Serendipity Stamps is celebrating its 10th year in business this year and has maintained its wonderful personal touch and dedication to quality for the last decade! We at Gingersnap Creations are honored to have this wonderful company as our Challenge sponsor for January!
This month, I had the pleasure to speak with Mary Lee, owner of Serendipity Stamps, and wonderful stamper.
Q: Serendipity means "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident". Does that apply to your experiences owning a successful stamp company?
A: Oh yes! I was getting really tired of my "real" job - I was a consultant, developing training materials for corporations. It was interesting in that I learned a lot about a lot of different things - everything from how to run a federal prison to how to run a restaurant - but after 10 yrs I was tired of it.
I was absolutely obsessed with stamping - back then it was all email lists - not even yahoo groups yet! I thought I'd try to start teaching some classes in my town and even thought about opening a store. But I wandered into a tiny art gallery and saw pen and ink artwork by two local artists. It was exactly the type of art I liked but had a hard time finding in stamps - detailed images, nostalgic and nature scenes.
I called Mitra Friant, owner of my then favorite stamp company, Impression Obsession, and said "you don't know me, but will you tell me how to start a stamp company?" She said "yes" - how nice is that???? So I was lucky to find these great artists and lucky to find such a nice mentor!
Q: You have a number of artists who design for Serendipity Stamps. What criteria do you use in selecting the type of art you want to use for your stamps?
A: There are 3 main criteria. It must be original art - hand-created just for Serendipity Stamps. I don't use clip art and 99% of my lettering is hand lettered rather than just fonts. Also, all of my artists are local. I go to their homes, sit at the kitchen table and we work through ideas together. And, last but not least, it has to be art that I like and would use to stamp myself. I've learned not to jump on the band-wagon for each stamping trend that comes along. This may not be the most business savvy way to work, but it ensures that I can continue to be proud of, and comfortable with, the products I produce.
Q: I have long loved the beautiful sentiments that Serendipity offers. How do you select these lovely phrases, sentiments and verses?
A: I keep a folder full of pages torn from magazines and catalogs. I hear or read something I like and write it down. Or if I need something specific - like a phrase about "spring" I get out the good old Bartlett's Quotations and see what I can find.
Also, I get a lot of great suggestions from customers! Most recently - I had three new images and I emailed them to my Design Team and asked for suggestions for phrases to go with them. Oh, they came up with the best ideas!
Q: Last summer, Serendipity launched its new blog. What can customers expect to find when they visit your blog?
A: They will find lots of wonderful project ideas from our Design Team. They will also find a little bit of info about me and how Serendipity Stamps works. For example, I love nature, gardening, reading etc - so I have stamps of nature, flowers, books etc. So, you may see a post that shows a photo of the milkweed pods that are opening up along my driveway next to a beautiful card made using our Milkweed stamp. I'm a bit sporadic about posting so the best way to follow our blog and gallery is to register for it and get the emails when I post.
Q: We have a lot of challenge blog lovers among our readers. Can you tell our Gingersnappers about your Serendipity challenges?
A: We coordinate one challenge per month with the Serendipity Stamps Design Team Challenge. When I post the challenge entries from our Design Team, I ask customers to send in their own entries for the same challenge. On the deadline for the customer challenge each month, I draw one name out of a hat and that entry gets a Gift Certificate to Serendipity Stamps! We are taking a break from the customer Challenge in January to participate in the Gingersnap Creations' Challenges, but we'll start up again in February!
Q: You often mention your lovely daughters in your blog posts. Do any of them stamp?
A: I have three daughters and they are each completely different when it comes to crafting. The oldest is 17 and she stamps when she has something specific to accomplish like a gift for a friend or right now she's making trading cards for her art studio class. She never stamps just for fun though. My middle daughter is 14 and she' my crafter. She stamps, sews, paints - what ever strikes her fancy at the moment. The problem is she comes into the shop, gets all sorts of stuff out and either leaves it out all over the place or she takes it with her and then I can't find it! My youngest daughter is also 14 (not a twin - we picked her out of a lineup) and wouldn't stamp if you paid her to! Not a crafty bone in her body! We're still trying to woo her though...
Q: With time and the future on our minds this month, are there some new things in store in 2010 for Serendipity?
A: Amazingly, despite this hard economy, Serendipity has seen a big surge in new customers in this past year. I've had several of them tell me that they are tired of the "simple" trend in stamps and ready for more detail and beauty in their images. Well this is what we've always created so it's not exactly new - but we'll continue with what's worked for us. Jeannie, our artist who creates the gorgeous, realistic floral and animal images, and I have put our heads together and come up with new botanicals to entice all those gardeners out - both floral and vegetable! And Judy, who creates our more whimsical images, has done a trio of spring images that will make you smile just looking at them!
Q: I ask this last question of all my guests. What is your favorite thing about being part of the stamping community?
A: It's the last word - community. It's so great to "share" this craft that we all love so much. It brings us together in ways that talking about a good book or movie can't. We share something that we've created ourselves. We create wonderful things just so we can send them to a friend - or even to a stranger. She'll open our little gift to her and it will make her smile. And she'll put in there on her desk or her windowsill and smile again and again. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
I want to thank Mary for taking the time to speak with me. I really enjoyed it!
Please visit us frequently over the next month to see more art with Serendipity Stamps and check out our January challenges!