About five years ago, my friend Tro from Littlest Lovecraft (of whom more another week) featured an awesome HP Lovecraft themed mug in the video for one of her Kickstarter projects. I very much wanted to get hold of one, so she pointed me in the direction of Jonathan Chaffin, the creator of the mug in question (which had also been a Kickstarter project some time previously.) I discovered he had in fact made two Lovecraftian “tiki” mugs and they were available from his website, Horror in Clay. (At this point I didn’t know what “tiki” was! So much still to learn. Would you like to know more? Wikipedia here.)
The mugs were well priced, but shipping to the UK from the USA for them was pricey. (Breakable and heavy items take a bit of transporting!) I decided to go for it, though, and took the plunge buying both at once. (Cheaper per-item shipping that way at least.) When the parcel arrived I was taken aback at the attention to detail and care that had gone into it. The experience was much like I would imagine unpacking a museum exhibit retrieved from storage might be. (Imagine all those crates at the end of the first Indiana Jones film…) Each mug was bubblewrapped, inside its own box, and then those boxes in turn safely in “packing peanuts” in the bigger box. There were also some brilliant extra items hidden away in the box; some Cthulhu themed coins and cleverly designed cocktail recipe cards and drinksmats to go with each mug.
I shared some photos of the mugs with some of my online friends and, by now, Tro had introduced me to Jonathan online so he saw them too. The first ever set I took used “Captain Morgan” brand rum as set dressing. Someone online commented that surely Kraken brand rum would be more appropriate and that made another connection that I’ll also cover another day!
The next Horror in Clay Kickstarter project was a new mug, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado.” This was the first project I had a chance to be involved with as a backer and this was a lot of fun, but before that mug arrived there was a fun side-project that was a perfect mix of my new interest in his mugs and my existing work in the scare attractions industry. He created the “Dark Lantern” mug, based on the story and character of “the Collector” – one of the signature monsters at Atlanta’s “Netherworld” haunted house. Two versions of the mug were available, a blue one that anyone could order online and a “bone”/brown version that could only be purchased from the Netherworld gift store. On the strength of the photos I’d already shared, I persuaded Jonathan that it would be worth sending me both variants and I strove to make this worth his while with the “Dark Lantern photo tour” of some of the UK’s leading Halloween events, who are clients of mine. The slideshow below shows the different events the rarer bone edition mug visited, many of them winners/multiple-winners of industry awards.
By now, a nice working pattern had established. I’d get occasional messages from Jonathan saying “any chance of a photo to promote the mugs for a blog from the drinks mat makers” or other fun crossovers and little challenges. It’s always a pleasure to be asked and I enjoy coming up with images that meet these requirements. Seen below are examples taken for use on the Geek Mom blog, the Tiki with Ray blog (and also used for a steampunk convention) and Printglobe’s blog.
I also doubled up with a Littlest Lovecraft photoshoot, giving a "fish guy" from the fictional town of Innsmouth a chance to drink from the Innsmouth Fogcutter mug.
(With thanks to Iain "Flash" Leighton for modelling and Emma "Thrones" Procter for makeup.)
Another crossover opportunity came when I was shooting promotional photos for Sean Rouse of Regions Beyond candles. Sean also loves tiki and so was happy to pose with one of the Netherworld mugs in full zombie mode!
(Thanks again to Emma Procter for makeup.)
My special photo to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Horror in Clay was very popular!
I’ve keenly followed all the Horror in Clay projects and am proud to be one of only a few collectors in the world to have a full set of the mugs, including a special one created for the Pseudopod podcast’s 10th anniversary.
There’s also a different colour “Hyperborean” variant on the original Cthulhu mug and a newer, purple version of the Innsmouth Fogcutter (the original green variety now being sold out.)
The tales of Edgar Allan Poe were the inspiration for a second mug, based on the terrible ape from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
Last year Jonathan organised Inuhele, a home tiki bar tour in Atlanta. The event had its own special mug and, whilst technically not a Horror in Clay, I couldn’t resist adding it to the collection. Partly from the inevitable collector’s need for completism but mainly because it’s such a great looking piece.
This week, the most recent mug arrived. The “Pallid Mask” is inspired by Robert W. Chambers novella “The King in Yellow” a set of stories that has a very Lovecraftian feel and was indeed praised by H.P. Lovecraft himself as “one of the greatest weird tales ever written.” It came with the now-customary array of exciting extras, proving itself a worthy member of the Horror in Clay family.
(Yes that's right. The "Tiki Cthulhu Business" pin badge GLOWS IN THE DARK. I do love things that glow in the dark!)
Jonathan and his wife Allison also run MugCrate, which is a variation on the "Loot Crate" mystery box theme, only each box contains tiki cocktail items. The Crates are always amazing value and well worth a look if you love great cocktails and awesome barware. (Not every mug is a Horror in Clay, but they curate some brilliant items from across the world of tiki!)
Next month sees Inuhele return, so if you love these mugs, tiki cocktails and having fun (and you’re in Atlanta, which sadly I most definitely am not) then do check out the website for full details.
Last April Fool’s Day, Horror in Clay announced the “Scotch-O-Nut” – a plastic beaker shaped like a coconut – as an alternative to well crafted ceramic mugs. The idea was sufficiently off the wall that it took a while for people to realise that this was an actual novelty product they could buy! I have to say, despite its comedy origins, I am rather taken with my Scotch-O-Nuts and think they’re great fun.
One irony of collecting all these brilliant cocktail mugs for me is that, as a lifelong teetotaller, I won’t ever enjoy a properly crafted alcoholic cocktail from them. However I’ve found a perfect solution that has been well received by all who have encountered it – Horror in Clay “milkshake madness!”