You may not know the person or the face behind the products, but I guarantee that you know the brand. While her style of artsy, whimsical vintage inspired sarcasm has been mimicked and copied for many years, Anne Taintor is the real deal. She's been making smart people smile since 1985 and I got a chance to speak with the innovator behind the brand and the sarcastic wit behind it all.
Qiana- Tell me a little bit about how you got started doing this business and what your inspiration was behind it all.
Anne-Well, I kind of fell into this business. I studied art with the intention to be a serious artist. When my daughter was 3, I became her sole support and I went to a career counselor and was told to do collage, since it was what I was good at. I was doing collage earrings and jewelry. Then I found a stack of these old magazines and started putting words onto them because they looked so silly to me. My original products were little hand made things. I glued the pictures on, lacquered them and sold them at craft sales. One year after doing a ton of craft fairs, I started doing more gift shows. A retailer came to me and wanted an order. Eventually I was able to reproduce things. My magnets cards, magnetic notepads and sticky notes are all made in America but the other products are made in Asia.
Qiana- There’s a lot of witty sarcasm injected into your work. Is that something that runs in the family?
Anne- It definitely runs in the family. I miss my mom every day and she definitely passed her wicked sense of humor on to us. The things she used to say- never anything mean, but she got her point across. I think the meanest thing she would say about someone was that they were a jackass. My sisters and brother are definitely sarcastic as well, so it all comes pretty naturally. (laughs)
Qiana- You were the initial creator of these vintage images intertwined with a more updated outlook to things. Over the years, I’m sure you've encountered knockoffs and having your work mimicked. How do you deal with that?
Anne- I grieve deeply. (laughs)I have to say that for the most part I don’t do anything about it, because you’ll spend your time held up in legal issues and I don’t want to do that. I was at a trade show and I saw a line that I felt was a knockoff. My customers would come to me trying to order a specific design that were Anne Taintor "inspired" and that propelled me to create other products- coin purses, flasks, shot glasses, luggage tags. It really just helped to give me the understanding that there was a bigger pie there. These people could have their piece and I wanted to have my piece as well. As a collage artist, there are other artists that inspire me, so I get it. This vintage thing was my own idea, but collage is a very popular art form.
Qiana- How do you keep your ideas fresh and relatable?
Anne- I read the paper a lot. I work with freelance writers and we all brainstorm. I try not to be too current really, because anything that’s very fresh is going to quickly disappear and become old news. The big issues will always be there, like gender discrimination. The funny thing is, I cooked dinner for the first time in 12 years a few weeks ago. My husband recently began working full time, so I cooked. I don't believe in "gender roles".
Qiana- Do you have plans to launch any new products soon?
Anne- We’re always creating new products. I’ll be vague, because there are some things in the works that haven't been finalized yet, but there is some wonderful bar ware launching soon. I’m partial to bar ware. (laughs)
Qiana- Where can we find your products and learn more about you?
Anne- We sell to so many stores, so I know that I can't name them all offhand. We sell in every state and internationally. Off the top of my mind, we're in Sweden, Denmark and South Africa. In New York, I know we're in Ricky’s, It’s Sugar, Papersource, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and Strand Bookstore. Fans are invited to visit on Facebook and share their thoughts and you can also shop directly from the website.