When I was about 19, I left home to “greener pastures”….Dallas Texas; and landed at a community college in Richardson, Tx called Richland. I enrolled for no particular reason than to be away from home and see the “big bad dangerous world”. With Autism and Asperger’s, I hadn’t a clue why I was attending anyway.
Though I was taking a full load, and retaining nearly nothing due to my Autism which had never been diagnosed, I also went to Dallas Fashion Merchandising College. Though it was not an accredited school, it was great fun, and for the first time allowed me to express myself creatively. I was told by my parents and others close to me that it was a waste of time; I’d never learn how to design, and I’d do best to throw in the towel there and focus more on my studies (business) at Richland. I tried but something kept me going to both.
I was unable to do lesson plans (at either school) but learned as much as I could from lectures. Fortunately there were some good professors at both and I retained a bit. 35 years went by before I had an opportunity to design. But everything had changed. In those days, one was to graduate and take their portfolio to a well-known designer. I was much too shy for that and my portfolio was an embarrassment.
I was older now, and there was something about electronic designing that appealed to me. I went through three major surgeries while back in college in my late 40s and mid-50s not to mention a major heart attack I’d suffered before becoming a student. I was determined to learn something before I left this planet.
As time went by, I learned the process of digital designing. I created gifts and clothing bearing my cartoon images, and also learned I could take old public domain images of famous people and their quotes and create designs with them, something I still enjoy doing.
In 2007, I was approached by a POD (Print On Demand) that they’d made a deal with U.S. Keds and wanted me to design some shoes using both my cartoons and public domain famous people and their quotes. At first it was fun. Then like so many Aspies it became an obsession and I felt I had to design at least 3-5 pair a day. It remained fun but grueling. Lee can tell you when I get started on a project my focus is there and remains there until it is finished or stabilized. There is almost no tearing me away from it. But she laughs as she is the same way with hers. As Gary Larson once said, “These little images in a way become our children”. And he’s right. We groom them, we help develop them, we show them how to behave in public and private. They’re just kids.
I married my beloved wife Lee who had had a much more positive experience with academia and also family members growing up who could sew beautiful clothing. When I shared digital design with her, I hardly had to tell her anything. Within 3 months, she had created about 700 pairs of shoes not to mention Tshirts, mousepads, eco-friendly bags, etc. Today she has about 30,000+, one of the most beautiful lines I have ever seen of both her nature and wildlife photography and her amazing artwork, much of it reminding me of Peter Max from the 60s but with her own flair. It’s a lot of fun and we’ve got a lot of it hanging in our place.
I guess I had about 3000 or so pairs of my “ShoesThatAmuse.com” when Keds and the POD had a falling out. I woke up one day and every one of Lee’s and my pairs were gone. No explanation, no apology, just a short note on their blog that said, “We’ll be back with another brand that will knock your socks off (no pun intended). It would be another 6 years before that happened.
In a lot of ways I’m glad it did happen the way it did. Though the brand we use now ZIPz is not as flexible in designing as Keds, the quality far outweighs them, and I like knowing that our lines is going to be something people will be able to enjoy for a long time.
I’ve received emails and mail from all over during that time of people telling me how much fun they’d had meeting people who simply asked about their shoes. Word of mouth was my best advertising.
After the trauma of hours/years of work on designing the Keds shoes, I changed the name of the store to RickLondonDesigns.com which encompassed all my wisdom, spiritual, motivational, political, etc quote gifts and the store does okay.
Now, I have just purchased the domain AmusingShoes.com which is what I’ve decided to name them.
My Autism Signature Series Shoes will be part of my Signature Gift series. 10% of profits will go to non-vaccine/non-cure Autism/Asperger’s causes. As time goes by and we see a real profit, that will be raised. For now it is the most I can do to keep the lights on. Bear with me, please. Thanks.
Time will tell how they will do. Generally, when I enjoy creating something, it sells. If it is a pain in the butt, it is as if the public knows and won’t buy it. There’s no fooling the public. They know if something is a labor of love, or just an item to put up to make money. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to waste my time making those type items. If it is not a labor of love, I’m simply not going to create it. Lee feels the same way with her LeeHillerDesigns.com. I don’t blame her in the least.
I hope you will drop by some of our shops and find items that you can’t find anywhere else. We’ve done it that way on purpose. We’ve found ways over the years to keep prices affordable, yet make the items as rare as hen’s teeth. People generally enjoy them. And for those who don’t there is a 30-day 100% refund, no questions asked. Can’t beat that.
Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer. He is best known for his Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts “Londons Times” which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. He is married to “his better half” Lee Hiller-London of Lee Hiller Designs who is a popular nature/wildlife photographer and artist as well as hiker and photo poet. The Autism Signature Series Of Gifts is part of his collection.