Life from an outsider's perspective…

In search of “The Purple Kettle”

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During one of the lectures I attended at university, our popular Design & Materials Selection Proffessor, Bessim Ben-Nissan, once said:

“No one’s going to buy a kettle if it’s-a purple”

At the time, I thought that statement was an over-generalisation of people’s tastes. I remembered thinking: “Well I for one would definitely buy a purple kettle, if they were available”. Not only because I happened to like the colour purple, but maybe even just to prove him wrong.

Its been nearly a decade since that lecture, and I’m yet to encounter a fully purple kettle. For years I went in search of one. You can find mauve kettle lids and lavender-coloured handles in most electrical retail shops, but NEVER, EVER, a genuine 100% purple coloured kettle. There’s an online shop called www.purplestore.com, who specialise in all manner of eclectic purple products. There’s a virtual smorgasboard of items, in fact the only common trait is that they’re only available in various shades of purple. The shop is devoted to purple. Nevertheless, you won’t see any purple kettles for sale.

Taking this slightly further, even if you go to another super-specialist retailer, www.purplekettlegifts.com, stocked with the most kitch American products you could ever hope to imagine, you still won’t find any purple kettles! In fact you won’t find any kettles for sale at all!! One gets the impression that they chose this rather eccentric name just for the sake of being totally unique.

You can go right down to page 20 of google’s world-wide image-search for the term, “purple kettle”, and you’ll encounter the most bizarre things, but never any real, fully-functional purple kettles. The only two images I found were the ones pictured. Of course, if you really wanted a purple kettle, I suppose you’d have to consider getting one custom made…

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What was Proffessor Bessim Ben-Nissan originally getting at? Not only must an idea be viable, but for a product to be successful, it has to be economical. Its not much good manufacturing an item in bulk if only one in a billion people will buy them. That’s pretty obvious.

But what am I getting at? The real point I want to make is not that it seems nobody has invented any purple kettles yet (despite the existence of hundreds of millions of kettles). My point is that some things these days are still too over-specialised. I’m looking for something, and no one has it. Imagine if I wanted a matching purple refridgerator in my kitchen. You would think that would be impossible in today’s “consumer paradise”, but it appears there are no limits to specialisation.

Another important thing I wanted to talk about was overchoice. Imagine now if I said that I wanted to see every single white kettle that was available for sale on the entire planet. There are so very many choices to make now, the task for all intents and purposes becomes practically impossible. That my friends, is called “overchoice”.

In a rather crude attempt to cope with our day-to-day lives, we block out vast categories of products. But it doesn’t stop there. Some of us completely ignore numerous modes of entertainment or new technologies; we’ll walk straight past entire department stores without so much as a glance at what’s for sale. In a bookstore, we don’t want to know anything about certain subjects and entire zones within libraries. We’ll completely avoid an infinite number of unnecessary or insignificant choices at all costs, just in order to be able to cope with the world we live in.

I suppose you could say that the ultimate challenge of our lives is to find a kettle that you’re fundamentally happy with, without taking too long to decide; by not asking to see every single white kettle that can possible be obtained, but not by trying to search for the impossible either. Because both tasks would take an inoordinate amount of time, for what should be the simplest of decisions: “Which kettle should I buy?” Of course, if you’ve put off buying a kettle for these very reasons, you know something is not quite right.

Most spanish kitchens are not equipped with kettles (because mostly everyone drinks coffee instead). In fact, its easier for me just to boil the water in a conventional pot that’s already in the kitchen, like I have been doing for the last two years since I moved to Spain in 2005.

Dr. Leslie Brown.

10 Responses to “In search of “The Purple Kettle””

  1. Believe it or not, but by looking at the internet statistics provided by my ISP, I can tell that two people encountered this very page over a period of four days, using the search term “purple kettle”… so it seems some people are in the market for one after all!

  2. You’ve found a picture of a purple kettle!!.
    Now thats a start.
    I think you could easily write an article on the “overchoice of shampoos and conditioners”.

    The comedy “Open all hours” created in the 90’s was ahead of its time with character playing Mavis asking Arkwright the shopkeeper,
    ” Do you think I have dry or oily hair?”
    only she could never make up her mind….

    or what about the overchoice of
    fruit cakes at Xmas time………
    have you tried to buy socks lately?
    love mich

  3. Hello Leslie
    Have you seen the light purple and black based and lidded kettle at http://www.tootoo.com ? It’s a chinese store. Also on ebay a ceramic bluey light “purple” electric jug advertised as purple but these two so-called purple kettles are not purple enough!
    M. Bear

  4. I found dark purple kettles. They are all purple with a stainless steel top. The problem is you have to buy a minimum of 3000 pcs. Would love to buy one but not 3000. I will look for one until I am gone.

  5. I am sadly disappointed all the time because of the lack of purple equipment. I would adore a purple kettle and am always hunting around for one. Maybe we “purple lovers” should combine forces and have a “go” at someone…but who ?? we are only the customers after all!! Does anybody know ?

  6. Well, it’s only taken 5 years, but it appears there are finally some purple kettles on the market!

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