The queen of cards is, without a doubt, Constance Kay. Her Collection of handmade art cards adorn the top rows and end caps of card racks throughout the store. Her cards are certainly beautiful to look at, especially the Holiday selection. And for those special people or special occasions, consider a handmade art card from the Constance Kay Collection.
So who is Constance and what is her story? David Illies, husband and partner, explains.
Constance Kay started her company in 1985, shortly after arriving in New York City. She saw a niche in the “commercial” market for handmade original art cards designed and made by American artists in their studios around the country. At that time, it was not easy for artists to get their art into the marketplace, and she felt she could help. Constance saw cards made by American artists an alternative to both mass-produced printed cards and handmade cards designed in the America but produced in Mexico and China.
With a passion for art and art cards, Constance started her business in her apartment with one artist who worked in acrylic abstracts. Her first account was a stationery store in Philadelphia, who remained with her for over 20 years until it closed.
It was never the goal of Constance Kay to be in every store on every corner. She wanted her art cards to be in the best stores in the country and in the world.
In San Francisco, Russian Hill Bookstore has always been the flagship for the Collection. Constance felt that the owner, Carol Spencer, understood the product and made a commitment to it that has endured for many years.
The Constance Kay Collection currently encompasses about 60 artists and over 14,000 styles. The art cards have become increasingly refined over the years. Just about every medium can be found in the collection from collage to watercolors. Most styles could be described as sophisticated and elegant, but a touch of humor can also be found. Each card is signed and accompanied by a freestanding “bio,” that includes information about the card and the artist.
There are now collectors around the world and some cards are bought and sold for hundreds of dollars. Many of the cards end up framed and held as keepsakes.
Constance says she always looks forward to seeing Carol and her store on her periodic visits.