Celebrity tile created by author Nelson DeMille, at the Westhampton Library. Click here for more information on Celebrity Ceramics!
Celebrities' Sketches Turned into Tiles
By Christopher Henderson
The Southampton Press
October 20, 2005
The Westhampton Library might be the venue least expected to host a performance by former Genesis frontman Phil Collins. But Mr. Collins has been at the library for the past month, frenetically banging on his drums without making a sound.
He and a dozen other celebrities, ranging from comedienne Phyllis Diller to crime novelist Nelson DeMille, have been immortalized on six-inch-square ceramic tiles that are on display at the library through the end of the month [October 2005].
The tiles are the brainchild of Massapequa graphic designer Frank Duffy, who since 1991 has collected more than 160 drawings by celebrities. With the artists' permission, he has turned several of the drawings into tiles, called Celebrity Ceramics.
"It's a fun way for [the celebrities] to communicate and reach a different kind of audience," Mr. Duffy said. "It's not what they're known for."
Mr. Duffy came up with the idea of collecting celebrity drawings more than a decade ago. In order to obtain a drawing, he writes each celebrity individually, selecting the people he contacts based on their charitable works. His compilation now includes personalities as different as Fred Rodgers and Tommy Chong. James Earl Jones, Bob Costas, Brooke Shields, Mike Myers, Vanna White and Oliver Stone are among the names on his roster.
The celebrities decide for themselves what they will draw. Most, like Mr. Collins and Ms. Diller, choose to pen self-portraits, while others, such as "Arthur" author Marc Brown and "Beetle Bailey" cartoonist Mort Walker, draw a representative character. Mr. Duffy's original idea was to gather the collection in a book. He said he has spoken with several literary agents and remains optimistic that it will eventually happen.
In the meantime, the tiles are being displayed at libraries throughout Long Island. Next month, they will be in Glen Cove and Lynbrook, and will finish the year in West Islip and East Northport.
The tiles are for sale for $15 each. Long Island Cares, The Harry Chapin Food Bank, receives 15 percent of the profits. More than $1,000 worth of tiles have been sold in the past year.
Mr. Duffy decided to donate some of the proceeds to Long Island Cares after spending time with Mr. Chapin, the noted 1960s singer-songwriter from Long Island, before he died. The charity annually distributes millions of pounds of food to the hungry throughout Long Island.
Right now, the majority of the tiles are sold through the Long Island Cares website (www.licares.org). Mr. Duffy hopes sales of the tiles will increase once he gets the tiles into local craft shows, art galleries and gift shops.
The celebrities have helped the cause with purchases of their own. Mr. DeMille, a Long Island resident, bought 20 and included a link to Long Island Cares on his website, according to Mr. Duffy.
"They are usually pretty enthused by it," Mr. Duffy said. "Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary sent me a note saying 'I wish you all the best.'"
Drawing and painting have always been a major part of Mr. Duffy's life. He began drawing as a child and eventually graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan in 1978. One of his classmates, Patrick McDonald, the artist behind the Mutts comic strip, has contributed to his collection.
Though Mr. Duffy no longer has much time to draw and paint, he intends to continue gathering celebrity drawings to expand the number of tiles in his collection.
"It's good exposure for the food bank," Mr. Duffy said, "and it's fun exposure for the celebrities."
Click here for more information on Celebrity Ceramics!