What is quality? Of pottery, other goods and web development.

Emerson Creek Pottery's Dinnerware
Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

‘Quality’ has been a big buzzword in the web development and SEO industries for quite a while now. Google wants ‘quality’ written content. SEOs seek ‘quality’ links. Web designers try to develop ‘quality’ websites. The word has, perhaps, been overused at this point, and I’ve even seen other developers suggesting people stop using it as it may begin to look like spam to the search engines. Nevertheless, ‘quality’ is always going to hold a place with us, because we work with small web businesses whose goods are, in fact, generally superior to what a shopper is going to find from a chain store.

 

Our client, Emerson Creek Pottery, serves as a perfect illustration of this

Priscilla Palmer and Jim Leavitt, the founders of this ceramic pottery company, have been creating functional pottery pieces since the 1970′s in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Their small business consists of a few valued employees, and their work has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute. We’ve been lucky enough over the years of working as the webmasters for Emerson Creek Pottery to receive some of their handmade, handpainted pieces as gifts from them. And, it’s when you hold a piece of their work in your own two hands that you suddenly become vividly aware of the difference between what they do, and a set of dinner dishes you might pick up at Pottery Barn, for example.

I’d like to do a comparison here of price and value between the Pottery Barn Corporation, and this small U.S. company we work with, Emerson Creek Pottery. Let’s take a look at the dinnerware settings for 4 from both businesses.

For $139.00, Pottery Barn offers their Sausalito dinnerware setting for 4. Yes, Pottery Barn’s pottery has become vastly popular, due to an aggressive, well-funded marketing campaign, but what is the actual value of the end product that shoppers receive? Though colorful, their dinnerware, servingware, etc. is a mass-produced, made in Asia product. It feels machine-made, and frankly, doesn’t strike me as a cut above the place settings you might find at K-Mart for 1/3 of the price. My feeling would be that Pottery Barn can set a value like the above on their products because their advertising has created a mystique or buzz about their brand name. But the Martha Stewart products Kmart stocks, also mass-produced, have been slated as being for folks who live on a budget, because, after all, they are being sold at Kmart. Perhaps Pottery Barn consumers feel that they are spending their earnings on the finer things in life, because the corporation is slating themselves as such.

Yet, in the end, Pottery Barn customers are purchasing fast-food-quality pieces for their home, at a high price tag. This isn’t Blue Willow China. They won’t be passing it onto their grandchildren. Economists call us a throw-away culture, and I’d say both the items manufactured by Pottery Barn and Martha Stewart’s factories in Asia fall into this category.

Why is Emerson Creek Pottery different?

Over the years, we’ve come to understand that it all begins with the clay. The potters at this small business dig their own clay right there in Virginia. It’s nice to know that you are getting a lead-free product if you’re going to be using it daily for eating, serving, home decorating. Pottery Barn has had repeated recalls of their products, but Emerson Creek Pottery’s ceramics are safe to eat off of, safe for the dishwasher and the microwave.

For $180.00, they offer a dinnerware setting for 4. So, we’re looking at a tableware collection that is about $40.00 more than what you can get at Pottery Barn. Is the higher price tag warranted?

A visit to Emerson Creek Pottery’s website shows you that not only is their work made from their
own local clay, it is all handmade, and then handpainted by skilled artisans. This means that each piece is a work of human hands from start to finish, and that in itself sets it apart from the products you will get off of a conveyer belt in Taiwan. We consumers are, after all, humans, and it is amazing how different people feel when they hold a handmade item in their hands. It seems to engender a feeling of respect both for the artisan and for their work. When you use handmade pieces in your home, it’s a true nod to the genius of the human mind, not to the speed of factory robots.

Emerson Creek Pottery offers a number of ceramic lines, all of them inspired by some aspect of nature, and apart from being lovely to look at, I can personally attest to their sturdiness. These are most certainly pieces you would pass onto your grandchildren, and because this company has never gone in for fads, you know that their work will always be a classic – always in style.

The last part of the equation here is in regards to the fact that shopping with a small U.S. business means that you are giving your dollar to support American companies. Though many of us may not think twice about buying a made-in-Japan TV that will probably break within 5 years, only to be replaced by another, we don’t need to put up with this poor value when it comes to the basic items we need to keep house. The dishes, cups and bowls your family sits down to every day don’t have to be throw-away, if you become a choosy shopper. Perhaps opting for the finer things in life means starting with determining what kinds of businesses you want to support with your hard-won earnings. The legacy of outsourcing has not helped the U.S. economy, though it does provide us with cheap stuff. The way you spend is certainly your most powerful vote when it comes to this issue.

Why Solas Web Design wants to work with the best small businesses

To us, the best small businesses are the ones whose products are a cut above what their competition is offering. This doesn’t mean the cheapest deal. It means the best value. Emerson Creek Pottery is just one of the small U.S. companies we’ve been fortunate enough to have been approached by who are offering goods of serious value to the Internet shopping public. My husband and I feel good about using our skills to promote these businesses, because we are confident that their most discerning customers are going to be extremely satisfied with their purchases. As we see it, the Internet offers multiple venues where folks can by cheap, poorly-made stuff that they can replace with more cheap, poorly-made stuff in a year or two. We want clients’ whose wares win loyalty because they are truly the quality standard. That’s something to be proud of!

2 Responses to “What is quality? Of pottery, other goods and web development.”

  1. on 23 Feb 2007 at 8:19 pm ivypalm

    Thank you for your admiring comments on the quality of Emerson Creek Pottery. If I may, I just wanted to make one small correction about the info.
    You mentioned that “The potters at this small business dig their own clay right there in Virginia.” I’m sorry but not accurate, although we did study on the “blue clay” that appears in the hollows and stream banks around Bedford County. It is a stoneware clay, but it is quite sandy and has alot of organic matter in it.
    At one time we knew a strapping Swedish guy who did dig his own clay on a nearby farm, and threw pots from it. But, that is a whole nother story.

    Emerson Creek makes it’s own clay, using it’s own “recipe”. We use about 6 different kinds of clay from which we get from different geographical locations in North America. The clays that reside in various states, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Canada and Tennessee have different properties, like plasticity, or firing temperature, or color, or dry strength. So the recipe takes that in to consideration, and has been carefully developed over the past 30 years to have all the qualities (there is that word again) that we need to make our pots.

    Dry clay is measured and mixed with weighed proportion of water, then “pugged” to vacuum de-air it and then made into pots. It is really an amazing process. Clay is in effect, ground up stone. Add water, reshape, form, dry and fire in the kiln to over 2000 degrees and it becomes “stone” again. Pottery does break (keeping us in business) and the shards get discarded…eventually they will break down, and maybe someday, somewhere, someone will be adding water and making another pot.

  2. on 23 Feb 2007 at 9:11 pm admin

    Thanks for the correction! And for the information about clay. You folks are the experts:)!
    Miriam

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