Online Ceramics on the crazy shirt that started it all
PLUS how to smoke DMT from a potato & what it's like to be a CHILD CLOWN
Yo damn what’s up — today’s newsletter is another Blackbird Spyplane ALL-TIMER, & we r sending it out a day early since tmw might be … distracting 🥴 🤷♀️
Online Ceramics — they r young GRAPHIC-APPAREL GOATS who make SICK, CONSISTENTLY SURPRISING SLAPPERS … and as drop upon drop demonstrates, that’s not gonna change any time soon !!
Elijah Funk and Alix Ross met at the Columbus College of Art and Design in their native Ohio — 2 art-school kids on their conceptual s**t who listened to noise-rock, punk, and the Grateful Dead. They moved to Los Angeles and founded Online Ceramics there in 2016, serving up hand-made tees at Dead shows on “Shakedown Street”…
In the 4 years since, they’ve broadened their vision without losing sight of the funny-anarchic-macabre kindvibes that made the brand a hit early on … They’ve designed instant-classic “cinephile bangers” commemorating Uncut Gems (below left) & Midsommar; apparel for SAVANTS OF SOUND like Weyes Blood, Oneohtrixpointnever and John Mayer (below right); created “splinter brands” like Mushroom House, Haunted Wagon, and Turtle River; and broadened their range of motifs to include … AGRICULTURE. “We were initially conceptual artists, so now it’s, ‘How can we bring that thinking into the clothing world,” Elijah says.
Through it all, certain CORE PRINCIPLES have remained unchanged: 1. Ego-death is cool, 2. spooky energies are everywhere, 3. Earth is beautiful and will, like each & every one of us, one day perish — but before those things happen we got 2 protect it at all costs!!
Since we here at Blackbird Spyplane r GLUTTONS FOR INTEL aka the No. 1 source across all media for “unbeatable recon” on dope under-the-radar joints, we hit up the “OC BOYZ” and asked them each to tell us about a unique personal possession they hold near & dear…
They texted over some pics, and we got them on the Spyphone to demand answers…
Blackbird Spyplane: Elijah, this shirt is great. It didn’t wind up being yr “final choice” as far as what u wanted to talk about, but please tell us about it anyway …
Elijah Funk: “So this is an eBay find from right when I moved here and Alix and I were first toying with the idea of making shirts. We were unhappy with the Grateful Dead shirts that were available to purchase at the time that weren’t vintage, and when I found this, I was, like, ‘This is the craziest graphic I’ve ever seen — it’s so archaic and strange.’ I don’t know much about it but it’s from the fall tour of ’84.
“The seller was asking $60, so I offered $50, and she sent me this whole thing back about how someone in her family made the shirt and I was insulting her family. I was, like, ‘Whoa, sorry,’ and forgot about it. And two weeks later she messaged me, like, ‘How about $55?’
“I bought it, and it was basically the genesis of us wanting to do these kind of punk, spooky Dead shirts that no one else was doing. I’d done a couple things that were Dead-adjacent but that didn’t have Dead iconography — just Dead lyrics with, like, imagery that was more in line with noise and punk.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Wow, have you ever talked about this shirt before?
Alix Ross: “And I’ve never come across this shirt any other time — just the one Elijah has.”
Elijah: “I’ve never seen it again, either, and I’ve seen it all by now. But this is what fully inspired our first bootlegs.”
Alix: “The application of the punk aesthetic to the Grateful Dead was obvious all of a sudden.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Do u actually rock it or keep it filed away?
Elijah: “I wear it to bed sometimes, but it’s like a XXXL — it doesn’t go outside.”
Blackbird Spyplane: So, Alix, you sent over a picture of an old potato that you once smoked DMT from. What’s the story?
Alix: “I kind of like got low-key addicted to DMT when I was in college, like around 2012, when my friends were making it — then I moved to Maine and went all over the place for a few years, and the whole time I was traveling I couldn’t find DMT anywhere. It got popular in the last two years, but before then no one knew what it was unless you were, like, a festival kid.
“So finally I found some after moving to L.A., probably in 2016, and it was the first time I’d had it since 2012. I was so stoked, but I don’t smoke weed or anything so I didn’t have a way to smoke it. So I decided to make a pipe, like, ‘I need to smoke this s**t right now’ — and I saw these potatos on my counter and was like, ‘Dude.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: Is it easy to make a pipe out of a potato?
Alix: “It’s really complicated. You have to carefully, like, take a Bic pen and shove it through the middle, and then do it again at a perpendicular angle with another pen, and if you don’t hit the right spot you have to keep messing with it. But I got it to work and blasted off with the potato and never got rid of it. I was like, ‘This potato is laced with DMT, it’s an interesting object’ — the buds are brown and old now, but when they were flowering it was, like, ‘Oh my god, the DMT is making these beautiful flowers.’ Even though the potato would have grown those anyway.”
Elijah: “The flowers were kind of fractal.”
Alix: “They still are, now that I’m staring at it. Every now and then I’ll suck on it and taste the DMT — I’m sucking it now, and it’s a nice, flowery taste. But it’s straight-up petrified. It looks like a piece of bark.”
Elijah: “I remember when you made it — it’s right when Online Ceramics started. I came over that day and tried DMT off the potato. I didn’t blast off, though.”
Alix: “You’re the only other person who’s smoked out of this potato.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s yr word from the wise to a mushie-lover about taking DMT??
Alix: “My word from the wise is, ‘If DMT finds you, you should do it.’ It’s something like, if someone has it and says, Do you want to smoke it, you should smoke it, because essentially the DMT is asking you to smoke it. But if it never comes into your radius, it might not be for you.”
Elijah: “I came to DMT later. I dig it. These days it’s really difficult to sign up a whole day to mushrooms — DMT carries you further, but you can regroup in, like, 30 minutes.”
Alix: “I used to smoke it on my lunch breaks.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Okay & finally, this picture is adorable as hell. How old are u here, Elijah?
Elijah: “2 or 3. Basically, long story short, I chose this photo because I was a clown when I was little, instead of going to preschool. My grandmother was a clown, so that was my education: I’d tag along and go be a clown with her, so that was my formative experience of being a child. It’s informed my perspective and I think it informs the playful, clowning nature of Online Ceramics.
“My first memory is my watching my grandmother put on clown make-up in her dining room, while I’m on the floor. I remember the smell of the make-up. It was strange in a way, but also totally normal, because this is my caretaker. So I’d get rolled around in a wagon at nursing homes, helping her entertain sick people, I’d be in parades — I was this little happy baby clown.
“My grandmother actually died on Halloween, and we were never a Halloween family, but I think she might have done it intentionally — like, she saw the humor in dying on Halloween. Since then it was game on — celebrating Halloween, getting haunted by ghosts, watching scary movies. A few years ago I took my mother to this abandoned insane asylum in Ohio for Mother’s Day — she was like, ‘My aunt died here.’ I was like, ‘Jesus.’
“But it all goes back to being a clown with my grandma, and her dying on Halloween — that was the start of that entire viewpoint.”
-Read our other conversations about rare gems with such LUMINARIES OF THE ARTS & JAWN SCIENCES as André 3000, Ezra Koenig, Jerry Seinfeld, Nathan Fielder, Rashida Jones, Yung Jake and Emily Bode at the full “Blackbird Spyplane Interview” Archive.