Calamityware artist Don Moyer sketching.

At first glance, Calamityware plates look like any other set of dining ware. Creator Don Moyer bases his designs on the classic Willow pattern you’ve seen a hundred times before—an Asian influenced paradise complete with pagodas, babbling streams and perhaps a bridge or koi. There’s an intricate weaved pattern circling the scene, and the plate itself.

Take a closer look, and you’ll notice a giant robot busting into the tableau, moments away from disrupting the peaceful scene.

Moyer’s Calamityware is a tongue-in-cheek approach to classic porcelain plates that’s taken Kickstarter by storm to become an online phenomenon.

Moyer has always been a doodler with a sense of humor. “I always have my sketchbook handy and try to draw a little every day,” Moyer explains. “I post my sketches on Flickr. The drawings I like best make me laugh.”

Calamityware’s first plate. Courtesy of Don Moyer.
Calamityware’s first plate. Courtesy of Don Moyer.

When Moyer inherited a classic Willow pattern plate, he decided to sketch up his spin on the classic style. “When I finished my drawing I decided to add a pterodactyl for excitement. Later I drew more plates with other calamities—giant robots, UFOs, sea monsters. When I posted my drawings, fans of my Flickr page kept saying they wished my drawings were on real dinner plates.”

At the suggestion of his Flickr fans, Moyer created a Kickstarter for his first Calamityware plate.

“The first plate showed the typical Asian paradise with the added menace of a squadron of flying monkeys. That project attracted enough supporters to justify a production run. I followed that experiment with five more plates, ‘BADbandanas,” and a letterpress print with sea monsters who look like they’ve escaped from an early-Renaissance map. So far, each of these projects has hit its funding goal and moved into production.”

A close up of the “Things-could-be-worse” mug design. Courtesy of Don Moyer.
A close up of the “Things-could-be-worse” mug design. Courtesy of Don Moyer.

Moyer’s latest Calamityware Kickstarter project is a line of mugs to complement the plates. Moyer calls the design the “Things-Could-Be-Worse” Mug, “because it features multiple calamities to remind users that no matter how badly their day is going, things could be much worse. They could be pestered by robots, plagued by giant frogs or inconvenienced by UFOs.”

Moyer’s Kickstarter campaign has already far surpassed its initial $25,000 goal, and will end on Friday, July 31. After successful Kickstarter campaigns, Moyer sells the pieces on his website.

Calamityware is quirky and creative but also created using traditional artisanal practices at a Kristoff workshop in Poland. Continuously creating porcelain products for over 180 years, the untraditional designs are manufactured in a very traditional way.

After the blank plates are pressed from various clays, Moyer explains, “a transfer, like a decal, is made of my drawing using vitreous inks that will melt and become glass-like at high temperature. Skilled decorators apply the transfer to each plate, let it dry, and send it to the kiln to be fired for several hours.”

Moyer is pleased with his dining ware, but he doesn’t think Calamityware will stop there. “My goal now is to pursue self-inflicted projects until I’m too frail to lift a pencil,” jokes Moyer.

Moyer with his BADbandana design, Courtesy of Don Moyer.

“There are nearly 100 new projects that I think it would be fun to complete before I kick the bucket. I’m currently working on some Hawaiian-ish shirts, dragon-infested cookie jars, nearly impossible jigsaw puzzles and more Calamityware plates with fresh calamities.”

Although it first started as a side project, Moyer now dedicates himself full-time to Calamityware. Previously, Moyer co-founded Pittsburgh-based planning and design firm, ThoughtForm. Moyer has spent years helping clients solve business problems through visual solutions.

Nowadays, Moyer sees himself as his only customer. “My creative approach is self-indulgent. It’s all about pampering me. I draw every day in my sketchbook. These explorations are purely goofing off. I don’t have any deadlines or clients. I’m free to experiment with anything that intrigues me.”

With national recognition from Martha Stewart, Mashable and countless design blogs, it’s safe to say others are intrigued as well.

Visit Calamityware to see more of Moyer’s designs, or contribute to his Kickstarter campaign.

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a writer, blogger, and social media marketer working in tech and startups in Pittsburgh. She loves local craft beer and a well-crafted pun.