Inside the Trippy Universe of DIY Streetwear Brand Online Ceramics
Online Ceramics started as a joke between friends. Surely that domain name had to have already been taken by some middle-aged man selling flower pots and ceramic cups out of his garage, right? If you pull it up on Google, online-ceramics.com takes you to a peculiar looking website, almost comical by today’s standards, but it has nothing to do with selling pots or cups.
Instead, you’ll find a happy-go-lucky story of a drug trip gone wrong, a cross-stitched serpent, and an online store selling otherworldly T-shirts and sweatshirts. Some with elaborate, chaotic, psychedelic designs of spirituality and self-discovery. Others alluding to a love and admiration for The Grateful Dead and the Deadhead’s iconic imagery. All thought-up, designed and hand-printed by two friends who never thought they’d end up making shirts.
Nestled on the top floor of a nondescript building on a sleepy block of South Central Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, is the small studio where Elijah Funk and Alix Ross make their inspirations come to life. It’s cramped, to say the least, with two small work tables, covered in stacks of colorfully-printed sweatshirts and painted canvases from another artist that they share the studio with.
Freshly-dyed T-shirts hang to dry on a clothesline that hangs above the space, one that has housed a wealth of creative enterprise, long hours of hard work and undeniable growth for Funk and Ross’s brand, Online Ceramics.
The two met in Ohio as fellow art school students in the local DIY punk and noise scene, worlds away from the art school trappings aiming to breed animators and designers ready to work for PIXAR. Both Funk and Ross are far removed from that cloth, bonding over communal cigarette breaks and discussions about their favorite records, not over a coding language or the best design app on your tablet that feels the most like an actual pen and paper. Graduation only deterred their will to work together briefly, until a trip to Los Angeles for a mutual friend’s wedding reunited the two, who finally decided it was time to take a chance on their creativity.
What began as a foray into the art world and getting work placed in friends’ galleries didn’t quite pan out that way. A quick favor for a friend to design a shirt for a book fair spawned the idea to take on a new creative avenue with a much better bottom line, and one more accessible to the DIY communities they both grew up in.
T-shirts aren’t a one-of-one sculpture for an individual to own and others to admire from afar. They’re essentially accessible art for people everywhere, which speaks volumes for two guys who can now crack a smile about how broke they were when they first moved to LA.
“Across the world now, everyone owns a little bit of us,” says Funk. “I like that way more than art as the commodity or the object, the all-important thing.”
The duo officially began printing shirts as Online Ceramics last summer for the Dead & Co. tour, the band formed by John Mayer and original Grateful Dead member Bob Weir, and selling out of them in just a few days. Their designs earned them some financial breathing room, allowing their profits to be funneled back into more blanks and new designs. The brand quickly developed a following on the tour and beyond it. One of the most notable supporters being Mayer, with whom the duo collaborated on a hoodie for the Dead & Co. Fall tour.