Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

47 dollars for a mug

Edited by my childhood friend Nguyen Viet Chau Linh

I’ve never bought a mug for myself, until this week.

This week I bought the Clinton Hill mug, a handmade piece from Amour Amour, for the price of 38 dollars, plus 9 dollars for shipping fees.

I drink a lot of hot beverages throughout the day, in summer as well as in winter. I drink tea when I need to think, coffee to stay awake, hot chocolate for a good mood, herbal tea to relax, latte to play barista (and grog from now and then…)

For this reason, mugs are almost omnipresent in my daily life, especially in my new life as an illustrator. Since I work full time from home, hot beverages has also become a solution against sedentary posture. I regularly get up from my chair to fill up my mug (and of course, to go to the bathroom :p)

I had about 15 mugs that were all gifts. Even when they are on the shelf, they are filled with affection. I enjoy picking up a random one each day for an early morning drink, for guests at a tea time or for a cocooning evening. 

But when I have to take one to accompany me during the work day, the choice becomes much stricter. It has to be stable, to minimize the risk of spilling on the watercolor sheets. It has to be easy to pick up, so I don’t get out of the flow. I have to be able to pick it up without burning myself, because my hands are my most important working tools and I can’t imagine explaining to my client that I finished his order with my mouth because I had an accident with my mug…

Yes, I am picky. And none of my loving mugs met all of these criteria.

Until one day I stumbled upon a photo of Amour Amour’s handmade Clinton Hill mug.

Perhaps for some, spending a week’s worth of groceries for one person on a single mug would seem futile! And I totally understand, as I thought the same way when I was younger. Also, the tea does not taste any better in my new mug.

However, I think the amount that you are willing to pay for an object depends on the vision and need of each person. We can buy an object only for its utility. But we can also look for other values such as quality, or rarity, or social approval…

If we focus on utility, there is no reason to buy a Hermès bag with 4 figures in front of the decimal point, while we can find 10 dollars bags every morning at the local market. So of course, I’m not saying that it is money down the drain just to make ourselves look better. I am aware that behind this price, there is the expertise, the quality of raw materials, the techniques used, the attention to detail, all of those are necessary to the manufacture of each piece (which are also very well explained by Anh of Nomad Bento).

But, upon knowing that, I’m still not attracted to Hermès bags. In everyday life, I don’t need a bag (and I certainly don’t have the budget for it) which such a high quality. But a mug of the same quality as the one made by Amour Amour will certainly make my illustrator life easier, because it met all the criteria mentioned above (without ruining my bank account!).

I have the impression that fast fashion and the culture of overconsumption make us believe that a T-shirt “normally” costs 10 dollars, that a poster “normally” costs 10 dollars, that a mug “normally” costs 10 dollars, and that it is “shocking” to sell a mug for 38 dollars. Whereas it is just the production strategies (sometimes unethical) that compete to bring products to the market at the lowest prices possible, and therefore tilt the perception of what is a “reasonable” price that a consumer would be willing to pay.

These remarks touch me personally today because I am one of those independent entrepreneurs who are trying to find the balance between setting the right prices and following the market prices. I would like to adopt the attitude that I wish to receive from my future clients. And I dream that my future creations will find their adopter, like the Clinton Hill mug found me.

Of course, I’m not saying that you should only buy from small creators, and stop buying mass-produced pieces. It all depends on the desire, the need and the budget of each one of us.

Speaking of budget, there are probably some people who think I should be financially comfortable to get such a piece of jewellery. However, as I briefly mentioned above, I don’t live a very well-off life. More precisely, for five months now, I have no fixed income. I’m at the very beginning of the new business, and for administrative reasons, I haven’t been able to change my status yet to start prospecting. Actually, a week ago I was in a panic thinking about my financial situation when there was no rational reason. Even if “An” of the past has already calculated, saved and prepared everything for today, this has not prevented “An” of today from not being completely secure. Sometimes I foolishly think that I haven’t done anything brilliant in the last five months. I tend to deny any kind of pleasure to myself until I reach a goal, because I don’t feel I’ve earned the fun or the gratification or even the rest.

The mug was a gift to myself, with the promise that I would also savor the journey and not just the destination.

For these reasons, and certainly, with this price, you can be sure that I will be doubly careful not to break my mug!!! I admit that I will hesitate a bit before lending it out. I certainly won’t bring it into an open space. And I’ll probably hide it when a kid comes to my home! :p

I paid 47 dollars for a mug, or more exactly, for a sweet accompaniment on my adventure as a new illustrator.

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

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