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Tay Ham

Reigning queen of puns, pop culture, wordplay and Hillary Clinton portraiture sat down with Bulletin to chat greeting cards and impulsive life choices. For Tay, the two go hand-in-hand.

Bulletin: Take us back. How did all this get started?

Taylor: Well, I have no formal training, but I've been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. My parents were big fat hippies and really fostered my creativity, so you'd always find me in a corner by myself drawing.

Bulletin: Not far different from your day-to-day now. How'd you land on greeting cards, specifically?

Taylor: I've been making my own greeting cards my whole life, since I was a kid. I don't think I've ever actually bought a greeting card!

Bulletin: Were they always as impressive as your current line? I'm imagining blatant squiggles and stick figures, here...

Taylor: I actually remember the first thing I ever drew. I was seven years old, and it was Betty from the Archie comic series. My parents and grandparents walked over and were like, "Oh man! You can draw!" It was the first moment I realized I was good at something.

Bulletin: So at what point did you start putting characters on actual cards?

Taylor: Well, I've always loved giving cards for no reason. A card with a vibe like "I just want to say hi." The first collection I did as an adult was on my two-month European honeymoon with my husband. It was collage-based, and I made him one card for every day that we were gone. People saw them afterwards and gave great feedback.

Bulletin: Where do you and your husband live now?

Taylor: Well, I was ready to get the hell out of East Hampton, where I grew up. So at eighteen, I put up a map, threw a dart along the coast and moved where it told me to go, and now—

Bulletin: Wait, are you serious?

Taylor: Yeah. And now I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina. I knew I wanted a coastal town. I didn't know anything about it prior.

Bulletin: Were you doing creative projects in Wilmington prior to Tay Ham?

Taylor: Well, not exactly. For a while, I worked for a few nonprofit companies, waited tables, helped run a film festival. Right before I launched, I was a special-effects buyer for Iron Man. I bought the explosives, the wood, all the tools.

Bulletin: That's so awesome. Also random. Did you enjoy it?

Taylor: It was definitely a cool job, but also a total tipping point. I had no time to draw, no time for my friends. I was sick of doing things for other people. I realized I needed to do something for myself. I needed my own thing.

Bulletin: Were you nervous to just... start over?

Taylor: Not really. I had money saved and was really excited to finally launch my own thing. I figured greeting cards were the easiest way to get my art out there. I always loved hearing that a card made someone's day. I'm kind of a snoop, too, so the cards are my little way of weaseling into someone else's life without being creepy.

Bulletin: Safe strategy. What did you launch with and how did you decide? A whole life's worth of greeting cards means there was plenty to choose from...

Taylor: So I chose six different phrases and matched three drawings for each. I wanted to see which sold the best. I put them up on Etsy, and within fifteen minutes, this adorable store around the corner from me reached out and asked if they could sell them in-store. It was my first real vote of confidence.

Bulletin: Two years later and you've got St. Vincent here, Cher, Led Zeppelin, Dolly Parton. How do you go about designing a card?

Taylor: Every card I draw has some sort of meaning or memory for me. Like, the Led Zeppelin one reminds me of my dad. The 90210 card reminds me of my sister and my friends, watching the show growing up. I have to have genuine love for the things that I draw. If it's a person, I'll search the Internet and study their faces and everything about their lives before I even do a draft.

Bulletin: Do you know how people react when they receive one of your cards? Do you have a favorite story?

Taylor: Well... Riff Raff came to my town one time to do a show. I waited forever in line just to give him the card he was on. I went backstage and he was fully talking to the wall, absolutely blazed out of his mind. As I was leaving he grabbed my butt cheeks and said, "Let me get an ice cream scoop!" He loved the card. I wasn't even super upset that I was virtually assaulted.

Bulletin: Wow. Should we end the interview here?

Taylor: For the record, my husband didn't care. He was laughing his ass off.