Psycho Ceramics were a range of zany novelty ceramics made by US-based Kreiss company and manufactured in Japan between the 1960s and 1970s. They are characterized by a crudeness that one might call “lovably fugly”. (Basically, if Precious Moments were on the honor roll, Psycho Ceramics were the dropouts and burnouts.) In addition to the Psychos, Kreiss also made Crazy Creatures, Elegant Heirs, Beatniks, Nudeniks and a variety of weirdo collectible figures, mugs, banks and ashtrays.
Mike King, the author of the 1998 reference book, Kreiss Novelty Ceramics, is currently selling a bunch of his Psycho Ceramics here on eBay. For $15, you can get a signed copy of his out-of-print book with 273 photos of Psycho Ceramics here. Across the world, RPM, a fantastic-looking shop crammed full of collectible vintage American toys, just got in a shipment of Psychos too.
Here’s where the plot thickens. Did you know that there’s another meaning for “psychoceramics”? It’s also “the study of crackpots and crackpot phenomena. This includes things such as weird science and pseudoscience, bizarre religion, kooky solutions to the world problem and other things.” I wonder which came first: the science or the ceramics?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (directed by Miloš Forman and starring Jack Nicholson) came out in 1975. It was based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. The film contains the line: “We are lunatics from the hospital up the highway, psycho-ceramics, the cracked pots of mankind.”
Kreiss’ Psycho Ceramics are literally and figuratively psychoceramics!
There’s more to this story…
In 1998, Cosma Rohilla Shalizi, a physicist and statistician, explained psychoceramics with the inclusion of one of my absolute favorite words (jeremiads) like this:
For obvious reasons, this is the golden age of psychoceramics, when a million mutant flowers bloom, and a thousand sherds of thought contend. Currently psychoceramics is little more than recreational kook-fancying, by people like me. Some of us do it because kooks amuse us, some as a means of marking themselves as Not Normal (But Not as Strange as Those Kooks), some because they take a sympathetic interest in the fringes of human belief, and some because they take a hostile interest. I’m mostly in it for laughing at silly people and rationalist jeremiads: not very noble motives, perhaps, but there they are. Others among us are much more charitable, perhaps to excess…
DAMN! Just think of all the crazy talk that’s occurred in the last 14 years! Here’s a taste of some classic Psycho Ceramics, many of which can be purchased through the eBay and RPM links above for $30-$100.