Nov 9, 2012

Remembering Birdland....

I don't know if I ever told you this, but I grew up next door to a hardware store.  The apartment that my family lived in looked out onto the roof of said hardware store, and since the store used to be a rolling rink (a bowling alley?) it had a curved roof and was always leaking.  I have fond memories of snow days spent baking cookies and passing them out the windows to Mr.Emery and his assistant, who were out there with a steaming bucket of tar trying in vain to patch it up and keep the snow from dripping in.  The store, Birdland, holds a lot of special memories for me, not the least of all is the fact that at the end of a long row of greeting cards, there was a box full of unused envelopes, extras, that were free for the taking.  I remember sorting through those envelopes to find the prettiest colors, and looking for the biggest ones.  Valentines day brought lots of pink and red.   I had a little collection of my own at home, gleaned from many trips next door.
When I first started mailing people samplers, I didn't have a plan for how to "market" myself or "brand" my product.  The samplers caught me by surprise.  I was invited to teach at Squam, and upon hearing that I would have a table at the end of session sale, I punted and decided to sketch up that first design.  Lots of people bought those first prints and a few blogged about them, and suddenly, while on vacation with almost no internet, I started getting dive bombed with e-mail requests from people all over the country who wanted to buy them.  I remember the first woman who bought one lived in Madison- and I mailed it to her in a business envelope pinched from my Dad's desk and sealed with scotch tape.  It made it just fine.
Flash forward three years and I am still mailing samplers out in envelopes, and sealing them with scotch tape.  When I lived in Chicago I scoured the thrift stores for packs of colorful envelopes, often using their cards to add structure in the mail.  On my last trip to San Francisco I hit the motherlode of beautiful envelopes at Scrap- those will be shipping out samplers all winter long.   With a rubber stamp for a return address and another to direct buyers back to the blog, the envelopes have been all the branding I've invested in.
One of the things that I love most about owning this little company of mine is preparing and sending you mail.  I love addressing the envelopes and ironing the samplers into shape.  I love picking out which envelope I'll use and, these days, picking out which piece of vintage wrapping paper I'll use to wrap it in first.  As part of the studio clean out  this fall I came across a huge box of vintage wrap that I had been collecting and saving for years.  I made a spontaneous decision to cut it all into sampler sizes and begin using it at once.  I've yet to regret diving into that stash- and it really does make me happy to wrap each of the samplers individually in pretty papers.  
However- I recently found out that the business was accepted into an upcoming sale here in Brooklyn- the PS321 Stuff You Should Buy Sale (no wondering what's going on at this event!) and I've been re-thinking my "brand" and my "marketing."  To that end, I've been doodling away at a logo, and am for the first time thinking about how to package the samplers witha  little more context.  As for the samplers that get ordered from the etsy shop, those will still be going out in hand wrapped vintage paper and thrifted envelopes, because I like thinking of them as little gifts, and I like adding a little bit of handmade flourish to each one.....


  1. Ah Birdland, it was actually brought up this weekend! I def miss that place and they're 10 cent jolly ranchers.
    Good luck with the branding! Stay true to you, because that's what makes it special :)

    1. Remember how we used to form them into sword shapes? I wonder if Jolly Rancher still makes those long skinny bands, an hour's worth of good!