Polygamy has proved a hot topic for online marketer CafePress.com.
The cell doors had barely banged shut on polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs when the first T-shirts debuted commemorating his arrival in Purgatory.
“Purgatory, Utah” reads one. “I’ve been in Purgatory,” reads another, references to the Purgatory Correctional Facility, where Jeffs now awaits trial on two sex crime-related charges.
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The designs are the creation of Nina Miles of Shrewsbury, Pa., and her son, David, a freshman at Brigham Young University.
The two are among dozens of pundits who have penned polygamy-related messages that can be printed on T-shirts, barbecue aprons, ball caps, underwear, cups and hundreds of other items at CafePress.com.
CafePress.com, launched in 1999, is an Internet-based company that lets clients share their bumper sticker-style wisdom and images with the world. Creators can join a basic shop or, for a $5 fee, set up their own online store to sell custom images and messages printed on clothing, cards, cups, etc.
CafePress.com sets a base price on products and handles printing, packaging, payment processing and customer service; sellers decide how much to mark up items.
The concept is popular. Here are the numbers: 800,000 shopkeepers; 1.4 million shops; 36 million products – including 71 designs offered in the polygamy category.
“It’s something anyone can do,” said Marc Cowlin, CafePress.com spokesman. “Everything you see is designed by a user.”
And it is a nice way to make a few bucks, admits Nina Miles, which comes in handy with four sons in college; in addition to David, she has two other boys at BYU and one at the University of Utah.
The Miles’ biggest success has come with LDS Milestones, an online shop featuring Mormon-themed items they started a year ago. They introduced the Purgatory theme and one that says “Jeffs is Jailed/We Got Our Man” last week but haven’t yet sold anything.
“My husband comes from a polygamist family several generations back,” Nina Miles said. “I kind of watch that news, even though we’re a little bit removed from it.”
Craig Younger of Phoenix, Ariz., became a T-shirt/bumper sticker entrepreneur after buying a few shirts from other CafePress.com vendors.
He has dabbled with politics (“I’m the decider, and I decide what is best,” which he borrowed from President George W. Bush), television (he’s a huge fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and polygamy.
Younger credits HBO’s “Big Love” – specifically, a scene in which Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) explains polygamy to his son – as the inspiration for “Honk if you’re living the Principle” and “Ask me about living the Principle.”
“It’s a neat way to become your own producer of some fun things,” Younger said. “I like to browse [the site] and see the creativity and humor out there.”
That’s what initially pulled in Troy Soukup of Thousand Oaks, Calif., too.
“Initially, it was only an experiment, an exercise in creating designs I found humorous or clever,” said Soukup, whose creations include “1+1+1 . . . Polygamath” and “Polygamy – not just for the Mormons any more.”
“I understand that they’re not for everyone – and that some are very politically incorrect,” he said. “It’s all in good fun, and I hope that no one takes them too seriously.”
Still, Soukup can’t wait for the day he spots someone walking around in one of his shirts.
Getting away with words
Some of the messages offered on T-shirts, aprons and even underwear at CafePress.com:
- “Monogamy is for Ugly People”
- “Polygamy Saved My Marriage”
- “Team Nicki” (reference to the character Nicki, played by Chloe Sevigny on HBO’s “Big Love”)
- “Jeffs is Jailed/We Got Our Man”
- “Polygamy – not just for the Mormons anymore”
- “I’ve been in Purgatory”
- “Utah! Bet you can’t have just one!”
- “1 + 1 + 1 . . . Polygamath”
- “Honk if you’re living the Principle”
- “Saturday at the Wal-Mart (shows a cutout man with three women)
- “Utah – Three times the wives means three times the fun”