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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Portland or Bust, How a sticker loving child rode the Internet bubble and burst into the greeting card industry

{ the early years }
Entering the scene, 1976--as a child my obsession with illustration and craft hit hard and fast with the discovery of sticker collecting. My idea of a perfect afternoon was browsing the wall-to-wall rolls of stickers, carefully selecting new items (sparkly unicorns or scratch and sniff?) and digging into an irresponsibly large "Turtle Sundae". This was all a careful ruse by my clever mother--soon enough I was passed out in the barber chair while he touched up my perfect bowl cut. 

Known for asking far too many questions, I was soon enrolled in art and music classes to keep me busy. Bless her heart, my mother already had 3 older kids running the show. I attribute my creativity and passion for handmade to her knowledge of antiques, clever crafting, perfect penmanship, and home-sewn homecoming dresses. My entrepreneurial bent--I can thank the tireless work and support of my father. My business efforts started early, when at the age of seven I hawked hand-painted pet rocks door-to-door (a secret strategy for meeting kids in my new neighborhood). My first art obsession came at nine-- when I built my first pin-hole camera. Once I was even an extra in an After School Special. 

{ experience }
After a short stint in art school I went on to work in 1995 as the seventh employee for a small employee-owned Internet startup located in Atlanta, GA. Soon we were plucked up from obscurity into what would be an international buying spree--and the creation of USWeb. Focusing on Internet site development and marketing, the organization grew leaps and bounds in just a few years. In 1998 USWeb merged with CKS Group (well known for their extremely successful rebranding of Apple - at that time launching the popular candy colored iMacs.) Now known as USWeb/CKS, the Atlanta office grew again to over 200 employees and to include traditional advertising staff and work. Website projects now included marketing analysis, print and radio ads, online advertising and often took a year to complete. My time spent working for my father's software company in high school was influential, and I developed a knack for e-commerce and interface-complex development projects and my workload bloomed to 80 hour weeks.  While working as a graphic designer/art director at USWeb a few of my clients included Coca-Cola, MCI, KinderCare, Royal Velvet, and MinuteMaid. 

5 different company names, 15 different managers, 5 different offices in close to 5 years... ah, the Internet, a story of excess, times of change, unbelievable opportunities and risk taking. Shortly after yet another merger in 1999 (and becoming the company known as marchFIRST) I left and started working with my own roster of Atlanta based start-ups and the couture bridal designer Anne Barge . My consulting and design work focused on branding, information design, developing strategies and assisting in the design and interface for what was usually a very complicated software backend. 

{ Portland bound }
Looking for a change, I moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Portland, Oregon in Spring 2001 on a mission-- find a new challenge and pursue the perfect cup of coffee, late-night spots with excellent french fries, and a vintage bicycle. Looking for a way to work with my hands, combining my original illustrations and background in graphic design-- I jumped and started Owen Says; Launching at The National Stationery Show--a NYC based stationery industry trade show hosted at the Jacob Javitz in May of each year--the Owen Says line of hand glittered greetings has grown to include many popular characters and the addition of gift items. Currently I am working on an expansion of the online store with new items not found as part of the wholesale line--like prints, limited edition greetings, and printable calendars and stationery sets. Licensing and custom work inject life and whimsy and provide new ways to expand on my specific style of cute and occasionally the weird.  | follow me on twitter: @owensays

Copyright 2009 Jennifer Erts unless another artist credited. Do not copy, reproduce, reuse, modify any of the content or images from this site without permission.