Don’t even think about playing a game of “he said, she said” with Ken Logsdon. He’ll win every time.
Logsdon collects quotes like some people collect seashells or marbles, in the thousands. He loves quotes so much that 14 years ago he started his own greeting card company, Post-A-Quote. Logsdon’s handmade cards pair vintage photos, portraits and postage stamps with quotations from well-known and respected literary figures, political leaders and personalities.
Some quotes are serious, some are insightful and some are funny. To Logsdon, they all serve an important purpose.
“Quotes have a potential for changing our lives,” says Logsdon, a Columbia resident.
“A quotation is a portal for discovery of what else that person has said and written.”
Post-A-Quote offers card buyers what other quotation-based card companies do not: individual craftsmanship. Logsdon writes and signs the more than 5,000 cards he produces each year.
He says it’s one more way for him to interact with the written word.
“It connects me to the product,” Logsdon says. “Literally.”
Each Post-A-Quote card is an individual work of art; no two cards are the same. Logsdon often pairs the same quote with a different image or vice versa. He also does custom orders.
Logsdon’s process is simple but time intensive. No mass printing or fancy desktop publishing is involved. He starts by making photocopies of a photo, portrait or stamp. Before the image and its border are affixed to the card, Logsdon inscribes the selected quotation, which his wife, Lynnette, proofreads. She has prevented her husband from shipping out cards with quotes from “Emily Logsdon,” their daughter, instead of “Emily Dickinson.”
Handwriting each card has its pleasures and its pitfalls. But the elegant penmanship is as much a part of the art as the quotes and images.
“It’s my handwriting dressed up and slowed down,” Logsdon says. “I just have to be very deliberate.”
Misquoting someone or attributing the quote to the wrong person is a particular peril of the quotation card business. Most of his quotations come from original literary works or from two gold-standard reference books: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Logsdon collects photos and stamps from a variety of sources, including antique stores, flea markets and family donations.
His basement studio contains thousands of meticulously catalogued photos, including contemporary color photographs his sister, Claudia Hunter, a photographer, has taken.
Logsdon’s affinity for card making came naturally but relatively late in his life. He has no art or design background and never considered himself artistic.
“In my generation, if you couldn’t draw a still life that the teacher arranged for you to draw, you weren’t considered creative,” Logsdon says. “So, I never thought I was creative. I was in my 40s before I realized I had a creativity of another sort.”
Writers’ words have fascinated Logsdon, a former insurance-claims investigator, for as long as he can remember. In the 1970s, he started gathering an inventory of noteworthy quotes and cartoons in notebooks that are tattered from use. A decade later, Logsdon was pairing quotations with copies of cartoons from the New Yorker and handcrafting books he gave to his family and friends.
Today, his quote collection has blossomed into a 1,227-page cross-referenced computer database. Logsdon hasn’t counted the number of quotations he has collected.
Whatever the number, Logsdon has quotation cards for just about every occasion. For that special middle-aged man or woman, Voltaire says what you can’t: “What most people consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy.”
For just the right sympathy card for a friend whose dog has died, a quote from Agnes Turnbull should do the trick: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”
When feeling a bit philosophic about life, one of Mark Twain’s truisms will work: “It is better to give than receive, especially advice.”
Logsdon specializes in cards of famous, mostly dead, authors, including William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Carl Jung. He penned the company’s tagline, “Correspondence Cards for the Literate,” to brand his business as a serious literary quotation card line. He has learned that pithy humor still sells best.
“It’s ironic to me that while I try to stay with the literary,” Logsdon says, “my biggest selling card is decidedly not.”
The card, which Logsdon lists under the category of “Exasperating Men,” shows a series of old photos of men standing next to cars and trucks. The anonymous quote written underneath is a bit of good-natured male-bashing: “If it has tires or testicles, you can be sure you’re going to have trouble with it.”
More than a hobby
Card-making became more than a hobby for Logsdon after he met Denver artist Edie Dismuke at a Colorado arts festival in 1990. Knowing his affection for all things Winston Churchill, Dismuke sent Logsdon cards she made with old postage stamps of the former British prime minister’s image. Logsdon suggested she add some of Churchill’s famous quotes to the cards. Fatefully, Dismuke replied, “Be my guest.”
Spurred into action, Logsdon started Post-A-Quote in 1991 as a hobby. During the next two years, though, he became increasingly enchanted with card making and much less so with his insurance job.
He decided to quit his job and, after moving to Columbia, turned his hobby into a full-fledged business in 1993. Logsdon’s day job is a part-time position as publicity coordinator for MU’s Theater Department.
Fittingly, The Churchill Memorial in Fulton was one of Logsdon’s first accounts. Logsdon produces a special line of Churchill-themed quotation cards, bookmarks, magnets and lapel pins made from canceled stamps to commemorate the life of one of his favorite statesmen.
“I think we live in a democracy today much to his doing,” Logsdon says.
Churchill, also a prolific, Nobel Prize-winning writer and orator, is known for his wit as much as for his candor. One of Logsdon’s favorite Churchill quotes lives on in a Post-A-Quote: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
Logsdon’s Churchill cards feature not only photos that relate to Churchill’s life but also black-and-white drawings of the leader Oklahoma artist D.J. Lafon created. Lafon also supplies Logsdon with literary portraits of other famous writers, including Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce.
“The creativity he does with these is incredible,” says Sara Winingear, assistant director of the Churchill Memorial. “Cookie-cutter cards are great, but here we try to have unique items.”
The museum’s shop sells nearly 200 cards a year. Winingear says she frequently encounters visitors who come to the museum only to buy Logsdon’s cards in time for the holidays.
Although the Churchill cards are available for order through the Post-A-Quote Web site, Logsdon will usually refer interested buyers from the Fulton area to the museum. He doesn’t want his Web site to compete locally with his accounts, he says.
Logsdon also creates custom cards for the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn.; Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Mass.; and the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Mass.
Barbara McCormick, a buyer for Poppy, a contemporary arts and craft gallery in downtown Columbia, has carried Logsdon’s cards for at least 10 years. McCormick is a huge fan of Post-A-Quotes; she sells hundreds of Logsdon’s cards each year.
“Each card tells a story or expresses itself in a way that will make you think of somebody,” McCormick says. “They are small gifts unto themselves.”
Logsdon’s gift is marrying prose with pictures. He describes his creative process as a “match game,” a mental exercise that he says involves “part skill, part artistry and part dumb luck.” It also requires a lot of patience.
“The highest compliment someone can give me is, ‘That image is perfect for that quotation,’” Logsdon says.
Logsdon’s matching game extends to his careful selection of other elements used in his cards, such as textured swatches of wallpapers and colorful papers that frame his vintage photos and stamps. He continually experiments with new materials to keep the design elements fresh and new. He says it’s hard to survive in the competitive greeting card industry otherwise.
Survival is more than pairing the best quotes with the correct images. It’s about selecting quotes that offer universal truths that most people will relate to and will want to buy. Logsdon says one of his favorite quotes by writer Quentin Crisp: “Life: you fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire and drop into your grave.” is too cynical to sell as a card.
On the other hand, he has yet to discontinue a top-selling card featuring a lengthy quote from film legend Joan Crawford, although he has grown weary of rewriting it: “You’re only as old as you feel … but you can’t be Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollipop forever. Sooner or later, damn it, you’re old.”
Like any serious collector, Logsdon is always looking for the next great quote. If you browse through the Post-A-Quote line expecting to find vapid sound bites from celebrities du jour, you had better look elsewhere.
“My interests lie in people who time has proven wise, or funny,” Logsdon says.
You can quote him on that.