Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Tao of Planet Calamari

Planet Calamari has been the name of my art business for over 11
years. Many people ask me how i came up with something so unusual.
Originally, in the 1980's, i was a glass artist with a line of jewelry
and clothing on the side. Those products were known as Wonderwear by
jeanie marie. The name worked but, after awhile i realized it just
sounded too much like Underwear by jeanie marie. Not a good business
image. This was before i even knew about websites, the internet and
cyber marketing.

Later, somewhere around 1991-92-ish, my cousin Suzanne and i co wrote
a children's book while sitting on Coronado beach in San Diego. The
story was about two little girls, Donnie and Cali, who made a wish to
be mermaids while jumping into the waves. In the story Cali wears a
purple squid on her head as a crown and Donnie wears a starfish on
hers. (It seemed brilliant at the time. And i am sure there was wine

The title had many incarnations and the book was never published.
After several rejections by publishers, we realized our illusions of
becoming the next Dr Seuss were futile. However on that magical day at
the beach, i became Princess Calamari and Suzanne became Princess
Pescadonna. Thus the birth of the Calamari family (family members
began to call me Squid as a term of endearment).

Around 1993 i decided to leave my art businesses, and i was inspired
to attend acupuncture college. All those years in the glass studio
damaged my lungs, and the only thing that helped me breath again was
regular acupuncture sessions, a change of diet and lifestyle.

During my first semester my Chinese Herb professor, Toni, gave the
class an assignment: Produce a memoir of the way each of us memorized
all the herb information required. It could be anything - flash cards,
songs, art, charts, whatever the method was that we each individually
used. The one stipulation was it had to be fun for us. Each week we
had at least 15-20 herbs to memorize and identify in their raw form.
The amount of information was overwhelming. The threat of the weekly
test at the beginning of each class brought flash backs of catholic
school. I was terrified.

Being a visual person i found it difficult to memorize pages of
information or flash cards. Charts confused me. So i began making
cartoons with stories for each herb and herb category. At the end of
my third semester i had a book. It became "Dr Calamari's Coloring Book
of the Plants, Minerals and Bugs of China." Ironically many people
thought there really was a Dr Calamari. It was always fun to receive
calls asking for Dr Calamari. I always imagined he was some distant
uncle living in Sardinia gathering squid specimens for research.

The book sold very well to students but eventually became outdated. It
is no longer in print. It was because of this book i decided to have a
website and thus it became Planet Calamari. I hoped more Dr Calamari
books would follow. (I believe the good doctor has retired to the
Amalfi Coast.)

As much as i love having an acupuncture practice, i could never leave
art behind. The name Planet Calamari was out there, became the name of
my art business, and has been with me ever since.

I thank Toni to this day for her assignment, she has become a very
dear friend over the years. In fact her cat, Miss Boo is BFF with my
17 year old cat, Zevo Calamari who has her own blog
The Adventures of Zevo Calamari & Boo As a celebrity cat burglars Zevo
and Boo do their best to keep the Calamari name alive and in the

For the record, i personally do not eat calamari, octopus or anything
with tentacles. Once my Nonna made spaghetti with octopus and served
it to us while babysitting. She would not reveal the ingredients
...until after i had vomited. The smell was odious. I still cringe and
gag when walking by the seafood section at Whole Foods at the sight of
dead squids or cephalopods.

I like to think of my art as having many dimensions and themes. Like
a squid with 8 lobes in its brain and 8 tentacles reaching for
different things all at the same time. My art has gone through many
changes over these years. It has been tempting to change the name to
something more appropo and grown up, however it would be too much like
breaking up with a dear old friend.

Planet Calamari is here to stay.

Visit the Planet Calamari site

1 comment:

Toni said...

I never knew the background for Dr. Calamari -- I just remember laughing out loud while going through your project. All of you were taking your final exams, and I think my laughter may have disturbed some of the other students!