The Flaming Lips' chocolate-heart creator talks about the painstaking process of making it tick
By now you've long since been grossed out/freaked out/mesmerized by the seemingly inexhaustible creative genius of Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, the latest example of which, of course, is an anatomically correct chocolate heart that comes signed by the band in custom packaging and complete with an embedded USB drive containing fifteen tracks of music. If you haven't seen it yet, the instagram above of Coyne devouring the delectable heart has been making the rounds this week.
If you didn't snap one up online, you might want to start planning a road trip to OKC, as only a hundred of these specific hearts are in existence, and they're available exclusively in person at a store called Dwelling Spaces. You can also buy a heart online directly from the heart's creator, Dude, Sweet Chocolate -- but as Dude's owner Katherine Clapner told us, her hearts have different packaging, are music-free and not nearly as fun as the Lips' version.
We caught up with Clapner last night at her Dallas store as she was feverishly trying to crank out the rest of the order for the Lips, and she talked about the painstaking process that goes into making the hearts, which are made with nearly two pounds of chocolate; how she bought anatomically rubber hearts off the Internet thinking they were molds; how she first came to collaborate with Coyne and company; and the band's production of another piece of candied anatomy that we should keep an eye out for.
Keep reading for the full interview with Dude, Sweet Chocolate owner Katherine Clapner
Dude, Sweet Chocolate
Westword: What goes into making an anatomically correct heart? What did you use as a reference?
Katherine Clapner: What I did was I found a rubber, anatomically correct heart online, and then I bought it. I bought ten of them, thinking I'd bought a mold, and when they arrived, I was less than thrilled because they weren't a mold. They were like rubber chew toys for dogs.
Oh, no, the story gets a lot better after that. So then I couldn't dip that in chocolate and make a mold because it's not food safe. So then I sent the box of rubber hearts over to a local sculptor named Joshua King and said, "I need a mold," and he said, "Okay, blah, blah, blah," cold weather, mold took forever, and I've already shown Wayne a picture of it. So he's like, "Yeah, I'll take a hundred." I put two hundred as my marker for the company -- which I've only made a hundred so far. I'm terribly, terribly behind. So when Joshua showed up with the mold, there's only one mold.
Oh yeah. So I can only get two and a half -- I can get, like, two per hour, a little over two per hour because they have to sit in the freezer for twenty minutes before I assemble them.
Oh my gosh. That has to take forever. When did you start working on these?
Dude, I'm still working on them. What do you mean, "had to take forever"? -- I'm still living it. So I banged out eighty for the store and ninety for the company to get us up. I drove sixty up to Wayne because his has music in it, and I had to wait for the music, and he has different packaging.
So I drove up sixty to him this past weekend to Oklahoma City, came back, have been here since about 5:30 this morning getting the last of his forty done, and then I've got to prep for a cooking channel thing tomorrow morning, and then go back into making the ones for the store.
We can't even do it first come, first served in the store. We don't have any. I've got a guy who goes to school, who I'm desperately looking to show up. Once he and I hit it, we can knock out about thirty a day between us, with him running two shifts and me running the middle. So once I hit Saturday, I'll have the rest of ours done. But I'm finishing up theirs tonight, and the rest of theirs are going to hit Oklahoma City on Saturday.
And they're being sold exclusively at one particular shop up there?
Yes, it's just Dwelling Spaces. The music, the packaging, the color -- everything is case specific. I have a different packaging. I'm a chocolate store. You know what I mean? So I've gotta do -- even though it's not your normal chocolate -- for a chocolate store, I've still gotta go in like I'm a chocolate company.
So are you capping it at two hundred, then?
Mine are capped at two hundred. Theirs are capped at a hundred, of which I think that they probably...and they just finished up the skulls. They've also got red skulls with pink filling with music in it up there, as well. So they've got all of those.
Now, you didn't make those?
Yeah, I made those. I made them both.
Did the same sort of painstaking effort go in to making those?
Oh no, man, I can crank those puppies out until the cows come home. Those things are easy. Like, I've got an order for eighty of those for a friend of mine from New York, and I was like, "Eighty, no problem." I can do it in my sleep. Bring more skulls. I love that one.
So did you actually embed the music into the hearts?
Yeah. Wayne sent up music. The music and the packaging and all that stuff is all Wayne. I just...you know, he likes certain things. So I work on finding something that's in that genre or whatever. I'll shoot him a picture, and he'll say, "A little bit of this, a little bit of that." His is music that is exclusive to him, packaging that is exclusive to him.
I think the heart is the only one that... like, I do skulls, but mine are completely different than his. His are a lot more fun. Like, we've done rainbow brain filled ones and stuff like that. I only do white chocolate for him. I don't do it for anybody else. That's the only thing that I can color, but that is exclusively for him. He's a freaking cool guy, man. Why would I not do that? He's fun to work with.
So you guys met on a plane I heard?
Yeah, we met on a plane.
How long ago was that?
Middle of December, beginning to middle of December.
So within the last couple of months?
I'm assuming you struck up a conversation and told him that you were a chocolate maker...
I'm not shy. I walked up and asked, "Is your name Wayne?"
Did you really?
Yes, of course I did.
And he's so freaking nice. Because, you know, you can walk up to somebody like that on a plane and they'll be like, "Oh, yeah, whatever." But he's a super, duper nice guy.
So when did you guys come up with the idea to do the heart?
I saw it, and I shot him a picture of it, and then I started playing with it. He goes, "Play with it, and see what you come up with." So I shot him some photographs, and then he sent me some music and said, "Can you put music in it?" and I said, "Yeah, I think I can," you know. So he'll say, "Can you do it," and then he'll say, "How are you going to do it?" And my answer is usually, "I have no idea."
Now, were you doing stuff like this before?
No, no. This is just...He's very inspiring. By nature of what I do for the company, I do the same stuff over and over and over again. And so, for me, this is really nice because it's completely different. I mean, it's painstaking -- I'm going to be thrilled when this batch is done, but the only reason being is that I'm behind on my own, and that's my own fault.
So have you already sold out of the batch that you're offering online?
No, no, no. We're going to go with two hundred. We haven't even made them all yet. Those will available for purchase -- I think, if I could guess -- around the thirteenth or fourteenth. The problem is I don't even have any right now to sell.
So are you taking pre-orders?
Yes, we're taking pre-orders. I have to. I have the capability to take on orders. We haven't capped yet.
These are obviously different from his?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. His are a lot more fun.
Well, you have a fantastic story. I love the name of the store.
Kudos. I mean, are you kidding me? I freaking love the band.
So you were already a fan before?
I was a wicked fan to begin with, and he was like, "Do you want to do something for the Flaming Lips?" I said, "Of course I would." That's a whole other thing I get to do with what I do, taking imagery that he has -- because his brain is so incredible -- to take imagery that he has and transform it into something you can eat and that tastes good.
So have you actually eaten one?
I eat this stuff all day long. Are you kidding me? I mean, it's tastes great. I use really good chocolate, so it tastes like great chocolate. It's a little over two pounds.
So has your phone been ringing off the hook since word got out?
It's driving me crazy. I was like, "I'm only taking calls from press today," which I can't believe those words are even coming out of my mouth. I'm like, "Really, I actually said that?" That's so asinine.
So you never saw this coming?
No, no, no, I didn't. I mean because it's all about them. It's not really about me. I just take somebody's idea and try to bring it to life. That's what I do.
Well, it sounds like you've been successful.
There you go.
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