Title: Master Designer
Date started at Hallmark: 1981
Date started at Keepsakes: 1996
Hometown: Westport, Massachusetts
People started collecting Joanne Eschrich's work when she was in third grade. Of course, the collectors at that time were her classmates. Later, the requests kept coming—in high school fellow classmates asked her to illustrate their biology reports. That was Joanne's moment of discovery. Unfortunately, it was because the biology teacher didn't think Joanne should be sharing her talents when it came to homework assignments.Joanne's parents encouraged their children to be creative with their playtime. As a young artist being raised on a farm, Joanne had no shortage of animal friends to pose for her. She built dollhouses with her sisters and spaceships with her brothers. When college came along, Joanne knew she was going to study art. Nothing else was as important. Despite her parents' attempts to talk her out of her career choice, she persevered and got an interview with Hallmark in her senior year. A job offer soon followed. Joanne had never even considered sculpting when she was asked to try doing a piece for the Hallmark Merry Miniatures line. She created a basset hound named Sebastian for that assignment and discovered that her sculpting abilities rivaled her illustration talent. Joanne doesn't have to look far for inspiration or support for her craft. Her daughters Jamie and Anna are thrilled with what she does, especially when she brings her work home and they get to give their opinions or model for her angels. "On a few occasions they've brought my original sculptures along with the finished ornaments to 'show and tell' at their school," says Joanne. "They also love seeing 'Mom' on the back of the ornament boxes at the store."
Joanne Eschrich never expected Poland to feel so much like home.
“It had a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere,” says Joanne, who traveled with a small Hallmark team to several glass-blowing vendors in summer 2015. “The people there were very down to the earth; there are a lot of churches; I loved the food. All of it.”
Joanne adds that buildings in the town of Józefów, Poland, are just as quaint as you might imagine. “We were in heaven,” Joanne says. “It was like something out of a storybook.”
At Silverado, a family-owned business in Józefów, original proprietor Jerzy Jaroszyński started his Old World glass-blowing workshop in 1959. His daughters and sons-in-law now run the shop, but Jerzy still trains their artisans and designers.
The family invited the Hallmark team to their home, which was directly behind the shop. “They were so personable,” Joanne says. “It was such a great connection to come from a family-owned business like Hallmark and work with family-owned businesses over there. It was this great understanding.”
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