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A Plethora of Pithitudes
by Jane Stebbins
Tami Kraft can often be found sitting in bars, listening to people as they drink.
And from them, she is capitalizing on pithy sayings, which she turns around and puts on T-shirts, buttons, coffee cups and tote bags.
The Cape Ferrelo artist listens and sketches while her husband, Ace, sings karaoke.
The part-time business — by day, she works as a lab tech at Curry Health District’s clinic in Brookings, and he just took a seasonal job at Harris Beach State Park — didn’t start in the congenial atmosphere of bars, however.
“It was born of grief and sadness,” Kraft said, of her first husband’s unexpected death in 2009. That Christmas was somber, with family members overcompensating for their sadness by overindulging in gifts no one really needed, she said.
Kraft started drawing gift tags for the presents — silly animals with wild eyes and an edgy vibe. The gallows humor in them allowed her to release some pain. The drawings depict colorful and whimsical animals, many with oversized eyeballs — and pithy quotes to accompany them.
The laughter — and healing — began.
And Pithitude — “Laughter you can hold in your hand” — was borne. Pithitudes — pithy with an attitude — has even made it into the “handmade” section of amazon.com.
“I pooped today!” reads a coffee cup with a goofy beaver drawn on the other side.
“You still asleep, human?” reads another, with a scruffy cat’s head right in one’s face.
“Go away; I’m introverting,” with a cranky-looking cat.
“Coffee is for mermaids.”
Another reads, “Kindly do not alter my calm,” with a depiction of a giraffe lazing in tall grass.
A killer bunny says, “They will never find the bodies.”
“This, too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”
The work was a new creative outlet for Kraft.
“I wasn’t one of those doodlers, I didn’t take art classes in school,” said the Spokane, Washington native. “And I was doing inch-and-a-quarter magnets and buttons. You couldn’t (see much detail) because they’re little. Customers keep asking for bigger and bigger items, and through practice, they improved.”
She first sketches a drawing, fine-tunes it on the computer and clamps it to a polymer-coated blank mug. Then she puts it in the oven for 15 minutes. The heat causes the mug’s polymer coating to open “pores” into which the dye sublimates; as it cools, the pores close to ensure the print is permanent.
Right now her favorite is an angry little yellow chick: “Who left the box of idiots open again?”
“Follow your dreams,” another says, depicting an owl in flight. “So I went back to bed.”
She avoids the political, although she admits Donald Trump’s “covfefe” garble at the end of one of his Twitter posts could lend itself to something.
“It’s the celebration that when everything is going wrong, the small graces in life take on greater significance,” Kraft said. “They can be the crack of light that reminds you the dark places don’t have to be forever. The humor saved me.”
Pithitude has evolved, and inventory has grown to include T-shirts, coin purses, art tiles and notebooks. This Christmas season, Amazon will feature two of her cups in its Pet Lovers Holiday Feature section.
Ace’s first contribution to the trite quotes was one depicting an angry orange cat and reading, “I’m punching you with my eyes!”
Her merchandise is available at McMillans Gallery just south of the Oregon border, or at the Saturday Market on the Port of Brookings Harbor boardwalk — look for a bright sketch drawing of a very offended ostrich.
And she’s open to receiving new pithy comments at pithitude.com.
-by Jane Stebbins