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Calamityware

American Made Since 2013
2014 Crafts Finalist

Don Moyer

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Make meals more fun. A series of calamities threaten the tranquility of traditional porcelain dinner plates that are beautiful, useful and funny.
Crafts, Ceramics, Pottery & Glass
Finalist

Tell us about your business.

I love to draw. The drawings I like best make me laugh. When I started redrawing traditional Willow-pattern plates I felt an urge to add a pterodactyl or volcano. People who saw my drawings urged me to reproduce them on porcelain plates and Calamityware was born. These plates are designed and decorated in the US and shipped worldwide. Some people hang their plates on the wall but most use them to serve meals. Many describe the thrill of discovery as a guests finishes their lasagna and realize the plate's design is unconventional.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

I draw each new plate design in my notebook. No special workspace is needed—just a comfortable chair and coffee. When I have a design that I like, I make refinements and produce a digital version of the design at full size which is used to produce transfers using special vitreous inks. In the ceramics workshop, a decorator (Kelly), carefully applies the transfers to blank porcelain plates. Each plate is fired in the kiln for 4 hours to permanently fuse the image to the blank. Finished plates are food safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe.

What inspires you?

I have a deep respect of traditional Blue Willow-pattern plates—a design classic that's been going strong for more than 300 years. But why not add the excitement that modern audiences crave? To create a new design in this series, I study traditional plates and then sketch my own version in the spirit of traditional designs—but not copies. The conventional elements are there (pagoda, bridge, exotic plants, etc.) but always in a fresh way. I also like to include a few design surprises to reward a careful observer.

What makes your business stand out?

My goal is to offer products that are beautiful, utilitarian, and funny. What a great combination. The world would be a better place if there were more products that offered all three.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Consider using crowd funding to get started. I used Kickstarter to offer my Calamityware plates to the world. This approach eliminates the need to invest in expensive inventory at the start. Instead, Kickstarter allows an entrepreneur to describe a project, enroll sponsors, and collect funds before initiating production. If sponsors don't materialize, you lose nothing and can move on to your next idea.

What does American Made mean to you?

Jobs for my neighbors. Get up in the morning and make something beautiful and useful. Make something with pride that people want to have in their homes. Then pause and have a cup of coffee. I'm committed to extending the series to at least six plate designs. If interest continues, there will be 12 designs.

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