News and Trends

Q&A: Don Moyer

US-based designer and illustrator Don Moyer chatted to HL about his quirky Calamityware plate series and what we can expect from him next. When did you start illustrating? I've enjoyed drawing my whole life, but I got serious about filling up sketchbooks just about five years ago when I remembered that my time on earth is going to be finite. You’ve taken a traditional 300-year-old design and transformed it with exciting and fantastical characters. What inspired you the start the Calamityware project? There are two answers to this question. First, what inspired me to start drawing plates? I inherited a Willow-pattern plate that had belonged to my great-grandmother. It was complex and lovely, but like so many scenes, wouldn't it be better with a dinosaur? Or some other excitement? I found myself drawing multiple plates, each with its own calamity to threaten the tranquillity of the traditional design. Second, what inspired me to make real plates? While the drawings were fun, they'd obviously be funnier in porcelain. A triple threat: utilitarian, beautiful and funny. I enjoy experimenting, so it seemed logical to experiment with the idea of producing physical plates. Crowd-funding site, Kickstarter makes it possible to describe a project and then make contact with people who want to be part of it. The first Kickstarter project allowed me to find enough sponsors to make production of physical plates practical. This project is open until the end of May 2014. Tell us about your latest plate, featuring a hungry (and rather scary looking…) sea monster. The third plate in the series features a giant, hungry fish. He looks like one of the monsters you see in the margins of an early Renaissance map. Perfect plate for a fish dinner. What do you believe is the most important aspect of innovative design? Design doesn't have to be innovative, but design should delight people. Design often delights people by delivering utility or beauty or both. But design can also delight with humour. Right now, I'm exploring how my design skills can be applied to make people smile. These plates are part of that broader experiment. What will be lurking behind the blue Willow patterns next? We heard mention of bats and UFO invasions? The fourth Calamityware Kickstarter project is expected to launch in August 2014. I'm not sure if we'll see pirates threatening the neighbourhood or a UFO invasion. I'm also working on a volcano plate. Yesterday I was designing a pattern for a teacup with robots on a rampage. How can our readers in South Africa get hold of your plates? Sponsors of the Kickstarter projects can live anywhere in the world. The workshop can ship to South Africa, it will just take longer. If you missed the previous Kickstarter projects, you can fill gaps in your Calamityware plate collection at To view more of Don's work, check him out on Flickr. Interviewed by Lindi Brownell Meiring