Object: haiku teaware by Alexis Siemons aka teaspoons and petals
Location: Acquired at the Italian Supper Club dinner in Nov. 2011 at COOK (20th & Rittenhouse Sq. St.) where Siemons was tea sommelier
Background: Siemons paints haiku that are often Philly-centric onto teacups from flea markets and restaurant supply stores. Mine is a piece of bright white CAC China that reads: “bright lights of philly/ reflecting in my teacup/ sip in the city.” The ”Sitting with Franklin” teacup: “sitting with Franklin/ sipping on brotherly love/ this is tea for two.”
In her etsy writeup Siemons explains, ” … there are those few precious moments while drinking tea, when you can just pause, breathe and imagine. ” The idea is for her original haiku + some good tea + the act of cradling a hot cup to catalyze your imagination.
This photo on the homepage is from her “lady songbirds” collection with haiku about the connection between tea and music. The cups are named for jazz & blues doyennes, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and Etta James. Here’s the “Etta” haiku: “torn between two loves/ voice draws me to the record/ kettle calls me close.”
Context: Storytelling is now touted as good business—it’s a means to stand out from a buzzy pool of global competitors. Siemons’s haiku tell stories as do the write-ups in her online shop. Her backstory for the 2010 Alice in Wonderland haiku teacup collection: “As the months changed from crisp air to an occasional warm breeze, I immersed myself in everything Alice In Wonderland. From paging through vintage books, taking a peek at the 1950′s animated film, treating my eyes to the first-ever film version from 1903, participating in a mad tea soap party, to planning a mad tea party at a local museum, I’ve been soaking in her wondrous world.”
It’s a great idea: What better object to transport you to Alice’s world than a mad tea cup?
(Siemons will soon debut these haiku handkerchiefs—vintage hankies screen-printed with gold paint)
Siemons’s haiku teacups are the photo negative of Starbucks’ Red Cups (which came early this year to reap as much peppermint-mocha profit as possible). Red Cups are also printed with words (“When we’re together, every day is a snow day”). The images on the Red Cups are intentionally left open-ended for universal appeal. Says Starbucks’ Creative Director Daniele Monti, “We used deco-inspired illustrations to create scenes that are open to the interpretation of the viewer – playful interactions between a cast of characters. The idea is to let people fill in the blank and make it their own story.”
So Siemons lets us in on her story, but Starbucks prompts us to project our own stories. Siemons’s stories are expressions of her personal passions, but Starbucks’ stories originate from within a marketing team. Both are about creating a connection with the consumer.
Etsy’s interaction design is set up so the shopper feels like a collector buying a custom product directly from the maker. Starbucks purposely builds lots of options into its menus to make the shopper feel like she’s buying a custom drink.
The two can’t be compared directly because they’re not selling the same thing, but in general it feels like the teacup vs. the Red Cup dichotomy represents some zeitgeisty tension that’s going on between small biz vs. corporate, handmade vs. mass-produced, and authentic experience vs. manufactured authenticity. And authenticity is one of Philly’s most under sung and plentiful raw materials.
(images courtesy of Alexis Siemons)Pin It