Why Calamityware?

The question came up last week, “Why do you call your products ‘Calamityware’”?

Short answer: Our first four products were porcelain dinner plates with various calamities discombobulating traditional blue-willow paradises. Naturally, we called them Calamityware. Then, in my typically careless and lazy fashion, the name Calamityware stuck to all the other projects that followed (bandanas, books, textiles, puzzles, etc.) Even if they had little to do with porcelain or calamities.

When I had to make a business name so I could write checks, I called the enterprise “Calamity Worldwide” to baffle the bankers and lawyers. It worked.

Long answer: I have a natural enthusiasm for calamities. Perhaps you do, too. When was the last time you enjoyed a novel, play, or movie where all the characters were perfect, the technology functioned flawlessly, and the weather remained delightful? Probably never because that’s so boring. You’d be out of that movie before you finished your popcorn. We only stay and pay attention when stuff goes wrong, right?

The best stories have characters with significant flaws, malfunctioning robots, and perfect storms...sometimes all at once. Stories are like that because life is like that. No one escapes problems, set-backs, and challenges. That would be un-natural and absurd.



In our hearts, we know the universe has rough spots. Calamities can come in any size, from a broken pencil lead to the sun exploding. In the world where you and I live, real people forget their training, get tired, lose enthusiasm, and make mistakes. Real gadgets wear out, breakdown, and lose their mojo. Eventually, real volcanoes erupt, tornados find your house, and colossal meteors plop down in your neighborhood. The second law of thermodynamics insists there is a natural tendency to drift from order to disorder. Everything that is together comes apart. Entropy is real.


At first, it might seem sad that things fall apart. But there is a bright side. In the imaginary world where everything stays pristine, no one ages, and nothing falls apart, there would be no urgency, no innovation, no creativity, and no need to make anything. So, so, so boring. Why get out of bed?

But in the world we have, there are incentives to solve problems, make things better, love what we can, and clean up our messes. And, because our personal time is running out, there is an incentive to hustle. 

The existence of calamities and potential calamities is what keeps us on our toes and makes us cherish the delights in our path. 

One final reason I am drawn to calamities—they are funny. 

The oldest definition of humor (I’m going way back here), was what our ancient ancestors said—

Humor is dinosaurs happening to someone else.


When pterodactyls menace you or me, it’s a calamity. But when a pterodactyl menaces a tiny stick figure on a Calamityware plate, it’s funny. And the joke is even better when the plate is like the fine porcelain you find in museums.

I draw every day to try to make myself smile. If my work also makes you smile, that’s even better.

Now, I’ve got to get back to work. I need to finish some projects before the sun explodes.

Don—Pittsburgh, May 10, 2021


6 Responses

Valérie B-)

June 27, 2021

Dear Don,
Thank you for making me smile. I hope the international shipping starts up again, so I can acquire and use your artwork to make some discerning dinner guests smile too.. Otherwise I might feel forced to drive over to Poland and start a calamity at Kristoff’s -Just kidding! Did I make you smile? Probably not, sorry. We’re not all such comic geniuses as you. ;)
Best regards from the Netherlands and thanks again!

Liz Woedl

June 14, 2021

When the pandemic started, I started watching zombie movies. The unreal never outdoes reality.

Glo Gordon

May 17, 2021

I love the above guy’s idea about turning the dinosaur picture into a shirt with the saying, “Humor is dinosaurs happing to someone else.” I would also love a shirt with the broken robot with the saying, “Everything that is together comes apart. Entropy is REAL.” Can’t wait till you send a newsletter saying the Calamity throw is on sale. The Kickstarter doesn’t accept PayPal.

Nancy Loughran

May 17, 2021

I’d love the headless Robot on a t-shirt or any of your Robot designs.


May 17, 2021

Lisa is right. We need that t-shirt!

Lisa Hicks

May 14, 2021

I’d love a shirt with the phrase “Humor is dinosaurs happening to someone else” and your art. Tell me there are plans!

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