Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm on the Obama dream team!

I realized this week that I am now a full-fledged member of a new national phenomenon: I want to get famous by getting noticed by President Obama. I say this in all self-deprecating humor because my little pipe dream has about as much chance of coming through as does a ticket to one of those idiotic multi-state Powerball lotteries. But like the people who own the Powerball tickets, I've got my little dream scheme and there's a small chance that it could happen. And I'm not alone. There are hordes of starry-eyed Americans out there with similar dreams and I'm pretty sure that the majority of these fantasies involve dogs and dog related items. As we all know, the very first promise the president elect made after winning the election was to allow his daughters to get a puppy. It was a brilliant political maneuver that made even the staunchest republicans say, "Awwwww... how cute!"

So now we have TV news stories every day showing us some dreamer with a puppy that would be perfect for the first family. My wife and I were out to dinner with a group of friends last week and our friend Mary has a foster puppy named Karma who would be perfect for the job of "First Dog". This pooch even has a blog aimed at pitching himself to the Obama family. And get this: the very next day Mary and Karma were on the local TV news telling the story of how Karma just might have the right karma to wind up with the name Karma Obama. (That name does have a ring to it, I'll admit!)

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last week on how the nation's capitol is besieged with left-wing dreamers and schemers hoping to get the ear of our new president with their various visions and ideas. It's natural that this happens every time we change the guard, but Mr. Obama's "we the people" rhetoric has exacerbated this phenomenon to dizzying heights. My favorite of the group was the guy who drove his schoolbus into town with an organic garden on top to encourage everyone to grow their own food. You gotta wonder what kind of gas mileage he gets on that mobile victory garden, don't you? I love the dark irony of calculating an environmentalist's carbon footprint.

So what's my dream? It's quite simple: a dog dish. I was contacted via email from a well-placed customer with an even better placed friend who will be meeting with the president this year and he wants to give the first family the gift of a hand-painted dog bowl. I realize that I might be totally jinxing it here by talking about it, but I believe in destiny, not jinxes. If I am meant to be, for the rest of my life, "that guy who made the dog bowl for The President" it will either happen or it won't. Odds are that I will get something in the middle. Yes, I will make that amazing presidential dog bowl and yes it will get sent to the White House. But I'm guessing the odds are that it will be just one of a horde of thousands of Obama dog bowls that will end up getting shipped off to a warehouse somewhere deep inside the Smithsonian Institution. Picture in your mind's eye that final scene in "Citizen Kane" where the Rosebud the Sled gets tossed in the furnace. Such is the stuff of dreams...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Top Ten Favorite Wally Adventures

I can't even estimate how many various adventures my imaginary dog Wally has had over the past twenty-five years. The total number is probably close to a thousand, especially if you count all the various custom orders I've produced. Wally has been commissioned to motorcycle jump over wedding parties and "wrestle" with Hillary Clinton, just to name a few. Today I'm going to take another trip down memory lane and present you with my top ten favorite Wally cartoons of all time.


#10: "Wally finds a way to secure increased funding for NASA". I really like the simplicity of this one, and it was a good simple political joke for the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion in 2003.

#9: Wally comes home to find his house completely redecorated and Martha Stewart waiting in a bathtub filled with whipped cream". When I first came up with this idea, I thought it was too racy to sell in stores. Wrong!

#8: "Jerry Garcia wills Wally the marketing rights to his obscure but memorable exercise video". I did a number of Grateful Dead jokes with Wally in the 80s and 90s, so when Jerry died I was compelled to commemorate his passing. This cartoon was printed in Bill Husted's column in The Denver Post in 1995.

#7: "Wally is diagnosed with a clinical case of caffeine dependency, thus enabling him to park in the handicapped spaces at Starbucks". I suppose the fact that this one is our #1 top selling Wally mug helps, but it's still a really solid joke. I've drawn it on pots well over a thousand times!
#6: "A 'Random Acts of Kindness' seminar inspires Wally to beat up a masochist". This joke was inspired by the witticism: "A masochist is someone who is kind to a sadist".
#5: "Wally makes the mistake of using George W. Bush for his lifeline on 'Who Wants To Be A Millionare". We made a ton of these five years ago, and I still really like the hook in this joke.
#4: "As luck would have it, Wally's trip to Disneyland falls on the same day as The Apocalypse". I love the premise of this one: the happiest place on Earth on the last day on Earth.
#3: "Wally guest stars in a 'Love Is' cartoon". I never could convince my wholesale accounts to carry this one, but I still think it's about as funny as it gets. Perverted, but funny!
#2: "Wally buys the 'Lost in Space' robot on eBay only to have it nag him about how much time he spends shopping online". If I could think of one joke as simple and funny as this every day, I could do a syndicated cartoon in the newspapers.
#1: "Wally experiences a blind date so bad, it causes severe psychological damages". I had a really great guy who worked for me for about a year, and his name was Kyle. One day he told me about a friend of his who took LSD and watched the movie 'Faces of Death'. Yikes! I just took that story one step further here, and I think it's wonderfully dark and weird.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wally becomes a leading economic indicator and Tom discovers "Extreme Craft" (and vice versa)

New cartoon! With depressing economic indicators constantly beating on our brains all the time, it's not surprising that my latest Wally adventure features a connection between the 1930s and the present. I'll be pitching this one to my galleries and retail customers this week, and we'll be drawing it on a bunch of mugs, plates and bowls that will be loaded in the kiln on Wednesday. If you have any specific designs or custom orders you need, be sure and let us know ASAP as Kelly is leaving on her academic world tour later this week. I'll miss working with her but I'm so glad she's going on this amazing trip. Her "Semester at Sea" destinations include: Spain, Morocco, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan and Hawaii. All I can say is, "Wow!"

Good news! My first week on Etsy (see last week's post) had a nice little success. I was chosen by Garth Johnson of Extreme Craft as one of the featured artists of the week and my "Lost in Space" plate got pitched to all Etsy subscribers in a mass emailing. Garth is quite possibly the world's leader in championing weird and wonderful craftspeople and the stuff that they make. I'm totally geeked about his blog that features everything from watermelon bras to people who create their own superhero costumes and weapons. I highly recommend exploring this site and reading his insightful posts. With an MFA in ceramics from Alfred and a lifetime of exploring all facets of the craft world, this guy is my new hero. As the other Garth would say, "I am not worthy!!!"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's 2009! Hello Etsy, goodby Cosmo.

Happy New Year!

I'm putting some of my "beginning of the year" energy into building a new website for my pottery at a social networking/retail craft site called Etsy. I came across it last month while I was reading various pottery blogs and it has been getting good reviews all over. It's dirt cheap: just twenty cents to display each item plus a small fee if you sell through their site. I'm using it primarily as a way to find new customers and steer them to my existing online webstore. As I was building my store, literally within the first few hours of being on Etsy, I received an email from someone who had bought my work back in the 80s and was happy to see that I was still making pots. This is a very good sign! The selection of artists on the site is a younger crowd and I really like the vibe. It's like Facebook for artists and I'm looking forward to seeing how well it pans out in terms of sales. I should have my site completely built by the end of the week at a total cost of under ten dollars. Click this link to check it out!

Over the holidays I read the book, "Clear Blogging" by Bob Walsh. It's a very good overview on the mechanics of blogging and I picked up some excellent tips and ideas. It was great to learn that I did a good job of figuring out how to create a blog by just stumbling through it the past few months. A lot of things in life are just common sense. But I think if I had read this book before I started this endeavor, I might not have jumped into it at all. There is a fair amount of maintenance and diligence needed to have a blog that is read by the masses. So from a business point of view, the jury is still out as to whether or not I should be spending my time doing this. But now I have a better sense for how I should focus my writing so it is something people will want to read once a week. It's pretty clear that my weekly posts should:
  • be really fun to read
  • be focused on the zany aspect of my artwork
  • be shorter so as not to loose my audience
  • use bullet points to make my point, because for some reason you should use a lot of bullet points to make your point
So long, introspective, "talking to myself out loud to myself" posts like this one will just have to go, I guess.

One of the things the book emphasized was to have a "beat" and cover it on a regular basis. This was totally the case with my "Stump the Sage" blog. I started that one on a whim because I really know a lot about rock trivia and I'm a geek for Bret Saunders' trivia shtick every Wednesday morning on KBCO. The blog pretty much wrote itself and it was terribly fun to do. Writing from the perspective of a caustic monkey just fit the subject matter perfectly and I probably could have kept it going if I had much of an audience. But the sad fact is that it just didn't get many hits. The one week that Bret mentioned it on air was good and we got a decent number of viewers. But the next week was dismal and I think the only people who were reading it were people from Clear Channel... DJs and corporate goons. I know this stuff because I have Stat Counter, an amazing service that gives you tons of info on who is visiting your various sites. I sent a fair amount of emails to the KBCO folks to try and get links and such, but they really didn't see it as an asset so I'm letting it drop. So I am sorry to inform you that Cosmo the monkey "died" in a plane crash last week. Life goes on, man. You just gotta deal with it. If this sad news really affects you, I suggest that you leave your thoughts and feelings in the comments section at the "How to Stump the Sage" site (That was a not-so-subtle hint)