Tags:Diane English has held many jobs in her time. She's been a medical technician, has sold ads and shoes, and served a stint as a newspaper graphic designer "in West-by-God Virginia," she says. She even owned a metaphysical bookstore in St. Augustine, Fla., for 14 years.
But when menopause hit some years back, English decided it was time to let her inner child run free, she says. That impulse, combined with her wit and self-taught artistic skills, gave rise to her current station in life: creator and sole owner of Asheville's The Great Cosmic Happy-Ass Card Co.
In 2000, English moved her greeting-card operation from Florida to Asheville -- specifically to take advantage of the town's coolness, entrepreneurialism and wealth of kindred artists. She now sells her cards and assorted other items (including magnets, prints, totes, journals, mugs and T-shirts) locally, nationally and, increasingly, overseas. English just sold a bulk card order in Malaysia, she reports, adding that Greece, England and other foreign countries are helping build her company's international presence. She also has a new 100-page, full-color, self-published book out, called The Great Cosmic Happy-Ass Field Guide to Enlightenment.
Working out of a study located between Woodfin and Weaverville, English creates what she calls "a delightfully whacked-out series of original designs celebrating the humor, joy and perfect imperfection of this carnival ride we call life." Mining the spiritual and the metaphysical, but especially the flat-out funny aspects of living, English's creations invite people to loosen up and laugh. To paraphrase a wise man, she says, "Where there is laughter, there is God."
Speaking of God, English has an entire line of irreverent God-themed cards. She's particularly proud of her latest one, which shows the white-haired deity inviting an angel to (ahem) pull His finger. The punch line: "Behold! The truth behind the Big Bang Theory."
"I have a metaphysical background," English says about her melding of the spiritual and the humorous in her work. "I love metaphysics; I love transformation. I love anything to do with quantum physics. I love spirituality of all forms. The funny part of the cards are usually my take on my own spiritual life."
As "a one-woman band" who does everything from creating to marketing her work, English says that while the workload can be daunting, the journey has been incredibly fulfilling -- not to mention fun.
That spirit is reflected in the company's name. "When I was selling my cards at my [bookstore], there was a line of customers," she recalls. "I was playing with them, and they were playing with me. I said offhandedly, 'Well, I can't call myself the Great Cosmic Smart-Ass.' So one of my customers said, 'Well, why don't you call yourself the Great Cosmic Happy-Ass?' And that was it. I knew that was what it had to be. And, of course, it was very funny."
And while prudes may blanch at the name, English's response is simple: Lighten up.
"Do I care [about such reactions]? No," she says. "I have a wonderful niche of people that, No. 1, have a sense of humor and, No. 2, have asses and are not ashamed of it."
For more information or to buy products online, check out www.greatcosmichappyass.com. To arrange a visit to English's studio, call 645-0188. Locally, her creations can be bought at the French Broad Food Co-Op, Mountain Made in the Grove Arcade, Greenlife Grocery, Gaea Gifts, Legacies in Biltmore Village and Miya Gallery in Weaverville.
• We're 46th! Asheville has placed 46 on the Best-Performing Cities 2008 list, just released by the Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners -- up 71 spots from the city's 2007 rank. That's the second-largest gain among all 200 cities on the list. The annual study, Best-Performing Cities: Where America's Jobs Are Created and Sustained, ranks metropolitan areas by how well they're creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. Factors used to determine the ranking include: short- and long-term job growth; wage and salary statistics; and the concentration of high-tech industries. Asheville's rise in the rankings was driven primarily by strong one-year and five-year job growth.
• Urgent car care: Car got a dent, scratch, scuff or crack? Want it fixed today? Want a company that uses green practices to do the job? Then this really is your lucky day.
First Aid Auto (369 Rockwood Road) recently opened for business. They specialize in same-day service on minor car boo-boos such as hail damage, small dents and key scratches, clear-coat scratches and wheel scuffs, stone chips and bumber scuffs, and cracked bumper covers.
The owners also say their service is more environmentally friendly than traditional body shops. "Our unique spot-blending allows us to cut our emissions and use of hazardous materials as much as 98 percent, says Marketing Manager Josie Mielke. "Typically if you get a scratch or a chip in your paint, a body shop is going to paint the whole side of your car, which uses a lot of paint. When we spot-blend, we use HVLP guns, which are actually airbrushes and release almost zero particles into the air. We also paint only the affected area, thereby using only a thimbleful of paint." For more information, check out www.firstaidauto.com.
• Over there, over there: A-B Tech's third annual Export Expo is coming to the school Oct. 30. Experts will share their knowledge on topics ranging from how to enter the global marketplace to understanding international commercial terms and international finance.
The event will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of the Haynes Center on A-B Tech's Enka campus. The fee is $25; registration deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 1. For more information or to register online, go to abtech.edu/sbc/exportexpo.asp.