Monday, June 27, 2011

Dog Tags

I mentioned a while back that my niece gave me the idea of making ceramic dog tags as gifts for Burning Man. I thought it an excellent idea and as I have access to a kiln, it seemed easily do-able. To make it simple, I made a stamp to stamp them out. I roll out a slab of clay and go to town stamping my design in the soft mud. Then I cut them out.

In a 4-hour session, I can roll, stamp and cut several hundred dog tags. I began making them in February & now have about 1,000 made up. To keep it even simpler, I left them unglazed but used various oxides to color the white clay.

I was sitting in Open Studio making several hundred dog tags one Friday and my introvert’s brain began telling me, “These things are really stupid. No one’s going to want one of these things!”Yikes! Self-doubt crept into the room. What was I doing?

The following Saturday, I showed them to my friend Sy. Sy is painfully honest: tells the truth no matter how brutal it may be. And he has good taste, too! Sy looked at my bucket of hundreds of dog tags and exclaimed, “I want one! I want one now!” So I strung it up on a length of hemp and he’s been wearing it ever since.

He reports back whenever he gets a compliment. Sy & I are in Pilates class three days a week and in every class he’s telling me about another compliment received. Yesterday, another friend begged me for one & immediately tied it around his neck.

Self-doubt has been chassed from the room.

One Monday, during virtual cocktails with our friends in Seattle, Garret asked, “So, Jer, are these dog tags you’re making like for a dog or like a military dog tag?” Now, that never occurred to me! I call them dog tags only because I used my military dog tags as a reference for size. And, yes, I still have my USAF dog tags issued to me in 1970.

I now have a box of 1,000 Burning Man dog tags individually strung up and ready for Burning Man. I’ve been talking with a veteran burner who’s giving me pointers on the protocol for giving. I appreciate Jim’s advice. I don’t want to just “hand them out”. There should be purpose behind the giving of gifts.

Today, I was thinking about the money I’ve put into making these dog tags, not that THAT would stop me. Breaking it all down, it comes to about 3 cents each. That doesn’t include my time/labor.It is certainly affordable and I’m now wondering why I made only 1000 of them!

Chelsea, that was an excellent suggestion!

Thank you for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson


  1. Hey Jerry - these are really cool. Even more so b/c you made them by hand. I design aluminum dog tags every year (different riffs on the BM logo to go with the theme of the year), and everyone LOVES them. I would love one of yours! - Erica (aka Kiki de los feliz)

  2. hi jerry, what a cool & simple design %) i very much like them! do you think you could snatch one out of the bucket and keep it for me, until we see each other the next time. we will drive down to san diego probably end of september mid october - will you be at home, or again on tour then ;) i just discovered all your cool blog posts about your europe trip --- i think i need a quiet evening, a drink [crashed ice, fresh pineapple juice, and campari :)] to read myself through all of them ---- XOX biiiiiiiig HUG ;* kris
    p.s. say hello to your sweetheart, too!