The exciting conclusion to our two-part interview.
Last time we started the conversation with Jonathan and Allison Chaffin about their company Horror in Clay. When last we left our Tiki teaching tutors, Jonathan was about to reveal what his favorite piece of swag that is not a mug is among the collections they have created…
J: Way up there are the challenge coins. I’m a big fan of the glow in the dark swizzles we did for the Netherworld mug. Also the glow in the dark shirt. Part of that is because I have never in my life owned a long sleeve shirt with print on the sleeve. I got to work with Netherworld to get that one and it has my design and bones on it. Also the Gilman house bar towel, which is a perpetual nightmare to keep in stock. Really, whatever collection I did last has whatever seemed shiny to me at the moment.
What would you say to a horror fan who knows Cthulhu is a thing from your mug or on a t-shirt but has never read Lovecraft? Where would you tell them to start?
J: “Pickman’s Model” is a quick read and it will give you a sense of everything that people love about Lovecraft. The world building is present with the hidden world of monsters, the relationship between art and madness, the relationship of the worlds seen and unseen, and the gruesome things that happen in between. Also, that will usually come in a book of short stories that will include other excellent quick reads that will be gateway experiences like “The Wild Music of Erich Zann”. I love that one.
A lot of the stories that Metallica based songs on are great. You can track down those stories. A lot of what catapulted Lovecraft into the pop culture in the way that it did was Dungeons &Dragons, Metallica, and the fact that he had great titles that made great schlocky movies. I’m looking at you “Re-animator”. Then definitely read “The Call of Cthulhu” and “Shadows over Innsmouth”. They’re a little longer but worth it.
Recently we actually had someone who did this. He was a Tiki collector who was reading the cards we send with our mugs and he asked “did this really happen”. You see this a lot with the Necronomicon. People don’t always know that is a created thing. He said to me:
“I’m reading this stuff and I know you recommended ‘Call of Cthulhu’ so I’m reading it. I’m having to read it with a dictionary, which I haven’t had to do in a long time.” I think anyone in nerd culture can appreciate that kind of challenge. It’s like reading “A Clockwork Orange” in fifth grade and not knowing a lot of the words are made up, or Russian.
T: Or made up Russian.
J: Yes! (to Allison) my little Dvotchka, did you want to answer that one?
A: No, I think you covered it.
T: As you know, Geek Taco specializes in geek culture. Horror and Cthulhu are certainly geeky but that is only half of what you do. Would you say that Tiki is geeky?
A: Oh yeah (laughs)
J: Short answer: yes. It has the same sort of passion and seismic rifts that you can run afoul of. For some people, Tiki is a thing that happened from 1940 to 1960 and it is a historical discipline. For some people fezzes are cool and for others are verboten. For some people, if it has never been used in a Tiki bar then it is not a Tiki mug.
A: I have sat in on over hour-long conversations on what is or is not a Tiki mug with some people who talk about this a lot. Then you get into the cocktails recipes that are Tiki or not. Then you go down the geek of food and beverage side. You can do food, beverages, then clothing.
Fezzes, shirts, leis. Are leis Tiki or are they Hawaiian? Is it all intermingled? It is very different depending on which part of Tiki you are talking about or even which island you’re talking about.
J: Part of it is how far back you trace the artistic traditions. When you think about it, American Tiki is its own creation. It is not really directly from anywhere but takes elements from everywhere. Within Tiki you have Beachcomber style, Nautical style, Trader style, Polynesian Pop, Pre-Tiki, Mod, Post-modern Tiki, Kustom Kulture, and Tiki Devolution. Devolution is when all the stuff from 50’s and 60’s starting rotting and bar owners in the 70’s started slapping a coat of paint on it. So you could have a disco and the bar has a Tiki out front so they slapped disco colors on it. By the mid-80’s many of the the wooden Tikis from the 50’s had fallen down so the Devolution period is when you get Party City tacky Tiki looking stuff.
A: Go down to Daytona Beach and look at all the A-frame hotels.
J: But some of that is legit!
A: It may be original but what they’ve done to it is not in some cases. It used to be but what is out front is no longer. I went to a talk recently where they talked about the history of the Mai Tai and it went on for over an hour so there was a lot to geek out about there.
J: Sven Kirsten has written several good books about the history of the movement. Tim Glazner, Swanky Tim C, has just done a history of the Mai Kai atin Ft. Lauderdale, which is the grandest existing Polynesian palace.
There’s a huge geek rabbit hole you can go down. A lot of people who are into Tiki would not describe themselves as geeks. It’s kind of like football fans. They are geeks with all the stats passion but they won’t say they are geeks.
T: They do cosplay as their favorite players…
A: Many Tiki collectors can quote you the value of their collection and list off all the pieces they have.
J: And there are resources for that like Ooga-Mooga.com
(discussion of how to pronounce Ooga Mooga ensues)
A: Everything in Tiki has multiple pronunciations depending on who you learned it from.
J: Except for the ones that are right.
T: What can we expect next from Horror in Clay? Do you have any special announcements coming?
J: We definitely have something big and shiny in store for Dragon*Con in August, and then there might be more announcements soon, but Dragon*Con we know about. That one is already on the books.
A: There is an anniversary mug coming out this summer for our five year anniversary. It’s not necessarily a new mug.
J: We’re doing something special for our five year anniversary.
T: Thanks guys, this was great!