Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Interview with my One of my Favorite Card-ists, Emmie Hsu of Fomato

One of my favorite finds of the summer gift show was the Fomato card line. These cards are like novels. They're filled with lots of great characters, and expound on everything from tea and cheese, to the Nobel Prize and evil figures in history.

We've also had a lot of success with the Fomato buttons. Customers and booksellers can't help but lay them out on the counter to see them all. Jocelyn recently did an analysis of our remaining buttons--they actually formed a giant F.

But who was the mad genius behind these cards? A little monster drawing on my most recent invoice led me to think this was not a mega-conglomerate at all, but an entrepreneurial venture. Our initial conversation was about terms (we had inadvertently moved from the beginner's credit card to the more coveted net 30) and Emmie Hsu (the entrepreneur) told me she was busy with classes. I wrote back and asked if she was an 18-year-old college student. She replied that she was actually only five.

Needless to say, I had more questions. An interview follows:

Daniel: How did you get into the business?

Emmie: I originally wanted to write & illustrate children's picture books, so I spent years working on convoluted manuscripts and drawings. During that time, I was also attending my version of art school, which was me working and quitting odd jobs, doodling, and spending insane amounts of money at Pearl Art Supply.

One day, I randomly thought about starting a company. I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but the first thought was "my own Sanrio." I'm not even super into Sanrio (I was as a kid, but now I've grown up and graduated onto comic books), but the idea was to create a bunch of fun, possibly useless products for people.

Daniel: What's your bestselling card?

Emmie: A card about Facebook. A few others have been cards about mix tapes, cheese, and driving.

Daniel: Who is your favorite character that you draw?

Emmie: Currently I like Boris. He owns a teahouse and a cheese shop. I feel like we'd be friends if he existed.

Daniel: Is there one person who does both the art and the writing or should I be referring to you as youse?

Emmie: I do the text & graphics. By the way, since you are very knowledgeable in this field (I mean that sincerely) - is there an apt term for someone who does text & graphics? I was thinking today about people I admire, like David Shrigley and Christoph Niemann, who combine both. I feel like the writer/illustrator, cartoonist, and graphic novelist terms aren't always applicable, and artist is too broad. I'm hoping that another good term is out there. Maybe I'll just start saying "text & graphics."

Daniel: What's your favorite color? I'm guessing it's blue.

Emmie: I think you're thinking blue because of the non-denominational holiday cards with snow.

Wait, let me look up your past orders.

Ah, I do see a bunch of blue cards in there. I'm not sure why I threw blue in so many designs.

To answer your question, I can't commit to one color, but I do love moss green - one that you find growing on black rocks next to waterfalls. Cerulean blue mixed with lemon yellow (in watercolor) is also amazing - you get that beautiful spring green.

Now I'm thinking about yellow, crimson, purple, and thistle. Saturated colors are wonderful. Everytime I see someone wearing black, I mentally redress him/her in a color that would be fantastic with his or her skin tone. Is that strange? I sort of wish I could give people swatches of colors that would look great on them. But then people would think I was crazy

Daniel: Cupcake or donut?

Emmie: A delicious Krispy Kreme doughnut, please. I can't get behind cupcakes. Why spend $5 on an overly frosted speck when you can crash someone's bday party and eat an entire half of a cake for free?

Daniel: The one card that bombed for us was the late Christmas card. Why? Because nobody buys them before Christmas and then we mark down our Christmas cards and how do we leave this one out? Well what's the point of carrying a card you can only really sell at 50% off. I wound up buying them all for me to send myself, since I don't think of sending out holiday cards until December 26th.

Emmie: I'm sorry this card didn't sell for you (sucka!!! just kidding). I'd have guessed people would buy them before Christmas, but it sounds like people who send holiday cards are also people who send them out on time. I can't relate . . . next time I'll have to channel my inner punctual person.

By the way, it would be awesome if you sent them out in July. I would say a July holiday card was a pretty damn late holiday card.


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