About four or five years ago, I was contacted by a small company from Florida called ‘Dirty Microbe’. They’d seen my work on Threadless and wanted to buy some designs from me, as well as commission a few more using my madcore vector skills. They paid me about $175 bucks for a design that they never used involving sushi in the shape of a fish (which can still be seen on Threadless).

Around this time, I was also chatting with an amazing, strange girl named Psyche. There were botched plans to move to Toledo to live in a spare room that her and her husband (who was also an awesome guy) had, and general weirdness after I spent a week in Ohio one hot summer and drew ghosts and left them in cabinets. The story of how we met and how I drove nine hours to Ohio is partially accounted for here, and it involves a perfect mix of a blue-haired superhero and a dead flea market and a birthday. It’s a story for another day, but while I was in Toledo, I set up my old green iMac on their wooden kitchen table, drank Arizona tea and ate Stella Doro cookies and worked on a design for Dirty Microbe before they woke up every day. (They divorced not long after our own relationship fell apart, which makes it a good thing that I never moved to a broken home in Ohio).

Dirty Microbe wanted me to do a design of a potato for the phrase ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot‘ – something I would never normally touch, but I was experimenting in creative whoredom while trying to find a niche that I still haven’t found. I’ve never shown these images before, but I think that they’re an important testament to the process of working with a creative director, and they’re really actually kinda fun, I think.

At first, they wanted a terrified, flaming potato.


They saw this and despite its inherent awesomeness, they wanted to see a wide range of potato-emotions. And maybe make him steaming instead of flaming. I guess if I were to assign a potato a kind of anthropomorphic personality, it would be a total cliched vision of an old Irish man. That’s what’s going on up above. Oh, and I also had to keep the design limited to four colors because the shirts were being hand-screened in someone’s kitchen. First sign of disaster?


Personally, I thought that the ‘slightly concerned’ potato lacked a certain punch, but the steam was coming together. I also dug the lighting effects that I got using only two colors. But wait – maybe this potato should be hot and happy. ‘Can you make it with anime eyes?’ they asked. At this point, I actually requested that this work be published under the pseudonym of ‘RocketMantis’ (which is the name of my imaginary one-man band), to have it only tangentially associated with my work. If someone dug deep enough, they’d figure out who it was, but I didn’t want to ever be associated with anime. So, I gave them a super-cute iteration, just short of ‘anime’.


Finally, we settled on this design, which isn’t really too offensively cute.

DirtyMicrobe went bankrupt in June of 2007 and disappeared off of the face of the Earth, leaving many customer orders unfulfilled. I’m not sure if they ever paid me for my second design here, but perhaps the general anxiety I feel when I think of them is the fact that I never got the 15% commission on every shirt sold which I was promised (but which the contract conveniently cleared them of responsibility for).

I never moved to Ohio. I was secretly insanely in love with Psyche anyhow, so it was probably for the best. Dark haired, ghostly girls always get the better of me.