This summer marks 42 years since Hero Arts began in the bathroom of a Berkeley apartment. We thought you might enjoy learning a little Hero Arts history. It’s the story of a truly inspiring woman – Jacqueline Leventhal – a single mom and determined entrepreneur. Read about it below, or even better, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the interview with our CEO Aaron Leventhal, embedded at the bottom of this post.
Jacqueline Leventhal, founder of Hero Arts, was an art teacher and photographer in the early 1970s. Her photography was being shown in a prominent exhibit when she received a letter of admiration from a fan of her work that was decorated with a splash of stamped images. Jacqueline was instantly in love.
Over the next couple of years, Jacqueline made her own stamps. She also taught her students the art of stamping. In looking for things to use, she stumbled across an old vulcanizing press in the basement of the school, which they let her take home. That is where Hero Arts began: in the bathroom of an upstairs Berkeley apartment, as the bathroom was the only 3-prong grounded power outlet in the house. With that press, Jacqueline created her first rubber stamps. Few had even heard of “decorative stamping” at that time!
At the age of 7, Jacqueline’s son Aaron drew a crab with a missing tooth, which became one of the first Hero Arts stamps ever produced. Aaron had a missing tooth at the time.
A young author got wind of Jacqueline’s passion for stamping and asked Jacqueline to illustrate a children’s book with rubber stamps. Jacqueline agreed. The book, called “A Girl Named Hero,” was soon published with stamped images. The heroine of the book was named Hero, and Jacqueline identified with the character she brought to life, since Hero was creative, brave, innovative, and independent.
Jacqueline soon realized rubber stamps were more than just a hobby. She decided to start a business selling stamps. In the process, Jacqueline many times called on the characteristics Hero personified in the children’s book. The obvious choice for the name of Jacqueline’s new rubber stamp business was Hero Arts.
A look at the 1978 Hero Arts product poster.
Hero Arts quickly became a vital force in the fledging stamp movement. Other stamp businesses started around the same time in the Bay Area, such as All Night Media, Rubberstampede, and PSX. By 1980, craft fairs led to gift shows; local retail trade began to give way to international wholesale distribution.
The company started at home and was built on the idea of family. Today, Hero Arts remains a family business, despite Jacqueline being retired. Her son, Aaron, now heads the company. And we think of our customers as family. Our retail outlets and vendors are family. The stampers who love our products are family. The idea of quality, original design, and innovation all flow from the idea that Hero Arts sees its products and its customers through this family filter. Given that fact, why would we want to give our family anything but the best?
Our CEO, Aaron Leventhal, recently sat down for an Online Card Classes Crafty Chat. We think you’ll enjoy hearing this story directly from him!
(If you are having problems viewing this video, please try watching it HERE on YouTube.)
Do you remember your first Hero Arts stamp? Tell us about it in the comments below. And join our team tomorrow as they share some of their own Hero Arts memories!