If you’re going to change a nation, a small shop in Middlebury, Vt., might not sound like the place to do it. Emily Blistein is trying, though, by tackling the epidemic of gun violence in America. She’s doing it with postcards.
Using a series of cards designed by artists around the country, Blistein’s project, dubbed Love Is Mightier, aims to spread its anti-violence message however it can, using both social media and the good old Postal Service, with Blistein’s home decor and stationery store, Clementine, serving as home base.
“I grabbed all the social media handles for ‘Love Is Mightier’ so that, whatever happens from this, people can post their own images of either sending or receiving the postcards,” Blistein said. “So it can take on a bigger life of its own.”
Blistein has something of a penchant for bucking the system. Before opening Clementine in 2010, she worked as a public interest lawyer, fighting on behalf of lower-income families and survivors of domestic violence.
As a new mother when the horrifying Sandy Hook news hit, Blistein took to talking more and more with the people she’d meet day to day as a small business owner. It wasn’t until the mass shooting in San Bernadino, she said, that “we should do something” turned to “enough.” Shopping the concept among friends on Facebook and Instagram, she amassed a crew of collaborators, mostly designers with ideas to donate.
“I know that my best role is as the cheerleader and lightning rod, so I just sort of trusted that if I put it out into that world, the designers would know what to do,” she said. “The response was huge.”
Among them was Nicole Block, owner of The Nic Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., and no stranger to the gravity of guns. Her father worked as a beat cop in New York for 20 years in the ’60s and ’70s, never once using his weapon.
“I just always came to feel that, if my dad didn’t need it, and he was a law enforcement officer, then I certainly didn’t need it,” she said. “We understood the magnitude of using your gun at that point, and why he wouldn’t use it.”
The most important thing for Blistein was that the project didn’t repurpose the same anger and violence that it was fighting. The simple prompt of “love over fear” gave way to a range of results, some political, some peaceful, but all honest.
“I’m a mom of three kids, so it really speaks to me,” said Amy Heitman, a designer based in Chicago. “I don’t want my kids growing up in a world crippled by fear of violence or fear of not understanding each other.”
Understanding is key to the group’s mission, but so is action. With about three dozen stores around the country selling the cards, Blistein aims to send all of the proceeds to anti-gun violence entities, while educating each buyer about what steps they can take.
“It’s just the heart of giving to me,” she said. “I watch people all the time come in and buy stacks of cards, and it’s really emotional sometimes, and so I know how powerful that sort of return to the written word is.”