This picture has a great story. Way back in 1991, we lived in Los Angeles and my daughters, Robin and Monica were two years old and six months. It was December, we were shipping pots like mad for the holidays and I came up with a really fun art project for Robin and I to do. We laid out a couple dozen blank shipping boxes, broke out the poster paints and glitter and went to town on the blank boxes. The next day we had an “art opening” in the driveway and we took some pics. I remember we wore the sunglasses because we were “way-cool artists.” All those boxes got shipped out during the following weeks and a lot of that glitter ended up all over the bottom of the UPS truck. I have a vivid memory of the poor UPS guy carrying out the boxes and his extremely hairy arms were covered with glitter. Good times!
So I found this photo as I was frantically digging through our entropy-impaired family photo collection because Robin had called an hour earlier. She needed a pic for the lead-in shot for her interview with me and she had to make a deadline. Finding this image was a godsend and it brought back some wonderful memories. You gotta read this interview! I can’t rave enough about what a great job Robin did on it. We chatted about how I became a potter, Wally’s connection with the O.J. Simpson trial and our shared memory of the time I won a year’s supply of ice cream in an ice cream bowl show. I was so touched by her words and it was truly the nicest Fathers’ Day gift I’ve ever received. You can read the interview here. I had a great day yesterday even though both Robin and Monica were out of cell phone range and I didn’t get to talk to them. Monica was hiking on a glacier in Iceland after completing her first year of teaching 7th and 8th graders, and Robin was at a girls’ rock band retreat somewhere in the woods near Seattle. When your kids are happy, you are happy.
Designing my new astrology mug series turned out to be a lot more work that I thought it would be, but I managed to learn lot in the process. The “Mercury is in retrograde!” design has been selling really well, so it seemed like a natural thing to delve deeper into the cosmic gift market. I thought it would be simple enough to come up with a new design each month as the astrological signs rolled around, but when I got a wholesale order for three of each design, I was forced to speed up the original production schedule. Last week I found myself spending a massive amount of time pouring over the descriptions of each zodiac sign and trying to come up with a solid take on each of the remaining six star signs.
The design process is pretty simple: first, you do a funny drawing of the zodiac sign for the front of the mug, then you find a famous person to exemplify that sign, and finally you have to cram in some random ideas about that sign to complete the basic thesis of “this is what these people are like.” My favorite part of the process was searching for celebrities that fit the sign. Sagittarius people are born entertainers? How about Bette Midler?! Capricorns are good at following complex plans? Let’s do Buzz Aldrin! Coming up with these cartoon caricatures is one of the simple joys of being an artist. I really had fun with it (see Alice Cooper, above). But being the arbitrator of describing what somebody’s personality is like based on the day they were born was a taxing burden for me. Why? Because I don’t believe in astrology.
The thing I learned about this widely held belief system is that the verbiage used in the zodiac sign descriptions are like the ingredients used in Italian food. You start to hear the same words over and over like, “sensitive”, “passionate”, “independent”, “dependable”, etc. This is the same way you find a repetition of pasta, cheese, tomato sauce and basil in Italian cuisine. They are all more similar than they are different and we tend to gravitate towards an astrological personality trait description when it fits us. I found myself falling for the whole, “Wow! That’s just like me (or her or him)” feeling when an astrological keyword rang true for myself or someone I know. I am totally like a Libra, except for the Libra qualities that don’t fit me. I know, that’s a really Libra thing for me to say, right?
At any rate, this was a fun project to take on and I hope they end up selling well. I think this is the kind of stuff that I do best because they are warm, wacky and personal. I tried to put a “warning” joke in the spot where a right-handed person looks when they are using the mug. My favorite of these was Sagittarius where “loves adventure” is depicted by a guy skydiving into a shark’s waiting mouth. Like I said, creating these designs was a really fun project. These are for sale right now and forever in my online store and quantities are limited, of course. You can click on the thumbnail pics below to get a larger image of the designs.
Hooray! The drought for new Wally material is over! The start of this design came last weekend, when I was at a party talking to a woman who owned a gluten-free bakery in Seattle. I was enjoying hearing how she ran her business, but on the back of my mind I really wanted to ask her if she had bought into that whole GLUTEN IS SOOOOOO BAD FOR YOU! mindset. I’m glad I didn’t take the conversation in this direction, because I might have gotten on my soapbox about how tired I am of diet Nazis who have a giant list of things one shouldn’t eat. But the gluten bug got stuck in my mind and I realized that this topic has to be covered in Wally’s world. So here’s my lighthearted poke at people who rave about how great they feel now that they’ve sworn off so much of the food I love to eat. This design is available in mugs, plates and bowls in my online store, of course.
And I’m halfway through my design challenge for 2014: to come up with a mug for each one of the twelve astrological signs. The process is a lot of fun. After researching the alleged personality traits of the astro-archetype, I pick a famous person from history and put together the imagery. My favorite moment in this sometimes arduous task came when, after reading that Leos love to party, I found out that Andy Warhol was indeed a Leo! So here are the six I’ve done so far. You can click on the thumbnail pics below to see a larger image. Cool B-day gifts, huh? They are begging for you to buy them in my online store.
Last November I started making a video for my daughter’s middle school English class. Monica is teaching 7th and 8th graders in Phoenix, AZ and they are reading Linda Sue Park’s Newbery award winning book, “A Single Shard.” It’s a beautiful story about a 12-year-old orphan boy in 12th century Korea who becomes an apprentice to a master potter. The book does a great job describing pottery making in the 12th century and this gave Monica and I the idea that I should somehow be a resource for this book. A lot of her students haven’t been exposed to pottery in any way, so a video seemed like a good idea. I shot the first section of my video at the end of last year, and now that they are reading the book, I got the inspiration to finish the project.
The basic concept of the video is to walk the viewer through my studio and production methods and compare and contrast pottery making as I do it with how it was done in the 12th century. The real revelation for me was that the clay aspect of the process really isn’t that much different now from how they did it 900 years ago. But the ease with which I’m able to procure my raw materials, fire my kiln and ship my pots is where our two eras are light years apart. This video is in three parts, with an “Extras & Bloopers” feature, of course! I’m really glad I took on this project, not just to help out Monica and her students, but to get my studio processes documented for posterity. I hope my customers and fans enjoy this peek at our small pottery factory in Colorado!
This week’s firing yielded a nice assortment of new items. Top of the list are four new cat bowl designs: psycho killer, bad cat, happy cat and wild cat. These bowls are approximately three inches tall and four and a half inches in diameter. They sell for $29.00 each and can be purchased in my online store. You can click on the pictures below to get a larger view of these items. Check ‘em out!
And due to the great success of my “MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE!!!” mug, I’ve decided to wade further into the murky waters of astrology with this year’s ambitious project: a mug for each astrological sign! Rather than racking my brain to come up with all twelve of them at once, I’m taking each one on just before our planet slides into their respective houses. First up is Pisces, February 19th to March 20th. You can buy it for $28.00 at my online store, of course!
This is what happens when you make pots just for the fun of it. I came up with the “Lobster Girl” character last year and I really like the way anyone can make up their own story about her origin. Was she a scientist who didn’t realize there was a lobster on board the first time she tested her matter transporter device? Maybe! We rolled out the first firing of the year last week and it included this art piece plus a few more Valentine’s themed mugs that were quickly sent off to the Show of Hands Gallery in Cherry Creek, CO. The mug pictured above is for sale for $33.00 in my online store. Show of Hands has a really nice selection of my one of a kind art mugs right now. I sent them the best remaining pieces from the Bowie-Pop mug series, along with this crazy one-of-a-kind V-Day gem:
So if “Love Monster” is too weird of a gift for your Valentine, how about a lovely Ohata Kaki red ceramic vessel? I just discontinued a dozen items from my ohata red line and put them at “50% off” sale prices in my online store. There are some really nice mugs, beer steins, shot glasses and a few large bowls. Be sure and note that quantities are limited on these sale items. These prices are really good, so they probably won’t be available for too long. Check ‘em out!
I’ve got a new title to add to my resume: “filmmaker.” The past couple of weeks I’ve been making some simple homemade videos for my daughter, Monica who is a middle school English teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Next month her seventh graders will be reading the book, “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park. It’s a touching story about a homeless twelve year old boy in twelfth century Korea and his desire to make pottery like the master potter in his village. The videos I’m making for Monica’s class are designed to compare how I make pots in the present day with how they used to make pottery nine hundred years ago. Surprisingly, there are more similarities than differences. You can see more on that when we get those videos edited and up on You Tube.
So last week, I came up with this wild idea to do a time-lapse video of the process of unloading and loading my kiln. The following Monday we were going to be doing back to back firings with a glaze rolling out and a bisque loading in. My little camera doesn’t have this function on it, so I called my friend Len Aitken (professional filmmaker) and he loaned me his “industrial strength” camera for the project. It turned out to be a lot of fun setting up the shot and learning how to use the camera. I estimated that I could do the kiln job in about an hour, so I bought a cheap big clock and nailed it to the post by the kiln. The shoot went pretty smoothly except for thirty-five minutes into the film where I bumped the clock and it came crashing down on to the floor. But I totally hit my mark at the end of the hour, and this project far exceeded my wildest dreams for what I had initially envisioned. This is primarily due to the fact that Len did an amazing job on the editing and the technical support. I’m also really happy with the song we picked for the film. Keep on Movin’ is by King Tuff. I’ve been listening to the King Tuff album practically nonstop for over six months now and if you like this song, you should just go buy it because every song on it is a total gem. And now, without any further ado, I present you with my new video:
Well, it was a tough year to pick the top entry in our yearly ornament design contest, so I took my wife and oldest daughter out to dinner and sprung on them the job of helping me decide on the top honor for 2013. They took on the job admirably and with three people we had the perfect number of judges to avoid any ties of the votes. And fortunately, it was a unanimous decision for the winner, but let’s go through some honorable mentions first:
-Kudos to last year’s winner, Pam Hamilton, for sending us a flurry of decent material. My favorite of these was “Snowden leaks Wally’s famous dog biscuit recipe.”
-A big “YEOW!!!” to Bruce Block for his wonderfully tasteless and unprintable joke riffing on xmas balls and neutered pets.
-And much appreciation to Jamie Gould for sending in two great sketches in her bid for the #1 spot. Check out her lovely depiction of the death of Miley Cyrus under a Christmas tree:
And now the drum roll for the top spot….
Here it is! This year’s winner of the 2013 Holiday Ornament Design Contest is a timely little piece that riffs on the fact that the National Security Administration just replaced Santa Claus in the spying on our private lives department. So who thought of this timely, salable and easy to draw design? None other than my assistant, Kelly Clements! That’s right, this contest didn’t have any silly rules about employees or family members not being eligible for the grand prize. Seriously, a big “Thanks!” to everyone who entered and look forward to your crazy ideas coming my way next year.
If you want to purchase this new NSA ornament, the new “FUCK THE TREE! MY BACK HURTS.” ornament, all the other ornament designs we carry, or anything else in my line, hop on over to my online store. Our next firing comes out on December 5th so there’s still time for us to make just about anything you want for Christmas.
If you’re looking for an amazing gift for your favorite pooch this year, consider having us create a custom porcelain dog dish! I just added four new designs to the “Custom Items” section of my online store. Here’s how it works: there are two bowl sizes: 5.5 inch diameter ($33.00) and 7.5 inch diameter ($44.00). You can pick one of four designs for the inside of the bowl, and there’s a drop-down menu that allows you to choose one of four colors (blue, green, red and yellow) for your dog’s name. It’s pretty easy to follow and you’ll need to allow 2 – 4 weeks for delivery. We’ve got just three more firings to go this year, so just about anything ordered in November will get to you with time to spare for the holidays. Here are some pics of the four designs, plus a nice grouping of milk bone jars that we made last year for a customer who really wowed his family and friends with this awesome collection of dog treat containers ($48.00 each).
It’s that time of year again! It’s time for you, my customers to show us what kind of jokes you’ve got and what weird kind of ornament you want to hang on your tree this Christmas. It’s been an amazing year for weird stories in the news, so there is lots of material out there for us to work on. As always, the person or persons who come up with the best design(s) will win an ornament with their design on it and the bragging rights to having come up with this year’s winning design. Here are a few guidelines for coming up with a winning entry:
Keep it simple! I need to be able to hand-draw this design on a two inch diameter bisque circle. Elaborate designs are too hard to reproduce.
Try to tie in the holiday theme. The Balloon Boy joke above works so wonderfully well because it brings in the holiday verbiage.
Make it something that will just get better as the years go on. What current event do you want to remember every year as you trim your holiday tree?
DEADLINE: Wednesday, November 13! We’ll announce the winners in an email on Tuesday, November 19th.
Want to get some inspiration for this project? Take a look at my line of ornaments (for sale for just $13.50) in my online store.
And here’s a new one for 2013: The Lou Reed memorial ornament! I’m a big fan of his music and was impressed with the number of tributes to him around the world last week. But it seemed kind of odd to see the mainstream media gushing about him with phrases like “he wrote about the dark underside of life.” Actually, he WAS the dark underside of life and he was pretty mean at times, too. So here’s my tribute to Lou: