I almost missed this. Fortunately my mom mentioned it to me, and how it had inspired her and my father. And so I rifled through the large stack of last Sunday’s NY Times to find an article on Sandra Boynton called “The Power of Whimsy” gracing the front page of the business section. Boynton (picture here) has spent the last 30+ years creating greeting cards, children’s books, music cd’s, and more that all share her fresh and quirky vision. As a 12-13 year old, I loved her cards with messages like “Things are getting worse – please send chocolate” or a birthday card with animals proclaiming “Hippo Birdy Two Ewes.” This article offers a nice overview of the life and work of a woman who had made me chuckle as a kid.
Above all, it is really refreshing to see an artist on the cover of the business section and to find her speaking about focusing on the creative process first, and money second. As she says, “To me, the commodity that we consistently overvalue is money and what we undervalue is our precious and irreplaceable time.” Or as the article’s author, Phyllis Korki, explains, “As an entrepreneur, Ms. Boynton maintains a firm grasp on market realities and her finances, but she has refused to make money her main objective. Instead she has focused on the creative process, her artistic autonomy, her relationships and how she uses her time.” The article reveals her to be a woman with a keen sense of business – even as young as her early twenties, Boynton was savy enough to ask for royalties from the company who first picked up her illustrations for their greeting cards, and good thing too as these cards had an unprecedented level of success. Simultaneously she is also a woman who won’t agree to overmerchandizing her characters, and keeps her business intimate, manageable, and ultimately more enjoyable for her. Quality of life really guides her decisions, not greed. What a great message to find on page one of the business section of a mainstream paper like the NY Times. It gives me hope that artists can be part of shapeshifting the values of our culture toward something more holistic – a world in which money is just one measure of success along with time, connection, and even whimsy.