Hand carved Soapstone Cup
Hand carved Soapstone Cup
These gorgeous cups were hand carved to order in Agadez, Niger by Ali and his team of artisans. Each one takes two days to make. The soapstone is light in color, and is glazed with a natural brown finish. The outer decorations are then carved into the cup by hand. Each one is just a little different from the next. This batch is numbered - but you must (and I mean must) read the story of how limited this edition really is.
Made in Niger, measures approximately 4”X3"X3, weight approximately 1 lb.
So today, I'm going to share with you a very special item that is beautifully imperfect. Earlier this year we were working on an order for a client and collaborated with Ali and his team in Niger. We went through a few iterations before we decided on the final design - a hand carved soapstone cup. They are gorgeous. Each one takes two days to make, as they are carved from the chunks of soapstone, glazed and fired, and then the final intricate design is carved into the exterior.
We placed an order and I thought it might be nice to have them numbered, like a painting. I sent a message to Ali explaining asking him if they could do it and he said yes. Anie, Autumn, and I opened the package in Cotonou back in July and we were thrilled with the items. As Anie unpackaged the first one we were so excited to see 5/500. Yay!
But then we saw another 5/500. Uh oh. I looked back at my messages to Ali and realized my error. I hadn't correctly explained what I meant in French. Each one was numbered 1-5 of 500. (Thankfully, I had just ordered the first 50 of the order so we didn't get 500 of them.) My heart sank. They were ruined. I couldn't sell them or use them in the order, what would people think?
I took a few in my carry-on as I boarded the plane to Paris. I lugged them around the airport, rueing the fact that they were so heavy. When I got on the flight from Paris to Detroit I struggled to get the bag into the overhead compartment. Thankfully my seat mate helped me and as we got settled in he asked what made the bag so heavy.
Can you believe that the man was from Carrara, Italy and had worked in quarries for over 35 years? He was actually coming to the US to do a consulting job with a stone quarry. I asked him to take a look at the items we brought back. As we unwrapped the first one from the newspaper, the faint smell of smoke wafted towards us.
He explained that the soapstone retained the smell of smoke from the firing process when the items were glazed. He then showed me how Ali and his crew must have carved every single line and design with various tools. He was really impressed with the quality of both the stone and the craftsmanship. When I told him that it took 2 days for each one to be made, he said it made sense since it was all done by hand.
So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I overlook all of the beauty and detail in the item and focus on the one error (that is not even visible unless you turn it over and know what you are looking for)? Did each member of Ali's team work so hard just so that their handiwork sat on a shelf wrapped in newspaper forever? Or do I accept the fact that perfection is not only unrealistic, but can be a bit boring? After all, how do we know things are handmade if they all look exactly the same?
Our imperfections make us interesting and unique. And they give us stories to tell. So please join us in celebrating imperfection with our very limited edition Handcarved Soapstone Cup. I promise you that no two are exactly the same, regardless of the number on the bottom.