Poetry and a Pickup Truck
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I GUESS you could say that my husband and I are free spirits. We built our greetings business by driving town to town, around the country, selling cards we wrote and designed.
I've always been a writer, as far back as age 7 when I put together a neighborhood newspaper while my younger brother, Robert, and I were growing up in Peekskill, N.Y.
I pursued my interest in writing at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., with a major in English, and graduated in 1966. My first job was teaching Head Start students in a school in Harlem. At the same time, I wrote freelance articles for newspapers and magazines and started studying physiology in graduate school.
While at college, I met my husband, Stephen, while he was studying for his doctorate in theoretical physics at Princeton. We married in 1969 and moved to Boulder, Colo., for his postdoctoral fellowship researching solar energy.
My hobby was writing poems, and in 1971 Stephen suggested making a silk screen poster with the words of my poem, "Come Into the Mountains, Dear Friend." We left 12 posters at a nearby bookstore to see if they would sell. We forgot to leave our phone number, but when we checked in a month later the bookstore had sold out the posters and wanted to order more.
That was the start of Blue Mountain Arts. Stephen, who had studied drawing and lettering at the High School of Music and Art in New York, illustrated a book of my poems about love and nature. The books quickly sold out in the Boulder area, allowing us to pay $700 for a pickup truck and start traveling the country, attending greeting card trade shows and knocking on the doors of retail stores.
We made a living from the first day, and in 1974 we hired my mother as our first sales manager. But even after our son Jared Polis (who is now a congressman from Colorado), was born in 1975, we were still on the road.
Eventually, we wanted more family time, so we hired a manager, and by 1980, when our daughter, Jordanna (now a graduate student), was born, we had 100 employees and 200 salespeople. Our second son, Jorian (now an author), was born three years later.
But 1986 found us battling Hallmark over one of its newest lines of cards, which we saw as deceptively similar to our own cards. After filing a lawsuit, we finally settled the matter in 1988, clearing the way for us to continue our distinctive style of cards without interference. That same year, Blue Mountain published my book "To My Daughter, With Love, on the Important Things in Life," which has sold 1.5 million copies.
In 1996, we started the BlueMountain.com Web site, offering electronic versions of our greeting cards. A dot-com group, Excite@Home.com, bought the site and later sold it to American Greetings. We kept the Blue Mountain Arts name and continue to operate our own company. Many of our original employees are still with us.
My autobiography, "Blue Mountain: Turning Dreams Into Reality," covers how we built the company. I also wrote "Depression and Back: A Poetic Journey Through Depression and Recovery," which describes my three-year journey through depression.
In recent years, I have also been making documentaries. I just finished making "The White Sheets of Resiliency," about people who have survived tragedies or life-changing challenges and are helping others do the same.
I still love connecting to people's emotions on love, nature, friendship and family in my work, but my favorite thing these days is doting on my grandson, who is now all of 5 months old.
As told to Elizabeth Olson.
First Published March 4, 2012 12:01 am