Cthulhu and Tiki. Two great tastes that go great together?
You might not think so before you see the signature tiki mug from Horror in Clay in all of its glazed emerald glory. After three triumphant Kickstarter campaigns and five whirlwind years touring the Con circuit and spreading madness, I managed to catch up with Allison and Jonathan Chaffin, the couple behind the clay.
Tang: First of all, let me congratulate you on your recent success with your MugCrate campaign on Indiegogo.
Both: Thank you!
Jonathan: We’re a couple backers shy of 200% funded after only a few more days (Ed. Note: as of publication MugCrate has passed 200% funding and will be open till June 5, 2016).
Allison: We fully funded in a few hours.
J: Everyone should go get a year’s worth of MugCrates
A: Everyone who is a Tiki fan or who wants to be a Tiki fan should get it
J: No. Everyone.
T: Every man, woman, and child on Earth?
T: I’m more of a horror geek myself and just have the Cthulhu Tiki Mug and a few of your other mugs. Would you say MugCrate is more for a beginner like me or more for dedicated fans of Tiki?
A: MugCrate is definitely beginner friendly. It’s a great way to start learning about different artists and things that are part of Tiki culture. Each box will include a mug as well as information about the artist, where it was produced. The box will also have things that come from other Tiki artists whether it be a print, a magnet, or a pendant. All of these will have information about the artist and links to their site so if you really like a design you can of course go to that artist to get more things.
The box will also include recipes for Tiki drinks so if they are just getting into Tiki drinks there will also be new things to try. There will also be information about events that are going on in the Tiki world. So it’s sort of, here’s a little bit of Tiki culture in a box each quarter.
J: To take this back and talk directly to someone who is a horror fan to start with: obviously we are geeks. We are geeks about Tiki culture. Part of what’s fascinating about both geek culture and horror fandom and really any fandom, is that you have this one idea that people are in love with that is then expressed and manifested in works of art, architecture, environment, and experiences. So our hope is to encapsulate that experience so that people who are new to Tiki culture can learn a deeper level to appreciate it on.
Just like people who discover Lovecraft through “In the Mouth of Madness” or a plush Chthulhu can then seek out the deeper levels there. What is Cthulhu? What is Lovecraft? Let me read and research about that.
So if someone is saying “I know Tiki mugs are a thing and they’re related to cocktails” then what we want to do is to help people explore from there to mid-century modern American architecture and Polynesian Pop and some of the deeper themes of escapism that you find related to Tiki lifestyle.
There’s another horror crossover in that Tiki was big in the 50’s and 60’s. At the same time that there was a cartoon monster/custom culture/low brow/Big Daddy Ed Roth/Robert Williams in a kind of goofy, kind of fun way. So that’s another point of access for a horror fan coming to Tiki mugs. There are artists out there, and I wish I had the skill, that draw Cthulhu driving an Ed Roth hot rod. So that’s some more pop culture fun.
T: Speaking of horror, you haven’t just got Cthulhu on your mugs. You’ve also got the Cask of Amontillado and an official licensed Netherworld Haunted House mug. Is there some corner of horror that you think might be too obscure and would be a dream mug that you would love to do but no one has ever heard of it.
J: I’m going to answer that by talking about obscurity. People are familiar with our Cask of
Amontillado barrel mug references Edgar Allen Poe. It will be a smaller subset of people that will realize the inscription on the mug “Bevo alla dua vita lunga” means “I drink to your long life” in Italian. Still fewer are going to realize that the number mark on the mug is a reference to the solera method of distilling rum and that the number itself is an answer to quote that is in Italian. The number of staves and bricks on the back of the mug are significant if you know numerology.
All of that is to say that the rabbit hole goes very deep. I’m hoping to walk people to where they are understanding a clear reference to an Ambrose Bierce short story that I really like. I think I know one person who might get it right now.
That sounds awesome. What about non-horror? Is there something that is neither horror nor traditional Tiki for MugCrate, perhaps a licensed property that you would love to do?
J: The Inhumanoids.
J: Oh yeah, I would do a five mug set based on each of the Inhumanoids from the Saturday morning cartoon. There’s a Cthulhu gateway drug with all their monsters.
A: The cartoon?
J: Oh yeah, with lots of references to 80’s pop culture.
A: Isn’t that still horror?
J: Oh yeah… we could do that as Horror in Clay.
A: You’ve made a big deal out of the idea that all the mugs need to be based on literature.
J: I could make that argument. We’d have to do some other ones first but we could get there.
T: I think they had a comic book but not a book
J: They could have had a book with overarching themes of environmentalism and destruction. Well, let’s leave that on the side for a moment though that would be a dream. I would love to do an owl mug rooted in the style of the Pacific Northwest and related to “Twin Peaks”. I’d love to do Dr. Jacoby’s official Twin Peaks Tiki Mug. He had a mug but I wouldn’t want to do that one. I’d like for David Lynch to license that to me. You?
A: I tend to like more of the pretty and colorful mugs. Maybe Powerpuff Girl mugs, which would be awful but so much fun. I don’t think about which mugs we do since that’s not my job.
J: You have to respect the form. You can’t bend it until it breaks. There are some people who would say that Horror in Clay bends it till it breaks. After a while it’s not a Tiki mug or even a cocktail mug till you just have a ceramic drinking cup. Where you draw that line is very personal.
You can get some hate mail over that issue (laughs).
A: I’d like to see more fun and colorful nautical mugs. Bai Tiki is a great example. She does pretty floofy fluffy Tiki mugs if you can imagine a Tiki mug being like that. She brings a very female feel to it, which is very nice. Munktiki’s stuff is nice but it is very angular and I want to see more flowing lines that go with the flowers and the culture. So many Tiki mugs are based on what could be made out of wood so they get very angular and I’d like to see a different style.
T: I know you can’t pick a favorite among your mugs but what about the other things you make? There are lots of swag like the map of Pickman’s Cove, the jigger, and other neat things. If we put the mugs on the side, what is your favorite piece of swag that you’ve gotten to make?
J: I want Allison to answer first.
A: You know my answer don’t you? I got to recreate my favorite backpack. When Jonathan was working at Hooters he brought home swag from Hooters with the Hooters logo it. One of it was a canvas bag that I could throw in the washing machine. When we were looking for something to produce with the Innsmouth mug, I threw out the idea of the bag. I thought our design would look great on a bag. So I got to source the bag that Hooters made and we got the last five of that color made because the company was discontinuing them. Now I have one and it is my bag and no one else can have it. I was very happy to have the bag…without the Hooters logo.
J: We marketed it as the “Con Bag of Holding” before Google turned up other things labeled bag of holding. Ours is more awesome though.
A: So what’s yours?
What is Jonathan’s favorite? What is the Devolution in Daytona beach? Find out in Part 2, coming soon!
In the meantime, check out Horror in Clay at http://shop.horrorinclay.com/.