Making Cards ‘Completely Gail’
By Colleen Humfreville
A friend of mine once asked me, “Why do you have to be completely frank with me … why can’t you just be completely Gail?”
What I thought was a silly question at the time ended up being something I asked myself quite often.
I realized that in everything I do – “How I dress, how I live, how I think, how I act, how I design – I need to be completely me.” – Excerpt from personal website, completelygail.com
The cards are laid neatly out on the table, featuring a variety of designs and motifs. The bicycle built for two, though, is one of Abby’s favorites. The bicycle, an original drawing by Abby, looks slightly vintage — its spokes and other workings are drawn in an opaque black. Both seats face forward, positioned fairly close together. Surrounding the bike, the card reads “When two become one … the ride’s a lot more fun.” The card was inspired by her husband of three years, Mark Anthony.
“He was the one who first pushed me to start my own [line of] business,” Abby said. “Back when I worked at Quiksilver, he asked if I would be happy working there the rest of my life. I didn’t have an answer for him. Then I just started marketing my cards and invitations more. I gave it a shot.”
With the knowledge that she could always go back to her job as a purchaser for Quiksilver, it was a risk that she was willing to take.
It started first with making invitations for her wedding. She didn’t feel the need to pay for expensive cards if she could make them herself. In fact, this pennywise act opened a door full of possibilities for Abby. It gave her the confidence to know that she knew what she was doing.
Creating the cards on Illustrator and printing everything from home, she started her very own small business, one that she named “Completely Gail.”
“I’ll create the design, decide what writing I want to use and just print it out,” she said. “I just click print. Hopefully someday someone can do all the cutting and printing for me, and [then] I could just design.”
In fact, her cards and notecards can now be seen in select boutiques and small businesses, including the UCI Bookstore. With bulk of orders of 50 or more, 10 of her designs have hit the card stands, the stands that she herself once perused as a freshman.
An alumna of UCI, Abby graduated in 2004 with a degree in economics. She enjoys the chance to see her crafts displayed and sold at her own alma mater.
“I like supporting small [shops and] businesses,” she said. “You know, since I’ve become one myself. My husband‘s goal for me is to make it to Target, so he can retire and not have to work anymore. But I don’t know how big I want to get. I just know that I want to keep doing it.”
Abby has been keeping herself busy. She is still designing cards for all occasions, anywhere from important invitations to simple notecards. She has now started creating banners as well, which she advertised during her most recent visit to UCI at the vendor fair last year, In fact, each one can be specially personalized!
On this occasion, she brought along a “Happy Birthday” banner which was made out of pages from an older book. Abby packed thin sheets of paper together with pieces of cardboard, making it stronger and durable. She made it for a friend’s birthday party.
One of Abby’s favorite things to make are the creative cards she first started her business with. With the signature trait of a hand-created design on the front, there is also another characteristic of the cards that never changes: they’re always blank inside.
“There are two reasons that I like leaving them blank,” she said. “I like when people write a lot in cards, so I like to leave room for someone to write their own message. Also, it’s more cost-efficient.”
No matter the reasons, Abby’s business venture has and is continuing to go well. Had she been able to foresee her card-making endeavors back in her UCI days, she would have called herself “crazy.” Her unexpected success has helped her understand that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
“If there’s something that you want to do, and that you’d love doing, go for it,” she said. “It’s never too late to do what you love. It’s just taking that first step and doing it. Do it. Try it. But know that you have to try hard.”