Thursday, January 21, 2010

The power of words

When I first began dreaming about my business, and trying to come up with an entire new concept and name and logo and whatnot, I decided I needed a little inspiration. I wanted to convey simplicity and necessary daily luxury, but I wasn't quite sure how to put it all together.

So I headed to the library, and hit up a couple of bookstores, searching for books of poems and quotations, looking up those phrases and related ideas. It has always seemed to me that just the perfect little phrase conveys so much more meaning than endless sentences and paragraphs of lengthy description.

I wanted a meaningful tag line for my new brochures. And I ended up with pages of them. Then it was a matter of editing it all down to the single one that worked the best. I couldn't do it. I ended up with two, and they've been there since the very first day, on every printed flier I've done for the past 14 years.

For those of you who might not have seen one of my simple little brochures, on the very back of the 3-fold brochure are two quotes. The top one I found in a pile of ancient magazines at an antique show, and it absolutely stopped me cold. It's from Woman's Home Companion, December 1935. And it could have been written ten years ago, or yesterday. It's absolutely the theme of the day, in this culture that we live in right this very minute. I can't imagine how different the world was then, and yet the sentiment was so much the same:

"Year by year, the complexities of this spinning world grow more bewildering and so each year we need all the more to seek peace and comfort in the joyful simplicities." Woman's Home Companion, December 1935

Each time I read it, it seems more true than before. So it stays in place.

The second one is a poem from Edna St Vincent Millay (1982-1950), a fascinating woman poet, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, for The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems. Her best-known poem might be "First Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles (first published in 1920):

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

As much as we all love that one, the one I chose for my brochure came from the Pulitzer prize winning book, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1923. It's just two lines from the poem called The Goose Girl:

"And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me."

The full poem encompasses so much more and sort of takes the sentiment off track, for my own purposes, but it's here:

"Spring rides no horses down the hill,
But comes on foot, a goose-girl still.
And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me.
If ever I said, in grief or pride,
I tired of honest things, I lied:
And should be cursed forevermore
With Love in laces, like a whore,
And neighbours cold, and friends unsteady,
And Spring on horseback, like a lady!"

I'm not sure I have ever shared the story of why these quotes are on the back of my brochures. But it probably seems obvious anyway. I treasure my little simple daily luxuries, and a beautiful bar of heavenly soap in the shower each morning is one of them. I was hoping that sharing my own hand made soap bars would give that special lift to other people who used them too. And after all these years, and all the different evolutions of the scents and products, I still hope my customers feel that way.