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Creative Folks Are The Currency
As a freelancer, he made it clear that all creative contributions were highly valued when
working on projects. I also knew that he cared enough about the quality of work so it
would look great and be well received. Steven comments, “The integrity and quality were
going to be good. I value that. It’s important for me a collaborator whether it’s friendship
or professional it’s important that I’m being valued for my contribution. I know that when
I manage a team and bring people into a process they are a full member and an
important member and their point of view is heard and recognized. That’s very satisfying
to them and goes a long way. Creatives are the most cost-effective resource out there
because all you have to do is respect, admire, appreciate them and celebrate them and
they’ll give you their first born kids and then some. That’s the currency of that realm.”
Becoming A “Macher”
I’m sitting in an oversized chair. Steve reveals, “You’re sitting in my grandfather’s chair
from the 1930s or 40s.” His grandfather, Irving Stone, started American Greetings. Steven
is very proud of his family and notes, “he was a ‘macher,” which is a Yiddish term for
maker. As Steven adds, “The family legacy of being the family the makers, the builders of
industry, has been very formative. I’ve always had a lot of admiration for it and have an
identity. It’s kind of my destiny to do the same. It’s my job. More than anything this is how
I got into design American Greetings. My exposure to design was not through art school.
When I was in art school at the Institute (Cleveland) in 1985 I was in glass and was a fine
artist working in craft media and glass making sculpture. I hadn’t really looked at design or
had an understanding of visual communications. The whole realm of using design as a
methodology and process to communicate to an audience or a point of view was not in my
vocabulary. I didn’t have a typical entre into that realm. . .
. . .When my grandfather recruited me I was in New Mexico. The truth was I was married
and had a kid and a pregnant wife and we were living pretty well. Even though I was in my
late 20s, I was doing all right. I was having shows all around the country as a working
artist. I was showing with the big boys. Kind of like a bench sitter in the Triple A or major
leagues. In 91 or 92, there was a little recession. The art market was superheated in the
1980s. There was so much stupid money going around. Without realizing it I was
feeding at the trough of the junk bond market. When the economy stalled art markets
really hit the wall. At that point, I’d make work and sell it quickly. When that stopped, the
galleries wouldn’t pay me or they wouldn’t get paid by their customers. I had a mortgage
I had kids where was the money? And that’s when I came to Cleveland I had a real
job.” The phrase “real job” will be explored in the psychology chapter.
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