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The Birth of Ampersand Cards

This year marks the 25th birthday of Ampersand Cards!! As I always used to say in the early days, I haven’t lost the house!

I can hardly believe all these years have gone by and I’m still at it, still have energy for it, and am planning some exciting changes this year. I started the business after reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, with my sister. The book broke me wide open! I was working then at an incredibly difficult job as a therapist with alcoholic and drug-addicted women. The good thing about the job was that it made me feel very grateful for the upbringing and life I’d had. The bad thing was that I was ill-prepared for the soul-crushing stories I heard every day from clients. And with almost no support on the job, it did not take long for me to realize that being a therapist was not my true calling.

My earliest handmade cards, using sponge prints

I left the job. My sister, who lived in Tucson at the time, suggested we start a card business. I thought that sounded good, so I got going. Pretty quickly we both realized that we couldn’t do it long distance. so I went ahead on my own. She remained my well-loved moral support.

Anyway, I sat in my yard one lovely day and wrote a bunch of verses. Then I played around with how to make the cards, settling on sponge prints like I’d taught my sons to make for their boxes of school Valentines. I cut shapes out of sponges, painted them with watercolors and pressed them onto cards, embellishing with glitter glue. Then I glued the words on. I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for glue that would not make the cards curl up, and in that search, befriended two wonderful local cardmakers.

Tired of all those sponge prints and glitter glue, especially for wholesale, I tried this for awhile.

I still have the notebook in which I tried out names and logos. 3 Boys & a Dog. Imagine Cards. Real Dog Cards. 2Trees Cards. Tea & Chocolate Cards. Us Girls Cards. In June of 1998 I registered the fictitious name (I thought this was a funny term) of Ampersand Cards. It turns out that, to sell handmade greeting cards, I had to undergo a criminal background check!

In August I obtained a business license and the rest, as they say, is history. Okay, it’s not a particularly well-known history. Neither I nor Ampersand Cards appears in Wikipedia, for example, or even, I would guess, any local history. I do have a friend here who calls me LAKF, which stands for Local Artist Kay Foley. I am grateful for that.

The first store to carry my cards was Poppy, right here in beautiful downtown Columbia MO. I stood nervously in front of Barbara McCormick, then owner, who very graciously looked at my cards and said, “So you’re a poet!” She agreed right then to try out my cards in her beautiful shop. To this day, my cards grace the shelves at Poppy.

I’ll be continuing the story of our 25th birthday throughout this year, a year of change for me and for Ampersand Cards. Stay tuned.

“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.” ― Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

“I decided that the world of work is not conducive to JOY–and so I became a dreamer of dreams that come true. I’m much happier now.” – Kay Foley!

“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” ― Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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