Title: Hallmark Artist
Date started at Hallmark: 1987
Date started at Keepsakes: 1985
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Horses, dogs and unicorns—typical subjects for children's artwork. But Anita Marra Rogers didn't draw like a typical child. Her mother quickly recognized that early talent, and she signed Anita up for oil painting lessons. At age 19, Anita used those paintings in her portfolio when she applied for a job with Hallmark. As good as those paintings were, she was turned down.
A few years later, a Hallmark sculptor looked at those same paintings of seascapes and landscapes. He saw talent. He told Anita that she simply wasn't doing the kinds of images Hallmark wanted. He invited her to come in and see what the Hallmark Artists were working on—whimsical animals, warm Christmas scenes, wintry landscapes. Anita tried her hand at one, sculpting a deer and a bunny looking sweetly at each other over a snow bank. As soon as her friend saw it, he told her that her Keepsake Ornament career had begun.
Hallmark wasn't Anita's first sculpting assignment. As a child, she made animal shapes out of cotton candy for her brother and sisters. There's still a touch of sweetness to every Keepsake Ornament she creates.
3rd in the Mary Hamilton’s Bears series
When Hallmark Artist Anita Marra Rogers talks about creating Keepsake Ornaments, there’s such a twinkle in her eyes that it’s no wonder she’s built a career of making magical things. One of her most recent projects was a collaborative effort on Mary’s Bears, an ornament series that pays homage to the work of a beloved Hallmark legend, the late Mary Hamilton.
Mary greatly influenced Anita’s work over the years. “She was such a joy to work with,” Anita says with much admiration for the gentle-natured illustrator. She recalls a time when Mary sought Anita’s advice on a three-dimensional piece she was designing, leaving Anita with even more reverence for Ms. Hamilton. Anita says, “That made me feel so good! She had been here for 60 years and she wanted my advice on something. I felt like a kid. She made me feel so special because she was special.”
In her little corner of the world at Hallmark, Anita sculpts at a workspace that’s as enchanting as they come. Lining the shelves are numerous ornaments she’s brought to life through the years.
One of her recent pieces is Snowman on the Slopes, a second ornament from this year’s collection inspired by the late Mary’s Hamilton’s illustrations. Created to look exactly like Mary’s iconic artwork, this cute duo on skis is truly charming.
Anita shaped and refined this original piece by sculpting a wax material with her hands. “Traditional sculpting is kind of like a lost art,” she says, explaining that modern technology has played a role in giving artists a digital option.
Once sculpting was finished, Anita moved to the next stage of the process: painting! Working diligently to get the colors just like Mary’s illustration, Anita focused on each tiny detail, something she learned at an early age. When she was 9, her mother’s friend gave her art lessons. Anita fondly remembers those days, saying, “Virginia taught me to oil paint at her house.”
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