It’s National Cat Day, a day to celebrate the felines who love us (or in some cases, have pure apathy for us). We stopped ourselves from showing our favorite cat videos, which would’ve taken at least forever to get through. Instead, meet our cat besties:
1. Name: Gerald “Coop” Cooperberg
Belongs to: Katie, assistant to the publisher
Age: 3 1/2 years old
About: A few months ago, I was able to adopt Coop through a friend of a Knock Knock employee. Coop enjoys meowing, jumping and twirling in the air to catch his toys, and cannonballing onto the bed in the middle of the night. He likes his catnip dry, not fresh, and prefers large cardboard boxes over regular cat furniture and toys. He hates hugs, but he loves being scratched under his chin and right behind his ears. Watch out ladies: he bites toes.
Coop, there he is! Coop, there he is!
2.Name:Sherman Alexie, the Native American poet and screenwriter aka Sherman aka Buddybear Maurice
Belongs to: Janet, marketing designer
Age: 8 years young
About:Stylish, special, beautiful. A non-smoker who loves to laugh. This 15 lb. loverboy is always up in our grills, meowing, and wanting some respect . . . or chicken-flavored treats. Shermy’s signature moves: assuming meatloaf position and sunbathing in the window, attacking and eating unsuspecting flowers, peeking around corners, sleeping with his head on a pillow, wandering casually into piles of laundry, and falling asleep face-first in a lap. This morning, he crawled into a bathroom drawer and disappeared the back way into the cabinet next to it so he could hang out on a soft pile of toilet paper.
"Come on and put on the hat, they said. It'll be fun, they said."
3. Name: Milly
Belongs to: Grace, social media and marketing intern
Age: 6 years old
About: Milly was born on the streets of Brooklyn and she has an attitude to prove it. She enjoys sitting in the bathtub under running water, scratching (and destroying) sentimental pieces of furniture and art. She also loves tuna. The only thing in life she shows real enthusiasm for is the sound of a can opener.
Milly really doesn't like social media.
4.Name: Captain Daenerys Phoebs Tonks Bluth
Belongs to: Melanie, marketing and digital coordinator
Age: 1 year and 4 months
About: Dany is fairly quiet, but mimics the sound of a whining baby when she wants to get your attention—be it an invitation to your room at 3 a.m. or while you cook chicken. Above all things, this kitty loves to hunt, play fetch, catch hair ties, and could run around for hours and hours if she wanted to. Don’t be fooled by her regal mane though. Dany likes her territory and makes it known. Backpacks, beanbags, bed sheets and comforters, boxes, and whole couches have played victim to Dany’s liquid scent. To check out more of Dany’s daily happenings, “Follow” her Tumblr!
"I promise I won't pee on your bed this time, mom. I promise."
We come by an array of friendly cats around our Venice locale. Here are a few of our buddies:
This is Charlie. He likes to roll around.
This is Bengal cat. This kitty is very cute and very purry.
Another favorite friend in Venice.
Even more cats! (That's Charlie on the bottom left!)
This National Cat Day, let’s not forget our pet pals nationwide who are up for adoption and looking for a good home. Check out Petfinder.com to get started.
Sign-up for our newsletter today and new subscribers get 15% off any order of $50. And subscribe to this blog for more news (and wit).
Today is National Dog Day, a day to celebrate our loyal companions (and sneak them an extra treat). You know we’re huge pet lovers here at Knock Knock, so we would like to introduce you to our team’s canine compadres:
1. Name: Lucy
Belongs to: Sara, e-commerce manager
Age: 7 ½ years old
About Lucy: Lucy has many special talents, including howling to mimic passing fire engines. She is a Belgian Sheepdog/Border Collie mix, so she is really good at herding—mainly other dogs and humans at dog parks. She’s a classy lady!
“I’m squinting! I can see my eyelashes when I squint! . . . I should probably wear shades.”
2. Name: Paco
Belongs to: Jen, head honcho
Age: 6 years old, but turning 7 on 9/3/13.
About Paco: Paco is a regal goofball. He plays at being elegant and sophisticated but there’s always an undercurrent of his true goofball character, making for a compelling embrace of opposites. He is a snugglepuss and a lover, with a fantastic and often unintentional sense of humor. He is game for anything, always eager and ready to go. He is my boy. I love him.
This (very lightweight and pushable) chair has been here forever. The other day, Paco decided to squeak behind it and, due to dogs’ difficulty backing up and his delicacy around moving furniture or pushing ajar doors open, actually got stuck. Moral of the story? Sometimes we get ourselves stuck for no good reason. Also, it’s helpful to be able to go into reverse.
3. Name: Ellie
Belongs to: Paul, assistant manager of operations and customer service
Age: 1 year old
About Ellie: Likes: long walks; dislikes: putting on her leash.
Likes: car rides; dislikes: sticking her head out of the window.
Likes: playing fetch; dislikes: letting go of the ball.
4. Name: Sandro (short for Allesandro)
Belongs to: Arnold, publicist
Age: 8 years old
About Sandro: Sandro was named after a street in Echo Park. It’s a major cross street in the neighborhood where we lived when we first got him. We were driving home from the shelter and looking at street sign names, when my boyfriend, Sean, said, “Allesandro,” as a joke, and I said, “That’s it, SANDRO!” It stuck ever since. However, I have like 30 other names for him: “Bubby,” “Buddy,” “Papa.” and “Kiki.”
5. Name: Weil Elsa Vom Fleischerheim (seriously). Known as Elsa, and occasionally Pudding.
Belongs to: Jamie, editor at large
Age: 12 years old
About Elsa: Elsa has always comported herself quite regally, even when she jumps in the pool to swim. She has a surprisingly dainty dog-paddle for such a big dog.
6. Name: Muffin
Belongs to: Rosie, accountant
Age: 12 years old
About Ellie: I adopted Muffin in 2006 from my sister in-law (she named her), and she’s a very intelligent and sweet dog. She loves to beg for food, can jump super high for any treat, and loves to travel. Muffin is a great passenger and really enjoys sightseeing. She’s actually traveled to Japan, Mexico and all over California. One of her favorite destinations is Lake Tahoe, but mostly she enjoys the comfort of a nice plush bed. She’s a great dog and I love her warm and kind eyes.
What a begger!
7. Name: Toby
Belongs to: Kate, editor
Age: Just turned 9 years old
About Toby: He’s a real pop cultural artist, quite postmodern. Very big in Japan. Has his own variety show there, the Toby Show. Seriously, though, Toby is the best dog ever, but he does have an eating disorder. (More binge than purge.) Most recently, he ate a chocolate cake with toothpicks stuck in it, then the next day had a whole container of pig-skin chewies.
"Just because the muffins are missing why you gotta look at me like that?"
This National Dog Day, let’s not forget our pet pals nationwide who are up for adoption and looking for a good home. Check out Petfinder.com to get started. (We’re virtually toasting to you in advance.)
Sign-up for our newsletter today and new subscribers get 15% off any order of $50. And subscribe to this blog for more news (and wit).
We’re psyched to introduce you to a handful of remarkable designers whose items will be featured during our tenth-anniversary party and “Fun & Functional” event with theAmerican Design Clubon November 10. We laud their work and can’t wait to see their stuff on display.
With a name like “fruitsuper,” it’s no wonder this design duo’s pieces are bright, bold, and likely to start a conversation. The Seattle-based business’s founders, Sallyann and Joe, admit they “take pride in obsessing over every detail” when working on a project. It’s good to know we’re in good company. Check out more of their work at fruitsuperdesign.com.
Sallyann and Joe of fruitsuper design.
1. How did you get started as a product designer? Did you always want to be in this field?
We came from various backgrounds, but both were skirting around creative fields. I (Sallyann) originally started in fashion design and visual merchandising, but fell in love when I took my first three-dimensional design class and [studied] the ability to create forms. Joe was starting along a path of graphic design when he discovered industrial design. We both immediately fell in love with the entirety of the design process and the emotional roller coaster that is product design. The rush is incomparable. Some people run marathons, we design products!
Top: Early sketches of Hairballs. Bottom: Final design!
2. Name of Fun & Functional product featured: Hairballs.
3. What’s the story behind your idea? What really inspired you to create it?
It’s the combination of three sparks that created the idea for Hairballs. The first spark came during the process of bringing our first fruitsuper design product to market, which was silicone jewelry. I noticed that every time I wore one of the silicone rings, it tended to pick up lint and dust. The second was the annoyance of constantly dealing with pet hair. The current solutions for dealing with lint and pet hair are the irritating to use, wasteful, and fairly ineffective “sticky” rollers. The third spark is the love of our own pet, Sunnycat (who we, of course, think is the most adorable cat EVER). With Hairballs, we wanted a way to deal with pet hair that would not only be way more effective, but could also be fun!
fruitsuper design's inspiration for Hairballs: lint rollers, silicone rings, and the utterly-cute, Sunnycat.
4. What was the hardest or most challenging part of designing this product? Any creative bumps in the road you dealt with?
The most challenging part was determining the right size, so that it would be comfortable in your hand, along with getting the “character” of the cat and dog just right. We really wanted to take the anonymity of the lint roller and create an object that would be totally functional and super adorable.
With Hairballs and in all of our work, we follow a philosophy we call “serious humor,” a balance of functionality and whimsy. We believe products should make our lives a little simpler, a little easier, and a little more fun.
5. How do you organize your work process to balance fun and functionality in your own daily grind? Any tips you’d like to relay to fans of Knock Knock?
A piece of the process. Couldn't make the Hairballs without molds and silicone.
The short answer; food, books, travel. The long answer: we’re still striving for the ideal live/work balance. As designers, there really is no “off” time. Our brains are always working through whatever current project we’re in the middle of—whether we want them to be or not! So it’s important that we are constantly inspiring ourselves. We’re able to feed this need the most by cooking and eating amazing meals, getting lost in great picture books and old bookstores, and of course traveling. Nothing fills us with more inspiration, comparisons, and contrasts than the joy of traveling.
Having these inspirations to draw from when the time comes is crucial to not only our organization, but for the balance of fun and functionality in our daily grind.
When I first started to look around tradeshows and see Knock Knock’s influence, sometimes a little too transparently, I was able pretty quickly to calm myself with the knowledge that imitation was one indication we were successful. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel hotheaded and indignant that other creators couldn’t find their own voices, and if so, they shouldn’t be playing the game, but instead the recognition that I was witnessing the inevitable and in the larger picture this meant we were doing things right.
Sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs or product designers come to me and say “I have a great idea for a product.” After asking me to sign an NDA and squinting with cagy suspicion, they allow that it’s an idea for a card. Or a pad. Or a sticky note. My response? God help you if you only have one idea. In the world of creative product, your longevity and success are based on your ability to come out with good ideas over and over and over again, and the produced good ideas are the winners among many, not a sole strike of momentary genius. When I see our, or another company’s, influence running too rampant, I know that we’ve played out that theme and it’s time to move on.
All of us more experienced and perhaps not insane gift-and-specialty companies (the industry term for us) know that we’re playing in the same sandbox. There are only so many things you can do with paper and ephemera and cloth and plastic. When I’m at a tradeshow and I see that file folders are coming up, and we have a great idea for file folders, I’m aware that it’s not appropriate to do it if only one company is doing it, but if I see a few doing it, and Knock Knock can bring something to the form that isn’t about competition but about what we want to create, then we make file folders. Great minds are constantly thinking alike, and honestly, there are a number of things we’ve thought of that we haven’t produced because someone else did it before us and we don’t want to be perceived as followers or copycats. Creativity is our stock in trade.
From Robynne Raye, founder and principle of Modern Dog: “On September 12th, 2011, I received an email from a designer working at another design firm who said he saw our dogs on a product being sold through a major retailer. At first, I was skeptical: I had to see the actual item to make sure for myself. A few days later, as I waited for a flight to take me to an AIGA event in Nebraska, I was sent the image that contained what the person thought was our dogs on my iPhone. Even though the image was tiny, I immediately recognized my best friend's Dalmatian Rudy, my business partner's whippet Rosie, my client's poodle Albert, and my own cairn terrier pup Conan. I also thought I recognized other dogs so I ordered the shirt online. When I returned from my Nebraska trip, the shirt was waiting for me at my office. The hangtag on the shirt was also part of an advertising campaign for a movie. We believe that all 27 t-shirt dog images came from our poster art book (Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art).”
But then there are the actual copycats. The ones who, due either to lack of conscience (not too long about I read this book on psychopaths, AKA sociopaths, who, according to the book and this This American Life episode, are especially prevalent among CEOs; also, here’s a TED Talk about it) or complete and utter denial, can’t help themselves from stealing intellectual property. I find out about these copycats primarily from customers and other supporters (thank you!) who email us to say, “Is this yours?” One was a company I saw while walking around one of the gift shows, and it was so bald-faced that I was shocked they’d had the gall to obtain a booth. They had barely changed our wording. I plotted with a sympathetic retailer to check it out: she went into the booth, looked around, and said, “Is this Knock Knock?” The woman in the booth replied with a smug smile, “Oh, no. Our stuff is much more sophisticated than theirs.”
In the last couple years, the copycats have gone international. A small company in Argentina whose mission statement celebrates their creativity basically put our pads and sticky notes on a color xerox machine and then got very mainstream press on them! A not-so-small publisher in Germany asked to license our product when we nabbed them for their color xerox infraction. Are you kidding me? I’m going to do business with you? This is your reward for ripping us off? The current challenge in Australia is with a known knocker-offer, a very large company that has already lost similar lawsuits, which makes me think their CEO certainly must be a sociopath, because he clearly knows exactly what he and his company are doing and doesn’t care. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that one of my least favorite activities is pursuing these infringements with our attorneys and that my very least favorite check to sign is the one for these legal fees. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars a year, and that’s even with assiduously avoiding litigation.
People often ask us who our competitors are. You may think this is disingenuous, but I don’t feel we have competitors. Instead, I believe we have peers. Since we don’t create generic commodity items, our products don’t have exact equivalents. Retailers and buyer want our sensibility. Other companies that have similar sensibilities may be competing with us for open-to-buy dollars (the term for the budget a buyer or retailer has for a certain product category and season) or space on a particular display table, but it’s our job to put out such good stuff that we’re happy with their choices to fly Knock Knock.
Big chain retailers have over time been building their in-house product development and design teams. We create customized product programs for many of these retailers, and one of the things they tell us is it’s difficult to knock off Knock Knock because of our conceptual underpinning and emphasis on language. They just can’t get it right. Of course they don’t state it exactly like that, but it’s the gist.
One of the many products on which Modern Dog’s imagery was reproduced.
Not too long ago, I heard a sad story about the design company that does a lot of work for one of our favorite peer companies, Blue Q. How can you not respect and love Blue Q’s work? How can you not frequently kick yourself because they came up with something great that you didn’t? This design company, Modern Dog, does fantabulous work, much of which you’ve seen without knowing it was them. I recently became aware of a challenge that Modern Dog is having. A creation of theirs that is especially near and dear to their hearts was knocked off very broadly and very profitably by more than one multinational corporation. These corporations know that small companies don’t have the resources to fight back (because to do so is much more than the many tens of thousands of dollars Knock Knock has been spending) so they stall until their opponents go broke.
Modern Dog believes, as I do, that “Copyright law should protect everyone, not just those who can afford to litigate” and “Copyright only works if you are willing and able to protect it.” Would you believe also that as a trademark owner, you are legally obligated to fight to protect your trademark, and that if you do not fight each and every instance of known infringement, you have a much weaker case down the road, making it sometimes dangerous to back down whether or not you can afford to go on? Modern Dog, “like a lot of small businesses” doesn’t “operate with a reserve account for emergencies. And it’s not possible to apply for a lawsuit loan.” So they’re fundraising, something they were reluctant to do until friends pushed them to do so. Knock Knock has donated, and I think all folks who believe that this kind of creative theft and bullying is wrong should do so as well.
Modern Dog has chosen to sell the house in which they’ve had their offices for almost twenty years in order to fund the lawsuit and bring down overhead. Knock Knock so identifies with its home and surroundings, and I’m such a nester myself, to me that is one of the ultimate sacrifices. I think it’s critical that we make it less easy for anyone to steal others’ creative work, but especially the Goliaths who pick on the Davids—and Davids without slingshots at that, because slingshots are cheap but lawyers are costly. So I urge you—donate to Modern Dog, and keep your eyes and ears open for companies and people who are willing to steal creativity in order to compensate for their own laziness or inadequacies, and report them to the entities that put the hard work in to unleash something new and brilliant upon the world. Because we have a right to defend ourselves.
On May 28, I welcomed my first foster dog into my (and Paco’s) home. Charlotte is a sweet, well-tempered twelve-week-old shepherd mix (because all mutts up for adoption are either lab mixes, shepherd mixes, or pit mixes, sometimes with mention of chow thrown in for exoticism). She is very, very cute. Paco does not like her at all.
Is there anything cuter than a puppy at a web meeting?
It’s been a long time since I had a puppy in the house—eleven years, to be precise, since I adopted Maisie from the South Central pound at eight weeks old. Paco came to me at five months old from a family that didn’t want to keep him. He was a puppy, yes, but for the most part he was already housetrained (except for a really unfortunate diarrhea-and-white-wall-to-wall-carpet incident).
It turns out that Charles Schulz wasn’t just being hyperbolic when he said that happiness is a warm puppy. Mammal babies are cute because they’re designed that way. Big eyes, cute little bodies, red lips, funny movements, playful temperaments—they wriggle and we bond. When Charlotte first arrived, I thought about how people want their dogs to stay puppies. Dog fostering, I determined, could be a way always to have a puppy! But I’d forgotten just how vigilant you have to be with a young canine—peeing, pooping, and chewing are unpredictable and of constant concern. I’ve told Take Me Home dog rescue that I may need to alternate placements with older dogs.
The thought of animals suffering, especially dogs languishing in small kennels or on the streets or abused, breaks my heart, yet to date I haven’t done very much to help. Determining how much of your life and income to give over to charitable causes is a hard call. Before I started Knock Knock, from high school forward I was much more involved in good causes. But the tsunami of the first six years of trial-by-fire Knock Knock meant there was barely room for sleeping, let alone contributing to society. For the last two or three years, I’ve been trying to exercise that muscle again, but it’s not always easy to be consistent or feel like you’re making a difference.
Paco does not like Charlotte. At all.
I also want Knock Knock to become more involved in charitable efforts as a company. We’d like to give our time, product, and money to a cause related to young people and writing (826 would be the obvious one, but it just seems exceedingly well supported already, and so “Look at me, I’m muchocool” at that) as well as one related to animal welfare. (Over the writing stuff, I’d prefer to corporately support Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights issues, but apparently that’s a little more controversial, so I just support those in my personal life. Shit. Now I feel like Knock Knock’s a fraud for not taking a public stand in a much-needed arena.) It’s been harder than I’d thought to make it happen, though. We get busy and it gets deprioritized. We start to help one organization then learn they’re not actually doing great stuff. Or the group isn’t organized enough to manage our help well (this has happened to me as an individual multiple times—you show up to do stuff and they don’t have anything for you to do, etc.). Or it’s going to cost a buttload to ship giveaway product to a charity to which we agreed, in theory, to donate (paper is heavy, you know, because it used to be trees). It has been a source of surprise to me to recognize how hard it can be to productively and consistently contribute yourself and your resources to organizations and issues that deserve support!
I assume that most people live relatively selfish lives when it comes to the bigger issues, so consumed are they by earning a living and managing their households and families and going on Disney-themed cruises, etc. Perhaps I’m wrong, and I’m just projecting my own selfishness onto them (though I definitely have not yet had the misfortune of enjoying a Disney cruise). I myself have far more good intentions than actions. I’d like to not eat meat, for the aforementioned animal suffering reasons (though now I try mostly to eat meat that comes with a biography, i.e., “This grass-fed, free-range, non-antibiotic-or-grain-fed, gently butchered cow hails from the green hills of the Napa Valley and likes cribbage and long walks on the hillcrest”). I do lots and lots of shopping on Amazon because it’s so bloody convenient, even though they behave in the marketplace like monopolistic, price-setting, jump-you-in-the-alley thugs. I’d like to give away 10 percent of my income but probably max out at about 3 percent. I talk a lot of shit but don’t comprehensively stay up on the news (it’s depressing, after all, what with those narcissistic blowhard politicians going on and on about the size of their . . . budgets). I consume disposables and fuck up the earth. In my mind, there’s no question that I’m part of the problem, not the solution. And it’s not just personal: every time I go to the New York International Gift Fair I think to myself, “I can’t believe there’s this much schlock in the world.” We’re talking useless, unnecessary stuff, like ceramic swans and kosher fudge and gilded cake servers and pet Halloween costumes. And then I think, “I can’t believe Knock Knock is part of making more stuff.” It’s not like our goods are made out of clean air or rainbows or anything. Trees were killed.
Charlotte’s short-term plastic box as a quickie solution for bringing her to the office for an hour without worrying about urine on the carpet. During the meeting, she slept surprisingly deeply, given her contorted and entirely self-chosen positions.
Can you tell I’m unfortunate enough to be both self-critical and undisciplined? But despite my own self-loathing, make more stuff Knock Knock does, and the stuff we make, so people tell us, puts smiles on faces and makes for satisfyingly giftable moments. It also employs twenty-five-plus people (thirty by year’s end!), pays taxes, and allows us to contribute to good causes, if only in a small way so far. Not all of us can be Mother Teresa (and even she, apparently, went five decades without sensing God’s presence—not that I think I should be able to sense a divine presence, but Mother Teresa was all Christian and stuff). Much to my detriment, I tend to see things in an all-or-nothing fashion; if I’m part of the problem, then why should I even try to squeeze a drop of solution into an ocean of disaster?
But even if the only benefit is to make us feel smugly better about ourselves, doing good will become more and more of a focus both for me personally and for Knock Knock. At the very least, even if we keep reprioritizing and responding to the siren call of the money-making urgent, we still have time to be Geezers Doing Good. Provided, of course, we and the earth and those Disney-themed cruises last that long.
John Adams wants to remind you of our free shipping code* to use at check out: FLIPFLOPS. Offer lasts through Monday, 5/28.
Why is this cute calendar puppy named “John Adams”? Earlier this year, our graphic designer, Alexis, gave this dollar-store Dashund puppy calendar to Mel, our marketing and digital coordinator. Mel never really had a pet before (fish don’t count), so she uses this desk calendar to make up for the void. Alexis and Mel take turns naming the pictured pups. “John Adams” stemmed from Memorial Day—a huge stretch, we know.
But look into his sage eyes and allow your patriotic heart to melt.
*Free shipping offer excludes customers shipping to HI, AK, or outside the US.
Our beloved Maisie, the furry heart and soul of Knock Knock, passed away last week, and we are heartbroken.
Every dog is special. But Maisie was special. A model of self-possession, she was preternaturally calm and keenly observant. She had a remarkable poise even the humans among us admired, and a dignity that demanded reciprocation. She was also capable of great affection and all the enthusiasm and tail-wagging of a puppy, even near the end of her life.
Besides Jen, Maisie is the original Knock Knocker. Jen rescued her as a puppy in early 2001, and the two were on a walk in Venice when they spotted what would become the Knock Knock offices. Maisie was the mascot of the company, featured prominently in our early catalogs and on our website.
Maisie came to work nearly every day, and sprawled luxuriantly on the orange couch. She also liked to plop down in the middle of the floor, thumping her tail and accepting scratches and treats. (She never begged, but did have an effective Jedi mind trick, looking at you with a grave vulnerability that just made you want to feed her.)
Maisie lovingly tolerated her rambunctious younger brother, Paco, who joined the family six years ago and adored her. And though he often tried to compete with Maisie for the attention of others, she never stooped to engage in such tactics.
She didn’t need to. We just loved Maisie, and she knew it.
It’s hard to imagine life here at Knock Knock without the musical thwacking of her tail or the jingle of her collar.
The phrase “rabbit, rabbit” and “bunny, bunny” was an off-topic of discussion today. Some of us have heard of it and some of us slowly scratched our heads. But according to the British superstition (we could only find a reference via Wikipedia, so validity is flimsy), saying either phrase right when you wake up on the first of the month will bring you good luck for the rest of the month. Apparently rabbits symbolize good luck (hence the token rabbit’s foot key chains—ugh), but we’re not too sure why it has to be said twice. Maybe a friend of Knock Knock can explain the true origins to us, or point us toward the right direction. (We’re a curious bunch.)
Anyways, why not text someone “rabbit, rabbit” today and spread the good vibes (or just confuse the hell out of them)?
And do you know any other odd, first-of-the-month superstitions?
December is a very special holiday month for me and Knock Knock—because it’s Maisie’s birthday. It’s the whole month rather than a single day because when I adopted her from the South Central LA Animal Shelter, in February 2000, I was told she was eight weeks old.
Sweet Maisie as a puppy, soon after her homecoming. I don’t know what was up with those awful streaks in my hair, but I do know I was in the middle of organizing or housework or something.
All the young puppies were kept together in one kennel area, and as I watched them, Maisie stood out. The other puppies were either bullies or fearful wallflowers, the latter almost catatonic, shivering in the corner as the bullies picked on them. Maisie was the only one who was neither. She had this sense of self-possession that has carried through in her character to this day. She would play and wrestle happily with the bullies, but if they started to get rough or bratty, she would just walk away without engaging. And she’d approach the poor terrified pups and lick them or lie next to them.
I asked to take her for a test drive, and when she was put in my arms (only 15 pounds—now she’s 75), her whole body wagged and wriggled as she exuberantly licked my face. Then, all at once, her whole body went trusting and limp and her head plopped decisively onto my shoulder as if she’d snuggled in for the long haul.
I found the Knock Knock office complex while I was walking with Maisie. I’d just decided to put aside the book I’d been working on for a couple years and make a go of this Knock Knock thing. In December 2001, when Maisie turned one, I signed a lease to start in February 2002, which made Knock Knock real for me. Maisie was the charmer of the complex, playing and romping with her favorite soccer ball in the parking lot when we worked outside.
When we did portraits of the team for Knock Knock’s first catalog, Maisie posed as well. I always think of this as her nude picture because she’s not wearing her collar. Maisie was one and a half here.
Now Maisie’s eleven, and Knock Knock’s almost ten. We have a few dates from which to choose Knock Knock’s anniversary: January 1, 2001, is the date of our incorporation. We started work in earnest in March or April. Our first products came out in October 2001. I personally think of our anniversary as starting in March and lasting through October.
Maisie was featured prominently in our early catalogs and website, in particular her formal portrait for our first catalog in which she looks breathtakingly dignified (FYI, like me, she’s never really enjoyed being photographed). Paco came along six years later, and while he’s an important part of life here, Maisie’s the heart and soul of the place. Maisie’s just one of those special dogs. She’s got wise eyes and somehow gets the ineffable “it.” Everyone notices that about her. And Maisie’s starting to get really old, and it’s breaking my heart.
I also can’t believe that Knock Knock’s going to be ten. We were the young upstarts for so long, and now within the gift industrial complex we’re almost part of the establishment. With both Maisie and Knock Knock, as with raising children, the saying comes to mind “The days crawl by but the years they fly.” Every day at Knock Knock has an intensity and density to it that make every last few months feel like longer ago than they ever really are, but oh my god, where did the years go? Like in Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” one of my favorite camp songs (Camp Kee Tov was pretty comprehensive in its musical repertoire), the teenage boy is told, “Take your time. It won’t be long now / ’Til you drag your feet to slow the circles down.”
Maisie today, with her whitening muzzle. She’s always loved to wriggle under the covers—every morning after she eats her breakfast. Often she’s all the way under, head and all.
So even though we’re supposed to think about the holidays during the holidays (and sell some products—buy, kind readers, buy!), the end of the year is also about endings and upcoming new beginnings. I find myself contemplating what it is to lead more of an institution than a scrappy startup, how to keep the freshness but combine it with greater reach and more business acumen and sophistication.
And with my dear sweet Maisie, I’m pre-mourning what I still have (an awful trait of mine—I seem to have no capability to live in the present). Her arthritis slows her down and her hindquarters have to be lifted into the car. She’s had a variety of health problems, any one of which could be her downfall. Her muzzle is almost completely white. Her personality has evolved as she’s gotten older—she’s kind of crotchety now, while still being the sweetheart she’s always been. She’s really insistent about the things she wants, including letting me know she’d like me to take away the bone that Paco’s chewing and give it to her or get Paco out of her bed. She’s been with me through almost all of my thirties, and all of Knock Knock, which for many years was no easy thing, so her loving constancy really meant a lot to me.
Though I am woefully prone to nostalgia (“hypochondria of the heart,” as someone characterized it)—even before something has ended—my pre–New Year’s vow* for Maisie, for Knock Knock, and for as much of life as I can muster, is this: enjoy where we are at this moment, because soon enough I’ll miss where we’ve been.**
*It’s unlikely to work, mind you, but I’ll definitely try.
**This is a little corny for me and Knock Knock, but Maisie’s one of the few forces in my life that can bring me to corn.
Around the corner from my house (and around the corner from the office, because they’re just a few blocks apart) is Maisie’s tree. I don’t remember how she discovered she could do this, but she loves loves loves to jump into it, crane her neck up and look around, and jump out. When she was younger, she did it over and over again in a row. I took this video a little too late, a couple years ago, and she was already having trouble with the jumping. Now she puts her paws up on the tree and I lift her rump just as I do to get her into the car—she still loves it. When she’s barking like she is here at the tree, it means she’s really excited—when we’re on a walk, she positively sprints for the tree.
For our weekly “In It for the Money” feature, we’ll be introducing you to the kick-ass Knock Knockers who make everything go, from creative to sales to logistics to . . . everything! Note—everybody answers the first five questions. After that, they have about fifteen wild-card questions from which to choose.
I'm hard at work, "researching."
1. Name and title? Kate Sullivan, assistant editor.
2. Originally from? Los Angeles. I was born in the original Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, which is now the big blue Scientology building in Hollywood.
3. What the hell do you do all day? Smash subatomic particles in search of the elusive Higgs boson. Also, I write, edit, and proofread books and products, and help to invent new ones.
4. Favorite thing about working at Knock Knock?
1. Working at my desk while there’s a creative meeting downstairs. Every so often, the quiet is broken by these wild outbursts of maniacal laughter. It is very reassuring.
2. Everyone in the editorial horseshoe is constantly laughing to herself while working. Unlike most offices, we usually don’t ask each other what’s so funny, because we’d never get anything done.
5. Favorite hobbies outside work? Landscape design. Disneyland. Sleeping. Cooking. Drinking. Writing. Partying with my animals.
Some of the loves of my lives: my cat Flower and my dog Toby. 1. Flower as a kitten.; 2. Toby; 3. Flower and Toby being Flower and Toby.
6. Did your professional life exist before Knock Knock? No. I hypnotized them during the interview process with my skills of interpretive dance.
Just kidding. My first “job” was at an English-language newspaper in Prague called Prognosis. I was a journalist for many years, music editor at LA Weekly, and also had a public radio show called Pop Vultures. I loved interviewing musicians. I have some pretty good stories.
7. Favorite Knock Knock product? The Personal Library Kit. My mom teaches writing and I gave it to her years ago to make sure she gets back all the books she loans to her students. More recently, my wonderful boyfriend became a librarian, so this product has even more sentimental meaning to me.
8. Favorite TV show? Of all time: Gilmore Girls (I love it madly. But I’m not a chat room weirdo with twenty-seven cats about it, I swear). Of the moment: Two Broke Girls. (They have a real, live horse!)
9. Pet peeves? It bugs me when businesses use “at” in their name to sound fancy. I just went to a hotel called “SLS at Beverly Hills.” What’s up with that? Were they trying to be more grammatically correct, since they’re actually on the far edge of Beverly Hills? (I doubt it.)
Another pet peeve is music snobbery—the idea that ELO, Hall & Oates, the Bee Gees, or Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass should be “guilty” or ironic pleasures.
10. Hero in life you look up to? Lately I’m really into my dad—totally classy, witty, wonderful writer and man. Also, Vin Scully, every native Angeleno’s second dad. Oh, and the always effervescent Roger Ebert. OK, that’s like two and a half dads right there! (Can I add Barack Obama?)
11. If you were granted one wish, what would it be? That radio ownership laws had never been deregulated and that the mp3 and ProTools had never been invented. I guess that’s three. OK, how about this, then: that music was as good as it was forty years ago, in the era of Queen, Led Zeppelin, T. Rex, the Temptations, etc.
12. What advice would you give your past self? Don’t let the robots in!