The process

The Process

When I took the leap (with the encouragement of Mrs. Duck) to make mugs full time back in 2021, I promised myself 3 things: to only make mugs I really liked and would want on my own shelf, to handle the entire process from start to finish by myself, and to try to avoid over-extending myself at all costs. So far, I have kept promises #1 and #2, and done OK with promise #3, hahaha!

Here at Trader Duck Industries in the Tropics of New England, we are a one man show. That means I draw the sketch concept, I sculpt the thing out of clay, I make the plaster molds, then I pour slip clay into the molds, clean the mugs up once they come out of the molds, fire them in my kiln, glaze them, fire them again (sometimes more than once), stain/paint the exteriors, pack them and ship them … from start to finish, it’s just Duck. When you add in promotions through various channels, handling social media on Facebook and Instagram, bookkeeping, and customer service, it’s a wonder I haven’t lost my mind yet.

The two downsides to my operation are … let’s be honest. The price and the time it takes to produce them. Let’s talk price a minute. I always say, “No one NEEDS a tiki mug, let alone one that costs as much as mine”. And it’s true. These damn things are EXPENSIVE! SO, a little transparency. I’d LOVE to have all of my mugs costs under $100, but the economics simply would be impossible.

See, because my mugs aren’t produced all at one time in the hundreds by an outside manufacturer (either domestically or overseas), that simply wouldn’t be possible. As I said, these are handmade in small batches by one guy. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “one of a kind works of art”, but I’m a Hell of lot closer to an Etsy shop than a big mug company with a dozen employees and enough capital up front to order 1000 mugs to be produced by another company. The silly slogan “Hand-Made Stuff from the Tropics of New England” is 100% true. So between the cost materials, studio space and electricity, the money and time invested for months before a single mug is pulled from the first mold, and the 50-60 hours I need to put in a week to make this thing happen … well, let’s just say that all of these things are why my mugs will cost more than a lot of others. 

And since I’m a one-man operation, juggling multiple balls in the air, the production process sometimes gets funky and non-linear. That means while I’m cleaning these 8 mugs to get in the kiln by 10PM one night, I’m also rushing to finish these other 5 mugs to get packed and to the Post Office before they close, and empty these 6 molds, and try to find a few hours to work on that new sculpt because people want new designs. It’s like cooking a 20 course meal, every day, all at once. Soooo, yeah, as much as I’d love to have 10-20 pieces of each design in stock on my shelves to ship the day after an order comes in, I kinda can’t do that. I have to basically make each mug to order, and that takes time. It used to be 30 days, then that quickly became 45 days. then I pushed it to 60 days, and since the website launched in 2023, I had to tell folks to allow at least 90 days for me to fill their order. I TRY to be quicker, and some orders here and there DO get out quicker, depending on the crazy production schedule, but sometimes they take 90 days … or more. But know that I am working 7 days a week to fill your orders and make sure the quality is as high as I can make it, something I am proud of and can stand behind.

BUT … I don’t wanna leave anything to anyone else. I want people to know if they have any issues, any questions, and complaints, I will deal with it personally. I have a vested interest in not only making sure ever single customer is satisfied with their purchase, but to also build a sort of community around my stuff. I LOVE that the people who buy my mugs feel passionate about my art. I love meeting them in person, whether it be at events like Ohana Luau at the Lake in upstate New York, or at the patio bar at Trader Sam’s at Disneyland, it is so damn satisfying and validating to know folks like my silly mugs.

And if anyone isn’t satisfied with their purchase, or are frustrated with delays that sometimes crop up, I can at least sleep at night knowing the buck stops with Duck and I will handle it personally, not an employee (of which I have none). See, when you are such a small boutique operation like me, your reputation is all you have, and you can’t afford to have an unhappy customer. I’d rather take a loss on a mug sale than have some feel they weren’t treated with respect, that they weren’t valued. So I try very hard to have timely communication and total honesty. Oh, and as an aside, I’m pretty damn proud of how I pack my mugs … hundreds of mugs shipped to more than 5 countries and I haven’t had a single one break in shipping!

Truth be told, every day, this is a learning process, and I’m trying to get better every day. I knew the only way I would be able to stay passionate about this was to treat it like I was making mugs for myself and then offering mugs up to my freinds if they were interested. I can truly say I have never produced a design I don’t really love myself. I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d like to think they are all a bit unique and different than most mugs out there, for better or worse. I still get excited and feel good about each mug I pack in a box to ship, even ones that are difficult to make and drive me nuts (koff-koff- Happy Haunts- koff-koff). Dare I say, I’m kinda proud of the stuff I put out, and my only goal its to make sure I make the best mugs I can, for the lowest price I can feasibly make them and not take a loss, and that every customer feels they got their money’s worth and are happy with their mug.

 

Anyhow, this has been a ridiculously long essay no one is ever gonna read, but that’s the straight dope.

I’m Duck and I make funky hand-made cocktail mugs. Thanks for stopping by.

MAHALO

Hand-crafted Stuff from the Tropics of New England

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