August 5, 2011

Meet Linda Welcome "The Mousemaker" creator of Heartfelt Ornament Company

Pumpkin Sellin' Penny
Easter Basket with Fimo eggs
Linda Welcome The Mouse Maker

I have met many talented woman on my Creative Chicks Cafe journey, but I would have to say that Linda Welcome "Takes the cheese" with her adorable handcrafted Mice. Linda's Mice are composed of at least 16 pieces. She starts with the face/head which is made of 100% wool felt, it is a special color of silver gray with lots of "light" in it. It must be sewn turned inside out, stuffed and then the MOST important part is "Beading the eyes and nose." Linda states; "Not only is the beading important, but the bead must be glass not plastic. It must be round not cylindrical and also must be from a source that makes each and every bead exactly the same."  "This is what helps to make a Heartfelt Mouse so special, it is simply the sweetness of their face." This is Linda Welcome's story:
I grew up in the little town of Hazardville, famous for being the place where the gunpowder was made by Colonel Hazard in “Powder Hollow” that they used in the Civil War.  Hazardville is gone now. It was combined with Thompsonville to become Enfield, Ct.
My parents were older when I was born. My Dad worked at Bigelow Mills, the largest Mill in the area which made Bigelow Rugs.  He worked there for 55 years and missed only one day of work when he was injured.  Before that he was apprenticed to the Shaker Community. Yes there were Shakers in Ct. I grew up on Shaker Rd.
Mom Mouse
Daddy learned how to fashion their famous wooden hangers, chests of drawers and wooden bridal boxes. My Mom was a homemaker that did just about everything to keep my younger brother and me in clothes for school.  She stripped tobacco, plucked chickens and for over 15 years she “candled” eggs.  I use the deep cell egg flats in my production of the mice. Our home was comprised of 30 plus acres, mainly woods.  We didn’t have a paved drive way.  My first bike was made of plumbing pipe and joining pieces and painted red. I often wonder if that is why my calves are so big.  It’s really hard to peddle a bike that heavy, on a dirt road. When I was in 5th grade I wanted to sew so badly. We had an old treadle machine and I itched to use it. It was on that machine I made my first 'Outfits" and have been sewing ever since. I made money by working in the shade grown tobacco fields during the summer. In the winter I made clothes for "Fancy ladies" who could afford to have their garments fitted especially for them. I made a complete wedding dress before I entered the 9th grade, gown and trousseau.
My senior high year, I won Miss Teenage Enfield, again by sewing and competed with other girls from Ct. at the State Capital in Hartford. I was the “Hick” but it was a great experience and my Mom was so proud of me.
Bringing Home the Tree
 Candy Cane Girl
I went to Bay Path College in Longmeadow, MA and earned an AA. In Liberal Arts. My mother always told me I got the ability to work with my hands from her mother. She could sew and crochet just about anything.  After a few jobs I married, and crocheted my wedding gown and carried Lily of the Valley, my grandmother's favorite flower. When my youngest was 6 weeks old we bought our first house. Money was tight for gift giving at Christmas and it was then I created my Mice for gifts. I donated a small table top tree to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Ct. ( the oldest Museum in the US) during their Festival of Christmas Trees. The tree had my first 12 ornaments on it. The Mice were an immediate hit and I was given the names of all the people interested in purchasing them. After I completed all of my orders, we bundled up the children and delivered the Mice two days before Christmas. I made nearly $600.00, (which back then was a fortune) it was then I came up with my business name Heartfelt Ornament Co. My customers wanted to start a collection of Mice ornaments for all of the holidays, I branched out and extended my Mice designs.
Tea Time
Next, I entered craft shows and from there I was persuaded to do wholesale. I was accepted into the George Little New York International Gift Show in the American Craft Division. Other large wholesale shows followed and I was "Discovered" by large mail order catalogs and many small retail stores. I even sold to the Walt Disney World in Florida.
In 1995, QVC did a 50/50 Tour of the United States. Each state featured 20 artisans. Out of a hundred or so that displayed in Harford, I was picked as one of the 20. They chose my Santa Mouse and my Chocolate Chip Cookie Baker to be sold live on TV. We were filmed on the grounds of the State Capitol. Pretty heady I must say. Shortly after that, many of the catalogs and small retailers were forced out of business by the Orient. US crafters were selling their designs to China and China was doing an excellent job of reproducing them at half the cost of what US artisans charged.
My sales dropped and after being a homemaker for 18 years, it was time to get out into the real world and find a job. My office skills were not up to par, so I worked for Michaels Store then recruited to JoAnn's ETC until corporate decided to close the department and purchased ready made items from where else, but the Orient. Since the inception of the internet, I have been able to feature all of my work. I created my own .com website and joined ETSY in October of 2007  at  I am also on Facebook and would enjoy some new friends. The times I feel most alive is when I am designing a new mouse, a new ornament or a new decorative accessory. Just about the only thing I do not do is Quilt... I'm saving that for my "Later years." Thank you, and I hope you enjoy my Mice as much as I love creating them.
Turkey Baker, turkey is made out of Fimo

Daffodil Girl

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