Mother and daugher turn profanity into profit

What do you say to your mother when she proposes a business based on four-letter words? “I’m actually more conservative than my mom,” said Sarah Shannon of Echo Park.  “I was concerned about offending people.”  But after overcoming her initial concerns, Sarah Shannon, 29,  decided to team up with her mother Gretchen Shannon, 57, to form Obscenity Stones, which sells ceramic stones and key chains engraved with four-letter words and off-color and amusing phrases.  The intention of these stones is not to offend but to help release tension, emotion and get a good laugh in the process.  The idea for this offbeat business was born when Gretchen Shannon, an artist who lives in Laguna Beach, needed a way to express her anger and frustration as she fought against breast cancer. She explains:

I was having a particularly bad several days after a chemo treatment.  Before my diagnosis, I was a very prolific artist, and during treatment I lost the desire to create much of anything. On this particular day, the idea to create a “fuck stone” seemed like the best way to release what I was feeling. That was it, end of story. The following year my brother in law was diagnosed with cancer, and I sent him one. He loved it and showed it to friends, that was when the orders started.

Gretchen Shannon turned to her daughter, a former musician, in Echo Park to set up the business to turn the stones into a business venture.

Sarah Shannon proposed posting a”warming” disclaimer on their company’s website but her mother opposed that idea. “I came to realize that it’s impossible to yield to everyone’s sensitivities,”said Sarah Shannon. “If these stones help someone who is struggling, someone who is in pain, someone who is frustrated, and provides them an avenue to express these emotions in a peaceful and humorous way, that makes me feel like I’m helping someone. And that sounds good to me.”

The following is a Q & A with Gretchen Shannon about Obscenity Stones

Q: Did you have a problem  expressing your feelings?
A: Only anger. I never liked confrontation.  I always thought expressing anger was un-ladylike and ineffective.  It made me uncomfortable.  Expressing gratitude, joy, love, and kindness was always easy. Women of my generation lived under different codes of behavior.  Anger and confrontation were defiant behaviors and went counter to the expected feminine behaviors of being soft spoken, composed and pliant. We could be strong, but needed to maintain our composure.

Q: Do you have strong feelings about the use of profanity in speech?
A: Depends on how it’s used. I feel there are appropriate and inappropriate arenas for it. When it’s just used in casual conversation with friends or when I drop something and break it or stub my toe, I think it’s harmless. When it’s used in an aggressive way directed negatively towards someone, then I think its use begins to walk a tightrope.

Q: How have people reacted?
A:  “Complete ah-ha moments. It’s been totally positive. The stones provoke a story; people just start laughing when they see them.  Even my licensing agent responded to them immediately and it takes quite a lot to move him. My very wise mother said “I think you’ve got something there.

Q: Where have the words and phrases come from?
A:  “The ideas just flow.  I’m an artist and once I start to make things, the ideas just come. One feeds into the next.

Q: Which ones have proved the most popular?
A: Hands down, the “fuck stone.” People are just immediately drawn to it.


  1. I love the mother/daughter team, and the Obscenity Stones! Using profanity to express oneself in an emotional situation can be so cathartic. I find that women do have a tougher time expressing anger and if using profanity helps I say go for it. Congrats ladies on an amazing business and I wish you much success!

  2. sock a punching bag, yell at your daughter, stretch… do something else.

    why on earth promote profanity? why?

  3. February 2012 news item: Echo Park Resident Hosts Going-out-of-Business Sale, Offers “Obscenity Stones” at a Steep Discount.

    “This ****ing business never took off,” said Gretchen Shannon, kicking a pile of “F*** Stones” that lay in a pile at her feet. “I guess our business was before its f***ing time. Thanks a f***ing lot, Echo F***ing Park.”

  4. Sounds like rhett and james could use a FUCK stone of their very own. Wow, I wrote fuck and no virgins were sacrificed!
    I think Obscenity Stones are fantastic! Follow your hearts girls!!!!

  5. I wonder how people like Maureen would respond if two young Latino men were starting a company that sold stones inscribed with words and phrases such as “pussy,” “bitch,” “bullshit,” and “kiss my ass.” Would she still tell the two young men to “follow (their) hearts”? These two founders have managed to connect marketing obscene words to a message of female empowerment; I think their true calling is in public relations. Take away the story of, and interview with, the two owners, and I guarantee these stones will lose any allure they may have.

  6. One could understand why this idea is contextually more appealing because it comes from a couple of women, but why would Maureen feel differently if the entrepreneurs in question were specifically Latino men as opposed to just men?

  7. I think people would react more negatively to their business if the entrepeneurs were men – regardless of their ethnicity – but I have a feeling that many people would react differently if the founders were young Latino men rather than two young white (pardon the expression) “hipsters.” People might see the two young white men’s business plan as obnoxious or juvenile, but coming from two young Latino men, it might seem more threatening. I didn’t mean to perpetuate any stereotypes in my post, but I do think people perceive such a business in a different way depending on who is behind the idea. My point is that it’s a stupid, pointless, mildly-offensive idea, regardless of who the entrepeneurs are.

  8. I agree with James.

  9. I too have a keyboard.

  10. Yes, “many people” would react differently but I think it’s pretty stupid, pointless, and mildly offensive to try and read someone’s mind with regards to how they feel about particular ethnic groups, despite the unfortunate fact that there are those who have certain negative opinions about those groups.

  11. I prefer to assume folks I come across are not racist rather than the other way around, which is why I don’t like unmoderated comments sections for example (unlike this one.)

  12. Jimbob, my simple addition of “Latino” seems to have struck a nerve with you. I guess I prefer to assume that any folks I come across in life carry with them certain racial biases, though I believe that such biases don’t automatically make someone racist. I’m sure you have such biases and hew to certain stereotypes as well, but perhaps it makes you uncomfortable to admit that to yourself. I think the first step in challenging such biases is to admit that we all hold them. I stand by my initial statement.

  13. And after you have processed your anger you are left with an Obscenity Stone saying “F&ck” or “Sh*t” instead of a Serenity Stone that calms and guides you with words like “Love” and “Believe”. Sorry, but this buiness venture seems bad karma to me.

  14. I think these stones are fun. I have one and it’s already been very helpful. When I’m having a painful day I put the stone beside my sink. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

  15. These stones are pretty f*cking stupid.

  16. I wanted to thank everyone for their comments. Obscenity Stones is committed to having a positive impact on the world. 10% of all profits are given to a new charity every month. This month is an organization called Operation Homefront, which provides U.S. soldier’s family’s and wounded warriors direct financial support.

    These comments are representative of the cornerstone of our democracy which is the freedom to express ourselves in any way we see fit. I applaud your willingness to express yourself and to say how you feel.

    I wish each and every one of you only the best, and I hope that your lives are blessed with laughter and peace.

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