Lewiston-born Anne Taintor has turned a sharp wit, scissors, and old magazines into a snarky empire.
The image is a vintage illustration from a magazine, published more than half a century ago. The caption was written by Lewiston native Anne Taintor, who has parlayed a love of irreverent humor and collage-making into a line of products sold in more than 25 countries.
Taintor’s sassy product line includes refrigerator magnets, greeting cards, shopping bags, sticky notes, coin purses, cosmetics cases, flasks—almost anything to which you can affix a funny message. Most poke fun at the stereotypes of women promulgated in pre-feminist era publications like the Ladies Home Journal. Alcohol is often involved. In one illustration, a perfect 1950s housewife wipes a gleaming frying pan. Taintor’s caption: “The only thing left to polish off now is the gin.”
As a Harvard-educated single mother in the 1980s, Taintor was having difficulty supporting herself and her young daughter. “I went to a career counselor, who asked me what I liked to do. When I told him I liked making collages, he told me to do that.”
Her first products were handmade wood lapel pins and earrings, about the size of a quarter. Taintor cut and pasted artwork from old magazines and lacquered every piece, then sold them at local craft fairs. “When I started putting words on them, they started really selling,” she says. She cut the words out of magazines and assembled them into humorous messages, which she glued onto the pictures in blocks, creating her signature style.
Magnets came next, and quickly became her bestselling items. These, too, she produced herself, cutting sheets of magnetic material into rectangles using a paper cutter. Soon the demand outstripped her ability to produce products in her home, and she hired a manufacturer. Taintor maintains a network of freelance writers who supply ideas for the 30 to 40 new captions she uses every year. “It’s like long-distance brainstorming,” she says. She also runs caption contests through her online blog.
Recently relocated in Portland after 11 years in New Mexico, Taintor has seen her business expand beyond her greatest expectations. She has eight full-time employees in offices in New York and California, and she has launched a new line of products called Taintor With a Twist, which uses images licensed from the Saturday Evening Post. Though she has competitors, few can match her pithy wit. What woman, after all, hasn’t sat on a sofa listening to a self-absorbed man and wondered, “Why am I sober?”
3,000 • Number of stores that carry Anne Taintor’s products.
1971 • Year Taintor graduated from Lewiston High School.
30 • Age Anne Taintor was when she started her own business.
900 • Number of entries in a recent caption contest at www.annetaintor.com.