about ancient Spartan culture in his world renowned books Gates of Fire, The Warrior Ethos and more. Researching Spartan battle equipment for his writing, Steven became intrigued by one passage from Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus. The passage is not about shields or swords or armor but about a common drinking mug.
“…the Spartan kothon or drinking cup…is especially valued for use on [military] campaigns. Visibly off-putting elements in [stream or river] water which had to be drunk were concealed by its color, while the dirt in the liquid was trapped in the lip, so that what reached the mouth for drinking was cleaner.”
That 2,000 year old quote, combined with Steve’s inspiration, resulted in a challenge. He challenged me to resurrect this idea, to recreate a modern day version of the ‘kothon’ mug.
If I had to sum up what I’ve learned from Steve’s writing, it’s that even though your source of inspiration must be pure and true, inspiration alone accomplishes nothing. It’s what you do with that inspiration that truly matters.
What are you doing in the real world? How are you contributing to society? How are you serving people?
mugsandbooks.com is our way of experimenting together. We’re testing how our work can serve people by inspiring them on their own artistic journeys.
Of course, it’s not for everyone, because it’s art, and all art is bound by constraints. I wish the mugs could be more affordable.
The art of handmade pottery is constrained by limited quantities. That’s why mugs must start at $100 each, because we chose to make everything here in the USA, in small batches.
Honestly, I’m surprised and happy we were able to get the price down to $100, thanks to a collaboration with Mayco Ceramics in Ohio for the, “CONQUER RESISTANCE” mug paired with Steve’s mega-best-seller (featured on Oprah’s Book Club and Joe Rogan’s podcast) THE WAR OF ART.
Most mugs are made in factories overseas, which is why you can get cheap mugs anywhere. You can get books anywhere too, and I highly recommend all of Steve’s books! You can get them on stevenpressfield.com and wherever books are sold.
But if you’re interested in something one of a kind, something handmade in the USA, something uniquely inspiring…
I’ve held both bowls in my hands. They were equal in quality.
At $30 and $5,000, both were a true reflection of the clay, fire, and the mastery of the hand of the potter.
The price difference had nothing to do with quality. It had to do with choices, interests and beliefs.
I believe that becoming a professional creative requires that you explore what’s rare and valuable. It’s not required to make art, but I believe that it is required if you want to make a good living as an artist. Specifically, rare and valuable…
Luck plays a big role in success. So does being born with the privilege and freedom to actually choose your career path. All of these reasons are why I’m still lucky enough to be making a living as a potter sixteen years later.
But, there’s no denying that people who have the guts to be bold, to explore uncharted territory, make new discoveries.
I believe it’s our duty as artists to try and create something new and good for humanity. It’s like that famous Bible verse, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
For these reasons and more (which I’ll explain in detail below) I’m raising the price of one of my mug designs to $4,000 per mug. The craziest part about this (and I’m well aware this might be crazy) is that it’s not even my most expensive mug.
Why is some art more valuable?
Most of our pottery has a retail price between $100-$500. Anytime I’ve priced lower, it’s nearly impossible to keep our pottery stock because quantity is inherently limited with handmade art.
Higher prices guarantee that we never sell out. If someone needs a mug, they can get it shipped directly to them, quickly, anytime, anywhere globally.
But most people decide to purchase when we offer discounts, offering mugs below $100 for short periods of time, during batched sales.
That’s why when Sienna and I travel, we always try to visit art museums.
The goal, first and foremost, is to simply get inspired. The colors, textures, shapes, concepts…when art brings out emotions, and you can feel something deep in your soul. That’s what makes art rare and valuable.
But it’s also important to understand what it takes to create art that is priceless and timeliness.
Valuable art should also be pioneering: world changing in the future, made possible from discoveries or breakthroughs.
The “Neptune Mug” does all of this for me. It’s the result of 20,000 hours spent in deep practice of the pottery craft.
Colors are inspired by the gas giant Planet Neptune. I thought it would be a fun challenge to try and make drips move sideways across the mug, inspired by the horizontal spin and blue and white gas clouds.
Like going to outer space, the mug required solving an extremely difficult engineering problem. Two mugs are required to hang sideways, counterbalanced in the kiln, while firing to 2280 degrees F.
Every time I successfully pull these mugs out of the kiln, I’m astonished that this is actually possible. A million things can go wrong. They took me years to develop, and making them is still excruciatingly painstaking.
But they consistently turn out beautifully, and I’ve consistently felt like they’re undervalued. So, I’m making a drastic change. I’m raising the price of the Neptune Mug more than X5: from $695 to $3,995.
It’s the same mug as before. It doesn’t have anything special, like gold or diamonds. And it doesn’t take hundreds of hours to make each one, although it is an extremely difficult process.
The difficulty of making them seems proportionate to my “Cosmic Wall Platters.” They have been $11,995 retail price for years now, and we’ve shipped almost a dozen (at discounts).
If all I did was value my time, then this Neptune Mug price rise seems proportionate to spending about 1/3 the time it takes to create a Cosmic Platter.
But the Neptune Mugs are so technically difficult…the shape, the glaze thickness, hanging the mugs in the kiln…that I doubt I’ll ever be able to teach someone else to even help create them without things going awry.
“The place that we write from (or paint from or compose from or innovate from) is far deeper than our petty personal egos. That place is beyond intellect. It is deeper than rational thought. It is instinct. It is intuition. It is imagination…We can work over our heads. Not only can we, but we must. The best pages I’ve ever written are the ones I can’t remember writing.
I always keep a stack of “Turning Pro” in the pottery office. It’s great to give out to guests, but the real reason I keep these books around is because I’m terrified of becoming an amateur again.
The American Craft Council published a series of blog posts I wrote in 2014-2015 called, “A Potter’s Journey.” It detailed all my successes and failures of being a college kid who transitioned to being a professional potter immediately after graduating (even though I didn’t actually become a true professional until eight years after college).
I did this exercise after creating the first “Spiral Cosmic Mugs” in 2014, priced at $35 each. After the Cosmic Mug Kickstarter raised $34,099 in 2015, priced at $49 per Cosmic Mug, I began raising prices to meet demand. Today they sell on cosmicmugs.com for between $195 to $225.
Whenever I raised prices, some people were always upset, yet the art always continued to sell.
What are the potential upsides of a high price?
you’ll improve quality, to create new art worthy of a high price
you’ll expand styles, to create other art affordable at a low prices too
The high end art might actually sell, because the world is filled with people looking for rare, unique art
Don’t get me wrong, raising prices is terrifying. Doesn’t matter if you’re raising prices to $100 or $4,000. Well I guess it kind of matters…because a $4,000 mug feels riskier.
What if someone drops it and breaks it? Well…I’m not sure. I guess it’s the same as if you break your Rolex or get a rip in your tailored suit or fancy purse. Do they have insurance for luxury clothes? Mugs might actually be closer to an expensive liquor, because if you drop it, it will shatter.
My hope is that this art is purchased by a person who fully understands the risks. Because at the end of the day, it’s just a ceramic mug, and broken pottery cannot be repaired.
Every high-end Neptune Mug will be shipped in a durable, protective case. So hopefully that will help people understand and really feel how they need to protect this mug.
Let’s be clear: I’m raising the price because this art is valuable to me. There’s a big difference between MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) and fair market value, agreed upon by seller and buyer.
There is no guarantee I’ll ever actually be able to sell even a single Neptune Mug ever again.
70 Neptune Mugs for Patrons, 100 total per year
I always promise to give Patrons the best deals because they’re my “OG” fans, here from the beginning. It’s a community of collectors who trust us enough to be our Patrons every single month on a subscription– definitely worth giving them crazy good discounts.
At the end of the month (about two weeks from writing this) all Neptune Mug prices are rising from $695 to $3,995 per mug. I’m offering one final opportunity for anyone to pre-order a “Random Neptune Mug” at the $695 price today, right here (shipped in regular cardboard and bubble wrap, not the plastic case):
For years, thousands of people have regularly watched me handcraft pottery in live videos. I’m honored they find my art fascinating. But whenever I share an opinion unrelated to pottery, that doesn’t perfectly align with their worldview, people get upset.
It’s the same problem every artist, company, and public figure must face when they share anything outside of their usually scheduled programming. The dreaded, “Stay out of politics!”
That’s one of the biggest lies in society today: that we all need to agree on everything all the time. And if we don’t agree, then we need to somehow cut those people out of our lives.
Art is a search for truth. I’m an artist, so I never shy away from tough topics. But as we learned in“The Social Dilemma,” social media companies profit when we argue. That’s why it’s our duty to be compassionate and open minded on our search for truth, especially when we don’t agree.
Why is there Racism in Minnesota?
Until recently, Minnesota wasn’t a place I really ever thought of as having racial problems. It’s in the northern United States, which fought against slavery in the Civil War. We even have the reputation of being“Minnesota Nice.”
But in the past 2 years, the New York Times published two articles about dealing with racial problems in Minnesota, both just a few miles from my pottery studio:
A few weeks ago, I was vacationing on the east coast. I met a kid named Dave (not his real name) while lifting in a hotel weight room.
Dave walked in wearing jeans and a winter coat. He went straight to the big, pulley machine and proceeded to do one of those ridiculous lifts that instantly tells you this kid had no idea what he was doing.
Dave was all talk. He struck up a conversation with a girl doing sit ups. I was eavesdropping from the elliptical. The room was small, it was just us three.
15 years old
a black kid from south Baltimore
skipping school with friends. It was a Monday night in a hotel 100+ miles from Baltimore
already been arrested for arguing with a police officer
seen multiple people get shot and killed in his backyard
already shot a gun himself, in the city, while riding in a car with his dad
I looked at Dave and said, “Damn man you’ve got some crazy stories!”
Dave looked at me with shy confidence. I asked him to come try free weights. He grabbed two 20lb. dumbbells and sat on the padded bench. I walked him through 10 reps, showing him how to touch his chest with the edge of each weight, then clink them together at the top.
“He looks like 50 Cent, doesn’t he?” I said to the girl.
“Yea he kind of does, they’ve got the same jawline.”
Dave said, “Who’s 50 Cent? Is he one of those dead rappers?”
“No he’s definitely alive,” I said. “He’s a businessman, worth about $100M. He grew up in a tough neighborhood, got shot 9 times, went to jail. But he read a lot of books. Now he’s a millionaire. You should read his book,The 50th Law by Robert Greene. You’ll love it.”
Then I left.
Fight Racism Through Empathy, Not Argument
Systemic racism is when people suffer from systems, like redlining, a racist housing practice that was common for most of the 20th century. Black people were denied equal housing rights, causing poverty and crime. Of course redlining is illegal now, but future generations are still dealing with the long-term consequences.
I’m not condoning what Dave and George Floyd did. Floyd was a crook, in and out of jail, from problems of his own making. And Dave needs to realize that his bad actions, even as a 15 year old kid, will lead to severe consequences.
But it’s also true that Floyd and Dave are victims. Yes, it’s possible to be both a criminal and a victim. Baltimore, Minneapolis, and how many other cities are still racially divided?
We’ve made massive steps in the United States to fight systemic racism, far more than most countries. But we need to stop pretending that we’re finished.
Fighting systemic racism is no more or less important than other problems. Yes, we need to provide better healthcare for people who are suffering. That’s whyI donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Yes, veterans deserve more of our honor and support. That’s why I donate to Wounded Warrior Project.
Helping one cause doesn’t take away from another. You have to support all ideas that are worth solving, and approach all of them with empathy.
How to Reduce Systemic Racism Immediately
Legislate on African American Reparations
Most inner city slums in the US are mostly black communities today, hurting the descendants of enslaved African Americans. Reparations could come in many forms: housing, college level education, land, cash, or a revenue stream. None will be a perfect solution, but we should tests these options. Legislation on reparations is overdue.
Legalize and Tax Cannabis Just Like Alcohol and Tobacco
Today there is a movement toreplace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is a good mission. It’s true that most indigenous people were just as violent as Columbus, even amongst their own tribes and cities. But it’s better to celebrate people who fought in defense of their culture, who stood up to conquerers.
History is full of ideas more worthy of celebrating than Columbus.
For example, the 300 Spartans, who fought and died2501 years ago at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Spartans were far from perfect. But they’re remembered for fighting against conquerors, sacrificing everything to defend the idea of freedom in the face of tyranny.
The pot below was made by David Drake, aka “Dave the Potter,” an enslaved potter in the 1800s in South Carolina. Legend tells how Dave lost a leg because his owner beat him for inscribing his pottery with poetry.
“I made this jar for cash, though it is called lucre trash. – Dave”
As an enslaved person, Dave surely knew that any act of expression could have dire consequences. Imagine being so oppressed that writing a poem costs you your leg. He did it anyway. That’s why Dave’s craft embodies true courage.
I believe we should honor good ideas, and people who made worthy sacrifices. George Floyd may not have chosen to be a martyr, but his sacrifice is worth honoring because it represents bigger problems that we all have a duty to solve.
Politics will never be the main focus of my art. But I’ll never shy away from sharing ideas that I believe make the world better.
What’s a better combo than a great book and mug? Start your day with one of our most popular, valuable coffee mug styles by Cherrico Pottery. Enjoy your morning coffee over a new book by New York Times bestselling author Ryan Holiday. One lucky winner will get: