In 1993, I was in a car accident and broke my back. That's far, far less impressive than it sounds. My fifth lumbar was fractured compressively, things got a little squished, but everything that happened was below the main spinal cord bits. Or something - I always liked physics better than biology. Biology is squishy and random. Physics is logical. And only occasionally random. At any rate, I can still usually go hiking and canoeing and stuff if someone strong enough to pick up some of my slack is along. It's not that big of a deal in the scope of things, but you can't deny something like that doesn't change you.
For me, it was a seize the day kind of revelation. (Once I got past a good bout of self-pity and despair, of course. I wrote dark poetry and am thankful all over again that I wasn't on the Internet then.)
At this time, I had old-fashioned, by snail-mail penpals. I would just chat about my day, or comment on some current issue. (No, not politics, usually, more likely some recent literary release) I'd mention my family, complain about school, tell them about my pets, and include folded up xerox copies of whatever I was currently drawing. Gee, kind of like my blog, now. I was way too cheap to buy stationery. And I liked to draw these borders for newsletters and things.
Bang. A few clandestine moments with the copymachine in the school library, and I had halfway decent stationery on white xerox paper.
My penpals ate it up and fed my ego to a point that, when one of them casually said, 'you should sell this!" I didn't think it was that crazy of an idea. In fact, I thought it was a great idea! I sat down and did math trying to figure out what to charge, how much it would cost, what kind of sales I'd need to have to break even. I got the stationery made at a copystore downtown, plain black toner on a flecked, grayscale paper, cut in half from a standard letter-sized parchment. I remember crying over how horrible they looked when I picked up my order, because nearly half of them were smeared and ruined. He re-ran the job, and must have been having terrible machine problems, because I was using those smeared sheets for probably 10 years as scrap paper, there were so many misprints.
I put together a one-page sample sheet. The text was printed on a dot-matrix, cut up with scissors and taped onto a page. Shrunk down images of four designs were slapped on, and I sent the copies to my penpals. I took a bag full of samples to school in a fit of bravery and sold a giddy $80 worth of stationery on the spot. I think that was even my first commission - one of my teachers paid me to do custom stationery for his daughters.
There is no thrill quite like the thrill of getting your first check for art in mail. There's this sort of fevered rush to it. And then another one came. And then a third, an order from someone I *didn't* know, who'd gotten a bad, bad xerox copy of the sample sheet from one of their penpals. I put an ad in the Queen's Own member section, and got a dozen requests for catalogs. Some of them even turned into orders.
There was no going back.
This was the first piece I designed specifically for stationery. It remains one of the top selling stationery designs, so I must have done something right. I detest the square edgy bits. Hello, inconsistent inking.
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~ Archives: 1993 ~