My journey into the world of ceramic decals continues! This week’s decal firing yielded more strange fruits of the Melania Trump variety. What inspires me to make this stuff? I don’t know, really. I just get a fun idea and pursue it, I guess. We will all look back on this stage of my artistic development and laugh about it one day, I hope. I’m not in a talkative mood right now so I’ll just let the pots speak for themselves. These are all available in my online store, of course.
Last year’s resolution to get a settlement from Tesla Motors was a real challenge with a lot of highs and lows along the way. So many times I thought that I was wasting my time and money on a stupid pipe dream. In the end it was a magical success, and I’m so glad I went all in on that wild dream project. Strangely enough, this year’s resolution to develop a new line of work using the decal printer is a bit similar. The highs: it’s so much fun experimenting with a new design process and I’m so happy when I create something unique and amazing. I love putting photographic images on pots and I really want this work to succeed. The lows: technical problems (now solved), creative struggles (ongoing), and slow production and sales (last year is a tough act to follow). The healthiest way for me to look at this is to see it as a sabbatical from the business of making pottery.
My most recent firing bore some really good fruit for potential sales. President Trump’s “go back from where you came from” tirade inspired my idea to co-opt the First Lady’s “BE BEST” campaign to fight online bullying. I’m not the first to point out the irony of this but I’m probably the first to put it on mugs with pictures of her in a bikini holding a gun.
This one sold right off, and there will be more out of the kiln in about a month. Fun Fact: Melania designed that logo herself, and Christian, my art & tech wizard created a font (“We Best”) and we can now type on the computer with Melania’s handwriting. Should I blow $55 on a copyright for this font? I might just do that in case that Slovenian witch decides to sic her army or lawyers on me. To see and purchase the very first rough draft pots from this series, check out the “Be Best” section of my online store.
My other big win for this month is the news that my lecture proposal for the NCECA 2020 conference was accepted. The topic is “Copyright 101 for Ceramic Decal Printers”, and I’ve posted my 300 word proposal below. I’m so thrilled! This pretty much handcuffs me to making decal pots now, doesn’t it? Gosh, I had such a great time at NCECA 2019 this year. By odd coincidence, while I was there I was interviewed by Paul Blais of “The Potter’s Cast” podcast, and you can listen to it here. It’s such a sweet little interview because, honest to god, I sound like a ten year old talking about his trip to Disneyland. If you are a potter or a good friend of mine, you really must hear this one to get a big laugh. Oh, and and if you haven’t heard it, be sure and catch my “The potter who took on Tesla and won” interview as it’s a lovely overview of my career and my epic copyright battle with Elon Musk.
“Take a few of these, the sweeter memories” – Todd Rundgren
Copyright 101 for Ceramic Decal Printers
My interest in copyright law developed in 2017 when Tesla Motors copied my “farting unicorn” graphic and downloaded it into the operating systems of its automobiles. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, had tweeted an image of my coffee mug with this design before it was placed in the cars, making it a textbook case of copyright infringement. With the help of a lawyer and a daughter who debated the copyright issue with Mr. Musk via Twitter, we received significant media attention in June 2018. A month later, Tesla Motors paid out a reasonable settlement. Now I’m on the other side of the issue as I worry about stealing other people’s art.
Anyone who uses a ceramic decal printer should be aware of the various degrees of copyright infringement. The problem is that it’s just too easy to grab images from the internet and place them in your work. While the ceramics community is generally very open with its intellectual property (glaze recipes, etc.), the worlds of photography and graphic art are not.
The story of Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Hope” image of Barack Obama epitomizes this issue. In 2010, a federal court determined that the AP photographer who took the original photograph for this poster had his copyright infringed upon by Mr. Fairey. What can we in ceramics learn from this?
This talk will give an overview of copyright law and fair use from a potter’s perspective as it pertains to ceramic decals. I will cover the basic dos and don’ts of using other people’s images in your work. There are many variables and a lot of gray area as to what you can and cannot do depending on how you use the images and the nature of your artwork. Members of the audience will be encouraged to share their experiences.
There’s a new breeze blowing o’er the land! Folks out here in the mile high state are thrilled to the gills with the prospect of an honest, down to earth Colorado good guy capturing the White House in November of 2020. I’m throwing my clay-covered hat into the ring to support this man’s bid for the presidency with a new series of pots: “Hick for President in 2020!” Why do I like John Hickenlooper? This sixteen ounce beer glass tells the story.
But wait! There’s more. We’ve got six different Hickenlooper 2020 items in a new section of my online store entitled, “The Hick Shop”. Check it out! Proceeds from the sale of these items go towards buying more gold luster and full-color bee decals.
And here’s a real gem from last week’s firing. In case you didn’t figure it out, it’s based on recent senate testimony where HUD secretary Ben Carson was confused about the acronym for Real Estate Owned properties. I made two of these, one of which will be used to apply for a prestigious mug show this summer. The other is for sale in my online store.
My decal pots keep getting better and better. This new black glaze is perfect for the gold decals and I’m starting to get some nicely realized work out. And it’s selling, too! I sold some mugs at the opening of the “Cloth and Clay” show, as well as through a recent email campaign to my customers. It’s really encouraging, but sales are a still far cry from those of my cartoon line so I’m not predicting the death of Wally just yet. I made multiples of these designs, so most of them are still available in my online store.
Fans of the rock band Def Leppard will appreciate this stunning celadon sugar jar that is a tribute to the band. I made it specially for Blue Line Arts‘ “Rock Show” that is a collection of various rock and roll themed artwork. I also used it in my “Copyright 101 for decal printers” lecture proposal for next years NCECA conference because it shows the gray area between copyright infringement and acceptable use for satirical purposes. There is a second jar like this one for sale in my online store, so jump on over to see if it’s still available.
Here’s a mug that shows the potential for all the new tools and technologies I’m working with. It uses a new extruder dye on the handle, texture tools in the clay, and both gold and black decals on the surface. I’ve got just two of these in stock now, and they sell in the $45 – $55 range.
For years I’ve talked about how I should make a platter that compares my job of filling kilns and emptying them to the Greek myth where the guy is stuck in hell pushing a rock up a hill only to watch it fall back again. This is such an apt metaphor for so many of the things we do in life: mowing the lawn and doing laundry to name a few. It’s also the basic plot line for every single Road Runner cartoon, right? The impetus for making this platter is the upcoming Mountain Area Potters Gang show, “Cloth and Clay: Textural Explorations”. We were encouraged to incorporate texture into our work and the celadon rim of this platter fills that bill. It was so satisfying to see this platter come together with out any technical problems. I nailed it on on first take! The show opens on Friday, May 10 with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Center for the Arts Evergreen. Come see it!
I’ve taken the past few months to slow down on producing pots, develop new work and improve every step of my process. Probably the most satisfying change was turning my cluttered stock room into a state of the art photo studio. Christian, my assistant, was instrumental in designing this studio and the results are wonderful, as you can see by the photos in this blog. The “King Tesla” mug here was the first test of new gold luster decals that I’m incorporating into my decal line. It’s exciting to have a new palette of imagery and I’ve got some great new work coming out the second week in May. To see a great selection of my latest decal work for sale, check out the “Photo Decal Pots” section of my online store. A lot of these pieces are one of a kind experiments in the $15 – $30 price range. Check ’em out!
I spent the past week working on a bold new project: a proposal for a two story tall tall mural to be painted under the intersection of the Santa Monica Freeway and the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles (seen above). Arts Bridging the Gap, a nonprofit group that works with at risk youth, asked me to do this way back in July, the same week I received my settlement from Tesla Motors. I said “Yes” and worked on it halfheartedly in the fall, but I really didn’t make much headway until I took time off from making pots last week to work on it full time on it and get it done. While I feel a bit bad for procrastinating this project for so long, I now know why I had to wait until the slow season to do this. Designing a mural takes a lot of time and effort! My assistant, Christian Hawkins, spent a full three days doing the mockups you see below. This man is a true photoshop wizard and he gets full collaboration credits for coming up with some great ideas for this artwork.
I’m so excited about this project now! I call it, “Make Your Dream Come True.” The overall concept for the work is to turn a quiet little spot on Sepulveda Boulevard into a magical space that celebrates people who turn their dreams into realities. The textured wall on the bottom seven feet was a real obstacle, but I solved the problem by making it a brain with eyes. The door in the middle was a bonus and I love the way it looks like a door to the third eye. The car-dream-people are based on 1) some of my cartoon characters, 2) drawings submitted by middle school kids and 3) people in my life who have turned their dreams into realities. The bodysurfer on the north wall is my childhood friend, Mike Cunningham who won six world bodysurfing titles in the 1970s and 80s. The “carmonica” man is my uncle Tommy Morgan, a member of “The Wrecking Crew” and the top studio harmonica player in the world for over four decades. The guitar-girl with a crown on her head is of course, singer-songwriter-twitter warrior: Lisa Prank, a.k.a. Robin Edwards.
We were originally told that we had the space under the freeway, but when I viewed the site on Google Earth, I realized that it needed to spill out into the outer walls of the offramp so drivers would get a glimpse of it as they approached it. Once this design gets Cal Trans approval (which could take up to a year!), the mural will be painted by a team of kids and cops over the space of a weekend. As I was coming up for the ideas for this artwork, it took me back to my days living in this neighborhood. In 1987 Lori and I bought our first house just four miles from the site, and both of our kids were born in Los Angeles. I can hardly wait to get this mural painted!
And get this! This isn’t the only public art project that I’ve worked on recently. Last December I was contacted by an outfit known as The Aeternity Drone Graffiti Project. They asked me if I would like to have my artwork spray painted by drones on buildings in Mexico City and I said, “Yes!” What artist wouldn’t want to have flying robots painting their art for them?!!” So I submitted the graphic seen below and I did a couple of interviews via Skype for international news outlets. On February 10th they did the first tests of this bold new technology and the results were interesting. Next up they will be painting a fifteen story building sometime in April in Mexico City, and I might get the opportunity to go there and see it happen. To see a short video of one of the tests, click this link.
Season’s Greetings! We rolled out the last glaze firing of the year on 12/10 and we’re looking forward to shipping lots of pots this week. We have a pretty good selection of pots in stock right now so if you are just starting your shopping, you’re in luck. Everything in the store is inventory controlled so you can see what’s in stock and what isn’t. Not only that, but the store won’t let you buy something that isn’t in stock. The last day to place orders is Tuesday, 12/18. This is quite firm as the studio is shutting down for the year on the morning of 12/19 and we really really really won’t be able to ship any orders placed after Tuesday, 12/18. There isn’t a secret extra day built into this schedule. I’m outta here on 12/19. Got it?!!!
I’m super-stocked up on unicorn mugs, ornaments and oil bottles so if this year’s hottest item is what you are looking for, jump on over to the “Farting Unicorn” section of my store and we can ship within 24 hours of your placing of an order. The “Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic” mugs come in two designs and two sizes. As of Sunday, December 9th we have plenty of all four modes.
Cat bowls have been selling really well lately and this new design is a real hit. There are nine different cat bowl designs in my line and they range in price from $24 – $32 each. As of right now we have all of them in stock in the “cat bowl” section of my online store.
Here’s a holiday favorite we always make this time of year. I’ve got eight coming out of the kiln tomorrow, but four are spoken for so no guarantees on availability a week from now. You can find them at the top of the page in the funny mugs section of my store.
Here’s a whole new series of mugs I made, using a photo decal of Nikola Tesla and turning him into a wacky character who has crazy adventures a la Wally. Shown here is “Tesla buys a Tesla.” There are eight designs in all and you just gotta see them. Titles like “Tesla’s Roomba vacuum cleaner video goes viral” and “Tesla takes Neil Degrasse Tyson for a spin in his flying hot tub” make these mugs pretty amazing gift items. We’ve got a limited supply but they are inventory controlled in the photo decal section of my online store so if you can buy it, we can ship it for Christmas.
My latest batch of one of a kind decal pots is getting rave reviews and people are buying them! I’m so excited about this process and will have a new batch of them out at the end of this week. Seen here are four of my favorites that are still in stock. These are reasonably priced in the $32 – $50 range so jump on over to the photo decal section of my store if you want to get some really unique art items for people on your gift list. And here’s some cool news: I applied to a cup show at Clay Arts Vegas and was thrilled learn that two out of three of the cups I entered were accepted into the show. It starts on January 5, 2019. Here’s to a great new year!
Yes, as a matter of fact, that is Iggy Pop’s high school photo with a goofy crown on top adorning a sumptuously glazed mug. How did THAT happen?! Well, I bought a small electric kiln and I’m doing an extra firing with low-fire custom ceramic decals. And today is the world premier of this new line of work. There are over twenty of these pieces for sale right now in the “Photo Decal Pots” section of my online store. They are selling for just $32.00 each which is really good considering that each one is unique. Please buy them! I really want to make more. I’ll just post the pics of my favorites below. Stay tuned, as this is the start of a whole new direction in my work!
This is legendary folk potter, George Ohr. He’s one of my all-time heroes in clay, hence the initials that stand for What Would George Ohr Do?
I just can’t seem to get away from this Tesla and unicorns thing!
This is the iconic image of our dearly departed cat, Moocher. He was the Che Guevara of all felines.
Here’s punk rock legend Iggy Pop at two distinct phases of his life.
And here’s another rock star who had a significant heyday in the 1970s!
And these little espresso cups are such wonderful collector’s items! They sell for just $24.00 each. They surely will sell soon, right?
It’s been almost two months since my last blog post where I announced that we reached an agreement with Tesla Motors and my copyright issue over the farting unicorn graphic was happily resolved. Tweeted by Elon Musk, that post got 53,000 visits the day it was posted. Since then, my assistants and I have been cranking out A LOT OF POTS and we’re almost caught up on all the orders I received from the June-July media blitz. On August 29th, I was part of a panel discussion at The Denver Press Club on copyright issues and art. It was great fun to discuss this topic with Tim Atkinson (lawyer), Lauri Murphy (artist/educator) and John Lebya (photojournalist). This week my interview with Paul Blais on The Potter’s Cast podcast goes up on Tuesday. I’m a huge fan of Paul’s podcast. His mission is to help those of us in the clay community refine our business skills. It was such an honor to be on his show. We discussed my copyright issue with Tesla and my forty years as a professional potter.
The past four months have been a productive, exciting and wild time and my only complaint is that I wish I’d had more time this summer to produce new work and pitch it to my old fans and new customers. This Tesla copyright adventure has been a real turning point in my career and it has totally rejuvenated my spirit as an artist. Now that all the magic unicorn dust is settling, I’m making plans to try a lot of new ideas and to not hold back on my ambitious creative ideas. This week I’m ordering a new electric kiln so I can launch into the ceramic decal process. It’s going to take a while to get this off the ground but look for new work in this style to come out in November.
I did get a couple of new mug designs out of my last firing and they are available in my online store. “It’s my birthday and I don’t have to be nice to you.” was inspired by punk song I wrote in a weird dream I had while on vacation in Croatia a couple of years ago. You can buy it in my online store.
And for all you unicorn fans, we’ve got a new art mug that delves into the dark side of unicorn folklore. This is a limited edition art mug and we have just two left in stock. Jump on over to my online store to catch one of these:
I am happy to report that we have reached an agreement with Tesla that resolves our issues in a way that everyone feels good about! It’s clear there were some misunderstandings that led to this escalating, but I’m just glad that everything has been cleared up. I’ve always been a Tesla fan, and I’m looking forward to getting back to making pots and selling them in my online store.
I’d also like to announce today is that I will be designing a mural for the “Arts Bridging The Gap’s LA Street Art Initiative in Los Angeles, CA. Their mission is “to bring top quality arts programs and experiences to children in underserved communities in order to improve their quality of life, academic success and future prospects.” Their murals are painted by underserved youth and LAPD officers! They approached me last week about doing a unicorn mural possibly in Hawthorne, CA near SpaceX headquarters. I grew up in this part of Los Angeles and my father and stepfather both worked in aerospace and defense industries in this very neighborhood. I’m excited about designing a happy, fun work of art for the community.