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Launched

1

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” 2

Well, here it is: the missive I’ve been promising for quite a few years now – the one in which I announce the price and the pre-sale. This is it; the moment has finally come. Sort of.

Very short summary if you aren’t interested in / don’t have time for the medium-long read:

1st thing: This is new. There may be problems. Or there may not.
2nd thing: I’m giving them away (ish).
3rd thing: The pre-production Founders’ Circle Edition Lapera DS machines will cost $8888.88 CAD plus shipping.
4th thing: The next ones will be more expensive.

Before we unpack all of that, please indulge me in a minor digression.

Not too long after graduating from architecture school I put a perfectly good career designing bridges and office buildings on hold and maxed out my credit cards to go on tour with the band. The band in this case being the first work that I had created with another artist: the Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers3, a half-hour long orchestral performance for obsolete office equipment. Fast forward twenty years, after many art projects that investigated questions of technology and obsolescence, and an awful lot of time spent looking for good coffee while on tour, it occurred to me that coffee is one of the very few areas of everyday life where steam engines, i.e. technology from the 18th century, are still considered cutting edge. And so began my third career.

Actions, or so the aphorism goes, speak louder than words. Whatever you may think of his actions, you must allow that Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush (remember him?), has a way with words. His quote about the “unknown unknowns”, possibly a bit long to be an aphorism but getting there, neatly encapsulates and conveniently compartmentalizes all knowledge and identifies a distinct category of events which are, by definition, unforeseeable. The lesson being that you must plan for every eventuality knowing that you cannot know all the eventualities. Given who he is and how that all went, the irony of the implicit caution against hubris is, to me at least, rich.

The new Lapera machines have been tested, very thoroughly and rather strenuously, in the controlled conditions of our atelier. I have tried to anticipate all of the problems, from bad water to cosmic rays, before they arise. But what will happen when they venture out on their own into the wide and wonderful and dangerous world? What will happen when they are left alone with your ten year old nephew (no, don’t do that, bad idea – “oooh, a catapult!”). What will happen when someone leaves a pound of butter to soften for baking on the cup warmer and then gets distracted by an Oprah re-run? It is possible, as with all designs entering this Rumsfeldian world, that something not immediately apparent may present itself at some point in the future. Or it won’t. Who knows? At this point there is only one way to find out.

At the beginning of 2016, sitting by a pool in California, I drew the design for the main casting of the Lapera group in my sketchbook. Because, well, that’s what you do when you sit by the pool right? I started with the group casting because it is the most difficult component to make. If I could make that, the rest, I thought at the time, was eminently doable. I also thought that it would take about eighteen months or two years to complete the project. Since then, other than some short breaks teaching architecture and showing at art exhibitions, I have done nothing but work on realizing the DS. Five years is a long time: more than 10,000 hours working a regular nine to five – which of course this job is not. Five years of running costs of my studio. Five years of investment in the materials and labor necessary to iterate the design. And what is that all worth, what did it cost? Suffice it to say that even if I were to charge ten times the amount that I am asking for this first edition, I won’t come any near to recouping my costs. But that is not really why I am doing this. This is not a sensible project. Nor am I, it would seem, a sensible person. Who quotes Donald Rumsfeld in a product launch and suggests that early adopters are potential canon fodder? What you are buying is not so much a coffee machine as it is a love letter to a way of making things that is exceedingly rare today. A work of art. A piece of me.

So this release, the Founders’ Circle Edition of nine single digit serial numbers, fully functional prototypes if you like, is for the risk takers, the early adopters, the beta testers, the kind of people who are willing to put their faith in me. And it is priced accordingly. Of the nine single digit machines, two, I am very proud to say, have been sold into some of the most important private collections of coffee machines in the world. The remaining seven pre-production DS models are available for purchase at the initial price of $8,888.88 CAD (that would be Canadian dollars, U.S. Dollar’s baby brother).

I obviously work very slowly and it is not my intention to scale up the production to the point where I have to forego the level of quality I need in order to get out of bed in the morning. It is unlikely that production volume will exceed the dozens for the next year or two. This means that this price is not sustainable over the long term. Consequentially, the price of the next edition will start with a one and may or may not have any eights in it at all.

If, after doing and saying all of this, I am fortunate enough to have more than seven people still interested, the criteria for deciding who gets one will be thoroughly unscientific: first dibs will be given to the insiders who have been following the project since its beginnings as a series of posts on a coffee forum, the people who have lent a hand and offered encouragement along the way, and the people who I think will take good care.

So who wants one? Just say so and, this time at least, words will have the upper hand.

Thomas


(1) Dream Boat, Monastir, Tunisia, 2018. Available as an NFT for $69,346,251
(2) Donald Rumsfeld
(3) You can look it up. It won a bunch of awards.