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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Shipping
Customs and their willy-nilly rules
Trouble with my order
Special requests
About porcelain
About BADbandanas
About silk
About shower curtains
About puzzles
About prints
About Don
Hiring Don
About contacting us
Unpredictable future

  

Shipping

Can I get a shipping discount code? Unfortunately, we don't have any extra promotions going on right now. If you're looking for a discount, look at the product page more closely. Some products offer discounts for ordering multiple quantities.

Why are your shipping rates so high? It’s the weight. Porcelain is heavy, so it is shockingly expensive to ship. But for a treasured heirloom that may last generations, perhaps you can justify the expense.

Most of the other products are lighter and ship at a reasonable price. You will usually find that you have shipping choices when you order, so you can pick the shipping method that suits you best.

Sometimes your international shipping costs more than the product itself. How can I afford to buy your cool stuff? Maybe you should move? We haven’t been able to find any practical way to make the costs of international shipping disappear. Heavy objects shipped long distances is costly.

If I ordered something for "overnight delivery" (USPS Express Mail), will I get it tomorrow? Depends. Orders that are received before noon on a business day usually go out the same day. If your order is received after noon or on the weekend, it won't ship until the next business day, so you won't get it tomorrow even if you chose overnight delivery.

What service do you use to ship your products? You will usually find that you have shipping choices when you order, so you can pick the shipping method that suits you best.

Can I track my order? Yes. Watch your email inbox for a shipping confirmation and tracking number. Don’t just assume it will show up at your door. Track your package daily to make sure it doesn’t get hung up in the system and returned to us. Shipments have a way of getting stalled, and monitoring the status of the tracking number allows you to intervene promptly.

Since the porcelain is produced in Europe, why not ship directly to customers in Europe? I’d love to, but the numbers don’t work. I’d need a lot more European sponsors to justify the expense of shipping, inspecting, packaging, stocking, fulfilling, and tracking in two different places. It seems idiotic, but it is still cheaper to ship everything to North America and then send products back across the ocean. 

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Customs and their willy-nilly rules

Will there be customs fees on international orders? Who knows? In some countries, customs duties may be applied to plate shipments. I have no way of predicting if they’ll apply to your shipment. Customs inspections are very arbitrary and willy-nilly. Most packages sail through without any duty, but some are selected by chance and the recipient gets hit with a duty fee.

So if you can’t tolerate the risk that your shipment might get selected for extra costs, you probably shouldn’t order. Or arrange to have your purchases shipped to a friend in the United States who can bring you your porcelain in their luggage next trip.

Do you cover the customs fees for my international shipment? Impossible. Each country has different policies and fees. We’d go crazy trying to figure it out. Often, packages slide through with no customs fees applied, so you’d be paying for an expense that never materialized. 

Can you mark my international shipment as a "gift" so I don't have to pay customs on it? The platform at our fulfillment warehouse doesn't allow me to mark something as a "gift." Besides, my mother wouldn’t approve of my doing this—it is unethical and illegal. For centuries, countries have used customs fees to fund government enterprises. So if you're not happy with customs fees, you need to take it up with your government.

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Trouble with my order

Where's my *$#&%! stuff? See the note above about tracking numbers.

After I opened my order, I realized that my product arrived damaged. What should I do? Take a photo of the damaged item and email it, along with your order number on your packing slip, to robot@calamityware.com, and we will send you a replacement.

When the mail carrier delivered my package, I could tell it was damaged, so I refused the delivery. What should I do now? Go back in time and don't do that again. Instead, accept the delivery, take a photo of the damaged product, and email it (and the order number on your packing slip) to robot@calamityware.com. I also have no use for a broken product, so sending it back just causes me to have to pay more shipping.

Since you probably can't go back in time, when the package arrives back at our fulfillment center, we will email you about shipping a replacement.

There was a charge on my credit card from pilotcalamityware01. Is that you? Yes. A dumb name for the Calamityware site, but I can’t find any way to change it. It could have been much worse. When you see a charge to pilotcalamityware01, that’s us.

I never received my order, so I just reported it to my credit card company. Was that the right thing to do? Not really. We wish you’d send an email to robot@calamityware.com and explain that you think a shipment is missing. We can help you figure out where it is or find you a replacement if the package has been abducted by aliens.

The tracking number says my order was delivered, but I never received it. What should I do? Most of the time, your kind neighbor accepted the package while you weren't home, and has completely forgotten to tell you. They probably have it. Send out a search party and scour the neighborhood. If the tracking number says it was delivered, it probably was delivered. 

If no one seems to have your package, send an email to robot@calamityware.com and let us know your search came up empty.

I'm having trouble placing my order on your website. Can you help me troubleshoot this problem? If you articulate your problem in an email and send it to  robot@calamityware.com, we can forward your issue off to the appropriate troubleshooter.

Can I return my order and get a refund? Yes, within 30 days of receipt of purchase.

What's your privacy policy? The short answer is that we don’t share your details with anyone, anywhere, for any reason. You can read the details in our privacy statement that is visible during checkout.

How do I use my gift card? You will receive an email with the gift card. You can then forward this email to the gift card recipient for them to use.

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Special requests

Can you gift wrap my order? I wish that was practical, but it isn’t. Our fulfillment partner (Fulfillrite) is fast and accurate, but our colleagues don’t have the skills to gift wrap to the high-quality standards you would want and add a gracious bow. So, for now, you’ll have to do your own wrapping. Sorry.

This order is a gift for my friend. Can you make sure that the price isn't listed anywhere in the box?  You’re safe. Nothing in or on the box is going to reveal the cost. So you are free to exaggerate the expense if you think that will impress your friends. EXCEPTION: International orders will have a customs declaration attached to the box, which will list a customs value that will appear to be less than what you paid for the product.

Can I add a greeting card to my order? I wish that it was practical to add cards, greetings, notes, and poems to the packages, but it’s not. If we tried, your poem would probably end up inside someone else’s package. The situation would deserve the name “fiasco.” Instead, most people just send a card telling the friend that an intriguing package is on its way. I know that’s not as good, but for now, we have no way to accommodate greetings. Sorry. See next question.

Can I add a gift message to my order? Yes, just like Twitter, you can add a 140-character message to your order that will appear on the packing slip.

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About porcelain

How are the plates made? I made a simple visual explanation of the plate production process. You can see and download the pdf here. (There's another page that talks about the process and has some pictures. Should we keep it?)

How can I keep my plates in pristine condition? Caring for porcelain is easy. How much pampering you give your porcelain should depend on how long you want it to last. I wrote a blog post that offers practical advice about living with porcelain. Read it and follow the advice if you want to keep your porcelain pristine.

What's the history of blue-willow porcelain? It started when Muslim traders introduced cobalt glazes into China, and Chinese potters started producing plates with blue, hand-painted scenes. When Europe started trading with China, this blue and white porcelain added ballast to ships filled with silk and tea. It was a hit with Europe’s elite and eventually almost everyone.

By the mid-1700s Europeans finally figured out how to make porcelain to challenge the Chinese product. Perfecting the technique of transferring images printed in glazes onto blank porcelain became an Industrial Revolution success story. By 1800, there were more than 200 potters making willow-pattern wares in England. Potters in Ireland, Scotland, Holland, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Japan, and the United States jumped into blue-willow production too.

While designs varied, the favorites included a vaguely Asian scene with many of the same elements showing up again and again—pagoda, bridge, boat, willow-tree, fence, doves, and exotic shrubbery. Usually in blue and white. 

While for 250 years the popularity of blue-willow has gone up and down, it has never gone away. Any design theme that ubiquitous is bound to be revisited over and over. My Calamityware designs are another homage to a robust classic.

What's the difference between in-glaze and on-glaze? The first four Calamityware plates were produced using the on-glaze technique which means that the blue image sits on top and is permanently fused to the clear glaze of the plate. Those plates are now rare collectibles that are no longer available. Now all the Calamityware porcelain items are produced using the in-glaze technique. That means that the items are fired at a much higher temperature to allow the blue image to melt slightly into the surface of the clear glaze. This is the look of the classic porcelain items you see in museums.

What can you tell us about where the porcelain is produced? Most of the Calamityware porcelain is produced at the Kristoff workshop in Poland. They’ve been refining their techniques for more than 150 years. Kristoff is one of Europe’s largest porcelain producers and ships to customers all over the world. Kristoff is a perfect mix of old-world craftsmanship and modern technology, including new state-of-the-art isostatic presses that moosh clay into molds with impressive consistency. A few of the Calamityware mug designs are produced down the road at the Karolina workshop because they have a classic mug shape I like.

Will all the plates match?  No. The designs of the plate borders and central image of each Calamityware plate are different. If you appreciate the notion of “eclectic,” you’ll be delighted. But if you are a perfectionist about matching, you should order enough of your favorite Calamityware plate all at one time so all your guests have the same design.

Does the porcelain contain bone ash? No. These plates are just minerals—feldspar, kaolin, quartz. Combined in the right amounts and fired at high temperature, they turn into a sturdy, white porcelain. This is the good stuff.

 

Do I need to worry about heavy metals? (Prop 65) No. These glazes are specially formulated to be free of cadmium, lead, and other potential troublemakers. A plate from the production run gets tested by a independent lab to make sure all is well. These are the same glazes that are used for dinner plates in the best homes and finest restaurants.

What if I want to hang my Calamityware plates? Hanging Calamityware is an excellent way to enhance your domicile. I use invisible plate hangers that glue to the back of the plate and can be removed later by soaking. These big yellow stickers are completely invisible behind the plate. I use the 100mm size. You could probably build your own with duct tape if you prefer DIY.

 

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About BADbandanas

Where do you have your bandanas made? All the BADbandanas have been produced at Carolina Manufacturing in South Carolina, U.S.A. I use them because they have a duplex printing process that prints dye onto both sides of the fabric simultaneously. The result is a very rich color image that will last. This is the process used to produce the traditional bandanas I grew up with.

I hate the inferior silk-screen process that produces bandanas that are printed on one side only with color soaking through to the opposite side and leaving a milky-looking side. Plus, silk-screened bandanas are ridiculously stiff.

Why three BADbandanas in a package? I have a strong belief that three is a good number for bandanas. One BADbandana to use. One BADbandana to give to a friend. And one BADbandana to frame or stash for your daughter’s trousseau.

 

Will the color bleed? Bleeding hasn’t been a problem in the laundry at my house. Colorfast dyes are used. But to be safe, I always wash new bandanas in with dark clothes the first time. Just in case. So far, I’ve had no problems.

 

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About silk

What’s the story about silk? Silk is the most luxurious natural fiber with a long history. It appears that silk has been in production in China for 5000 years. In addition to the glorious, smooth finish, silk has a wonderful affinity for color dyes. So printing on silk is a delight. Our scarves are a light silk habotai. A smooth weave originally developed for kimonos and now used for scarves and lingerie. The pocket squares and neckties are a heavier silk twill with a fine woven surface texture. The edges of the scarves and pocket squares are hand hemmed like the goods you find in the finest shops.

How should I care for silk? You can find lots of information about silk care on line, including ways to wash it at home instead of sending it to the dry cleaner.  

With a little care, your silk can last a very long time. Here are some things to avoid. Don’t spray your silk with perfume, deodorant, or hair treatments. Never bleach silk. Don’t store your silk where it is exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. Minimize exposure to water and don’t wring silks dry. Never torture your silks in the dryer.

How do you produce your scarves, neckties, and pocket squares? Our silks are digitally printed. Some of our pocket squares are produced in France. All the Strawberry Thieves designs (scarves, neckties, and pocket squares) are produced in China where silk originated.

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About shower curtains

Caring for polyester. Wash polyester separately in cool or warm water using a gentle machine cycle. Hang it up to dry. Don’t bleach. Don’t dry clean. Don’t iron, since high temperatures may result in color transfer and melting of fabric. Ouch! You can extend the life of all fabric shower curtains by using a shower curtain liner which also allows the sea monsters to hang outside your tub.

Is a curtain liner required? I recommend a liner since that extends the life of any shower curtain and it allows the sea monsters to hang outside the bath tub while the liner stays inside. The polyester isn't waterproof so you can't use it to make a wading pool. But someone who hates liners could get away with just this curtain.

Why didn’t you choose metal grommets? I like these simple button holes better. They are so simple and clean. Plus they make it easier for someone to adapt the shower curtain for use as a table cloth, beach blanket, or the foundation of an impressive Halloween costume.

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About puzzles

Who makes your puzzles? Our puzzles are made at the Drescher workshop in Buffalo, NY, U.S.A. They’ve been doing amazing things with paperboard for nearly 150 years. (I mean the firm has been at it for 150 years, not the specific people I met when I visited.)

Why aren’t your puzzles wood? My puzzles are produced using Eska puzzle board imported from a special mill in Holland. This board is specifically formulated for puzzle production with gap-free adhesive layers to bond multiple sheets together to make a flat, rigid board. Unlike ordinary cardboard, puzzle board rarely delaminates. With puzzle board, you’ll also find less paper dust in your bag. I love this board.

Some people prefer a wood puzzle. Although wood makes a fine jigsaw puzzle, the cost is about five times more. That would put these fun puzzles out of reach for lots of people. I also like the slightly pillowy shapes of cardboard puzzle pieces. So I went with cardboard.

What about the mystery bonus puzzle? Each of the big puzzles includes a 100-piece bonus puzzle. You can use it as a warm-up challenge or as “dessert” when you finish the big puzzle and are still hungry for more.

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About prints

Who produces your prints? All my letterpress prints have been produced by Bryce Knudson of Bjørn Press in Provo, UT, U.S.A. The prints are on Crane’s Lettra white—an acid-free, 100 percent cotton, 300 gsm sheet produced by the same paper mill that makes paper for U.S. bank notes. 

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About Don

Who is this Don guy? You'll find a mini-biography here.

How big of a company is Calamityware? How many employees do you have? Ha! Here at world headquarters, there’s just Don. I get a lot of help from Lynnette, Jack, and Faith. My goal is to get them to do all the things I hate to do. Nearly there.  

How did you get into crowd funding? I use Kickstarter to find support for my designs. It is a perfect tool because it allows me to describe an idea and rally support without making a big up-front investment. If I can’t get enough support for an idea to justify a production run, the project crashes and no one owes anyone anything. 

If you want to do a crowdfunding project, I urge you to...

1. Study and support some projects to understand how they are managed. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like about your experience.

2. Study all the support materials available on the platform you choose. Kickstarter has a lot of great resources.

3. Don’t expect your project to succeed. About half of them don’t hit their funding goals. You can always refine your idea and try again.

4. Crowd-funding is not a charity. Remember, sponsors expect to get rewards for backing you. Big, juicy rewards are best. I think they prefer something rare, new, or unusual. If your project could be the basis for a lunch-table conversation with peers, you’re probably on the right track.

5. Set you goal as low as you can. But be careful. Prepare a detailed budget and make allowances for all the expenses you are going to have. There's no opportunity to ask for more funds once the projects starts.

When did you become an illustrator? I’ve always enjoyed drawing. It was a signifiant part of my professional life as a graphic designer. But I started to get serious about drawing each day in 2008—at the start of the great recession. I needed a mental health activity to stabilize me as the economy tanked. 

What's your favorite thing to draw? I often draw faces, letters, old cars, creatures, objects, and patterns. I love to visit an art museum and draw the objects that I see. A good museum always has some delightful artifacts in a dry, warm, quiet space with decent food nearby. Maybe that’s what heaven will be like?

The drawings I like best make me laugh. I’m still exploring what makes a drawing funny. For me it is still hard work, but gratifying when I succeed. 

Want to see more of Don’s drawings? I post a new drawing of something almost every day on Flickr.  You can also see some of my drawings on Instagram

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Hiring Don

If I pay you lavish commissions, will you do a special drawing for me or create a unique piece? No. I’m an old guy and my time is running out. So I need to focus on completing my own bucket list of projects before I’m evicted from the apartment house of life by the burly landlord of fate. 

I've got some great ideas for new products you could design. Are you interested? What curious mind wouldn’t be interested? People often send me emails with their ideas and I enjoy hearing about them. But my bucket list is already dangerously long. So, there’s not much chance I can do anything with your idea for a calamity plate based on your ex or a wading pool that looks like a giant chili bowl. There‘s just not enough time for all the world’s good ideas.

Can you design some t-shirts for my bowling league? No. For 40 years I had a job designing things for clients. I enjoyed some amazingly productive collaborative experiences with a lot of brilliant people. That was enough. 

Maybe your bowling team can find a shirt they like on my Threadless site. Good luck. I hope you make it to the league finals.

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About contacting us

How do I sign up for your email list? Easy. There’s a link at the botom of the Calamityware home page. Share your email and you’ll be added to the list. Shazzam. You can expect a simple newsletter every two weeks with a few blurbs about what I’m thinking, what I’m doing, and what I’m making. I won’t share your details with anyone else.

I would like to unsubscribe from your email list. How do I do that? Easy. At the bottom of each email newsletter there’s an unsubscribe button. 

Can I call you to talk about my order or questions I have about your products? If this was a real business, we’d probably have a phone. Instead everything seems to happen with email. I like email because I can record what I said when answering a question. As my memory fades, it is increasingly difficult to recall anything. So email is a perfect way to ask and answer questions.

If you have questions about products and orders, write to robot@calamityware.com.
If you have questions about marketing or new products, write to monkey@calamityware.com.
If your question is about design, inspiration, or drawing, write to bigfish@calamityware.com 

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Unpredictable future

I remember seeing a red bandana. What happened to it? BADbandana 2 was red. I called it Pixels on a Rampage. The design included a host of menacing creatures—robots, monkeys, space invaders, giant snails, and much more in a celebration of the pixels of early video games and the gracious stitches of folk-art embroidery. Because the production run was small, they are all gone. And they won’t come back. But there are still three other BADbandana designs available.

I was visiting a friend, and he had a Sea Monster Jamboree print hanging on his wall. How can I get one? The Sea Monster Jamboree letterpress print was a limited edition and they are all gone. But the same image inspired the Sea Monster jamboree shower curtain.

What's next on your bucket list? It’s a long list. Part of the fun for me is that I can decide what to work on and change my mind at any time. So if I tell you what’s next, my prediction will probably be wrong. 

How can I see the progress of all the projects that are in the pipeline? Visit this Coming Soon page to find out.

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