Arts and Culture

Tom Edwards on Wallyware, the unofficial O.J. trial pottery, and a year of free ice cream

Page 3 of 3

How would you describe Wally to someone who doesn't understand or who's never heard of you?

That's always hard, because Wally sort of started as this nebulous joke. I always intended for it to have this weird mystery to it. What's Wally, who is he? I would describe Wally as simply this dog that has adventures and he can be anywhere or do anything. He's a little character that basically hangs out with people and has adventures and there's always a joke. A good Wally cartoon is always one that's like a little movie in a one-panel cartoon. I always try to have the picture be the high part of the movie. It's meant to be perfectly cryptic or unusual. I've had people at craft fairs walk up to me and say, "Do your kids draw this stuff?" And I have to tell them, "No, I draw it, it's my work, it just looks like a kid drew it." [Laughs.]

Demi Moore wore a Wally pin in The Seventh Sign, right?

Wally really did have a part in that movie. She had a Wally pin on her raincoat, and there's this scene where she's being chased through a church and there's all these nice closeups of her and Wally. This was before Ghost, when Demi Moore became the patron saint of potters because of that scene in the movie, so I always felt like I've had a connection to her.

What are some of your favorite adventures that Wally has had over the years?

The ones that I like a lot are the ones that are incredibly transient and only work for a short period of time. I did one a long time ago when Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland were slated to get married and then they called it off. So I made this wedding plate that just had Wally in a tuxedo raising a glass and it said, "Happy Wedding Julia and Kiefer, love Wally" and then I painted on a sale sticker that said "Sale: Half off." And we only sold those for a very short period, but what I love about the design is more than one gallery had someone come in who was a friend of Julia Roberts and they actually gave Julia Roberts that plate. Those are the ones that I really like, because they're so weird. A hundred years from now, people won't even know what it's about. You'll have to look it up on the Internet to figure out what the joke is.

It's interesting to think about people looking back at your pots and not remembering what the joke was even about anymore. When you cut a comic panel out of the newspaper, it yellows and fades and doesn't really have a function beyond the joke, but a pot is a tangible object you can drink coffee out of forever.

They're kind of stuck with them, aren't they? You can throw that comic off your refrigerator but that plate, man, you've got it for life or you send it to the thrift store. An e-mail I got just today was from a guy who had never seen my work and he was in a thrift store in Hastings, Ohio, and he found "Wally goes to a punk rock nightclub," which is one that I haven't done in over twenty years, one of my very first designs. And he found this mug, thought it was hilarious, and then he looked it up on Google and was really thrilled to find my website and so he sent me this really long e-mail talking about how he'd never seen my work and found this mug. I love that. I love that people still wonder, "What the hell is this?" And then it compels them to write me an e-mail. He didn't buy anything, he just wrote me an e-mail. But it made my day.

Something that strikes me about your work is how different it is than other pieces in fine art galleries. They have, like, centerpiece pottery that's way too expensive to eat off of while yours is very different -- you can put it in the dishwasher or the microwave and it's not super-expensive. Was it a conscious decision to make your pottery more functional? No, I don't think I ever psyched it out that much. I always just liked the fact that instead of some really fancy vase that you look at and put on a pedestal, I like the idea of my stuff traveling around and being used. I just would prefer to have my work of art be on something you drink coffee out of. I am sort of like the class clown in the fine craft gallery. You go to these galleries and it's these beautiful pieces of blown glass, this really nice stuff, and then in the corner there's just the goofy stuff and I'm always really humbled by them. I like the idea that instead of the $500 vase people can get a couple of $30 mugs. It's more affordable but still very precious. Just this weekend your mom and I were visiting old friends and this one friend of ours said, "I drank coffee out of this mug every day for the last thirtyyears. That's all I drank coffee out of." I was really touched that one mug meant a lot to this guy. It's a nice feeling. Keep reading for more from Tom Edwards.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robin Edwards
Contact: Robin Edwards