1999 - February, the Yuki Teki Haiku Society was having its monthly in the library where I worked. I went--why not?--and there I met Patricia Machmiller, whose art and friendship was essential to what transpired.
2000 - At the Los Altos Library, I met Catherine, who introduced me to Paul, through whom I met John. It was about this time, I believe, that Michelle met Andrew. Our Lucky Stars were doing their job.
2005 - John coined the name "marcalart" in entering my contact details into his cell phone. The name is a contraction of "Martha's Calligraphic Art", and it has become the name of the entire enterprise.
-- March-April : Patricia and I produced small art, a collaboration we named "Dandelions Art" (www.dandelions.us). These 3"x5" mini-masterpieces, featuring her art, my calligraphy, and famous people's words, were charming. We offered them for sale at a bookstore, but lost interest when more were stolen than bought. Still, we had the images on disk. At that time I had the idea of making bookmarks.
-- June: I helped organize an art festival, where one artist caught my attention: a lady who painted birds--who captured the essence of bird-ness-- with extraordinary implied realism, like good Chinese brush painting. That was Floy Zittin. We became friends.
September: I made two bookmarks which were given away at East West Bookstore's Customer Appreciation Day. Popularity encouraged me to follow up on my earlier idea of making bookmarks to sell.
October 16: My bookmarks went on sale for the first time. There were six designs: two Yogananda sayings (Yogananda is the patron guru of East West), a "Pledge to the Earth" , and three made from the Dandelions archive. Bookmarks were displayed in a basket; they cost $1 each.
December: At some point it occurred to me that the Chinese lucky slogan banners known to Hong Kong Cantonese as "fai chun" were exactly the same proportions as a bookmark. I only needed to reduce them, add translations on the back and I would instantly have at least 15 new bookmark designs. Somehow, at that point, Andrew came into the picture. He scanned my life-size fai chun, reduced them to bookmark-size, touched up the fronts, added backs, created sheets for printing.... and we were good to go.
February: After a flurry of design work, 15 Fai Chun designs went on sale, just in time for the start of the Chinese New Year of the Rat.
March: Looking for more art, I asked Floy if she would contribute bird designs. My idea at that time was that any artist could contribute art, I would make bookmarks with details of their work and websites on the back, so that the bookmarks would function something like business cards. Floy agreed. The first three of Floy's bird bookmarks soon went on sale: Anna's Hummingbird, Bluebird, and Cedar Waxwings. To my surprise---just art? no quotes?!-- they sold like hotcakes. No other artist has ever been interested in this arrangement, but I don't mind because Floy's ever-growing flock of bookmarks continue to sell, representing about 30% of total annual sales. Something to crow about? <oh, sorry! smile>
Sometime: Bookmarks moved to their own display space in the back of the store: the Bookmark Gallery was born.
December: Discrepancy between my records of how many bookmarks I had put out and the computer's records of how many bookmarks had sold indicated that 115 bookmarks had been stolen during the year. This news was crushing--but only temporarily. Now, I just don't keep careful records: problem solved.
June: East West installed a new inventory control software which keeps much more detailed records of what sells when. (I particularly like the colorful bar chart comparing months in different years. It reminds me of a horse race, with one year or another nosing ahead.)
May 24: Tired of the physical process of making bookmarks, I raised the price from $1.00 to $1.50. That gave me a breather. Sales fell off sharply for the summer, but recovered in the autumn.
January: I took over as manager of the Art Gallery at East West. One of the newer artists to the gallery brought bookmarks as well as photographic prints. Fine, I said, we can sell your bookmarks but be warned that shoplifting occurs. They agreed. Their bookmarks, very professionally produced, cost $2.50.
July: Finally it dawned on me to ask the people bringing in the $2.50 bookmarks, who makes your bookmarks? Answer: Adam at Cyberpress. Sure, Adam said, we can make your bookmarks. And they did.
September 9: Cyperpress-printed bookmarks went on sale, at $1.60, to differentiate them from the old style.
October: With production streamlined, my attention turned to the website issue. What name? Who to host it? Who/How to create and maintain it? I bought a domain name, www.highskydesigns.com, couldn't find someone to design it at a price I was willing to pay. At the same time, I knew that doing it myself would be far more efficient and, ultimately, satisfactory. Stymied.
November 10: Going through a pile of papers, I found a clipping from the Wall Street Journal that mentioned a website that hosted other websites--for FREE. www.weebly.com. It had been named one of the Top 50 Websites for 2009 by Time Magazine; they said they had 12 million users; and my friend Val said her Zen teacher's group used Weebly. Sounded legit. So, on Saturday I started working on the site....
November 12: "marcalart.weebly.com" was "born" at 11:37 am. A week later I bought the domain name, www.marcalart.com, transferred the content --and here we are!
Various of my friends have ordered custom-made bookmarks for weddings, moving notices, Christmas cards, and business give-aways.
May: First and only (so far) order of a bookmark from someone I don't know!
June: Record sales for an off-peak month of 109 bookmarks. Lifetime sales have passed the 5000 mark, which means, now, about 1000 bookmarks sell per year. Yippee!
July: On a trip to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada, I offered my bookmarks to bookstores there (which are thriving!). Munro Books was interested; ultimately they sold about 200 of Floy's bird bookmarks.
October: Cost of Cyberpress printing bookmarks doubled, with no explanation. A smaller, local printing business cost even more. Then I found an online company, Smartpress.com, which produced nearly the same quality with more reliable service at a fraction of the price.
November : East West owners announced they were selling the store. This news accelerated a trend of declining sales as customers misunderstood, thinking the store was actually closing. Bookmark sales,however, remained strong (50-60 per month).
September 30: Marcalart bookmarks were discontinued at East West. This unfortunate turn of events
possibly spells the end of my bookmark enterprise; however, I do still have plenty of bookmarks, for anyone who needs them! AND I am looking for another retail outlet, anywhere in the world. If you, reader, have any suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.