BADGE WORK UPDATE: “COLLECTING” HOBBIES
In this follow-up post to last Monday, I take on a few more tasks related to my choice to collect Chia Pets: the item’s history, as well as some information about collecting them. And I fully grant that this information will NOT be of interest to all BSP readers. 🙂
About the Chia Pet
It looks like people have been putting seeds on decorative pottery for a long time. Check out this collection of vintage chia heads on YouTube from Alan Olswing of New Jersey – I was really impressed!
But it was Joe Pedott of San Francisco, CA who really brought the idea to the world with the Chia Pet, a registered trademark for his company, Joseph Enterprises (also makers of The Clapper – Clap on! Clap off!). Originally modeled after Mexican terracotta figures of animals, Chia Pets have grooved lines into which “owners” place wet Chia seeds. In the course of a couple of weeks, and with regular watering, the seeds sprout and presumably represent fur or hair. They’re pretty funny and pretty ridiculous.
Smithsonian Magazine did a great piece on Mr. Pedott a few years ago. You can read it in its entirety here, but I was particularly taken with this text:
In 2003, John Fleckner, chief archivist at the National Museum of American History, asked Pedott to donate his company’s papers, television advertising tapes and a selection of Chia Pets to the archive center. “Joe told me to take whatever we want,” Fleckner recalls.
The ch-ch-ch-Chia is so much a part of American consumer lore that it was ch-ch-ch-chosen to be included in a New York Times time capsule, to be opened in the year 3000, along with a Purple Heart medal, a can of Spam and a Betty Crocker cookbook.
I’ve encountered different dates for the first use of the Chia Pet name (as early as 1977), but it appears as though the first actual pet (a ram) didn’t roll off the production line and hit the market until 1982. Since then, there’ve been multitudes of animals, fictional characters, and real-life people honored with a Chia likeness, including:
Animals: Ram, Puppy, Kitten, Bunny, Turtle, Pig, Frog, hippo, Bull, Elephant, Cow, Lion, Dinosaur
Characters: the original Chia Guy, Professor, Elmer Fudd, Taz, Tweety, Mr. T, Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Shrek, Donkey, Garfield, Sylvester, and SpongeBob.
In 2009, the “Proud to be American” series was launched and included Chia Statue of Liberty, Chia George Washington, Chia Abraham Lincoln, and two versions of Chia President Obama (the “happy” and “determined” versions). Walgreen’s actually pulled Chia Obama from its shelves shortly after their release. Read the story here. CVS followed suit, both claiming that the Obama Chia Pet might offend customers.
Finally, let’s not forget the ancillary Chia items, like the Chia Herb Garden (later, the Gourmet Chia Herb Garden), Chia Playing cards, the Chia Alarm Clock, and the Chia Watch. There was also the Chia Tree (and a second version with a star atop), and the Chia Grass planters, which offered something tasty for kittens (real ones) to eat.
Chia Seeds – They’re not just for clay pets!
It turns out that chia seeds are stunningly healthy food products. Otherwise known as Salvia hispanica, the chia seed is incredibly high in Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and amino acids with equally high levels of protein and dietary fiber. Chia seeds were a prized staple of the Aztec diet, and I’ve read that Aztec warriors would go into battle prepared to live off of two spoonfuls of seeds a day.
You can find chia seeds in the bulk produce section of health food stores or higher end markets like Whole Foods. So sprinkle ‘em on your salads or put them in your breads, ’cause they’re not just for pets anymore.
And FYI… according to the Official Chia Pet FAQ, you can use other seeds that become gelatinous when wet, like basil seeds; marjoram, thyme, and oregano are not as well suited for this reason.
Though there are plenty of collectors out there, I’ve been unable to locate much in the way of clubs, organizations, magazines, or organized groups dedicated to the collection of Chia Pets, other than a strange little Facebook group with some bizarre posts.
A YouTube search for “chia pet” pulls up an astounding 244,574 views; forgive me for not having watched them all. But there are lots of videos out there of original Chia Pet commercials as well as homemade time-lapse videos of Chia Pets growing wild out there.
And here’s a fascinating website devoted to all things Chia: Chiativity.
Finally–and I can barely believe I’m writing this–let me know if you’re aching to have a Chia Pet question answered, and I’ll try to find the answer for you!