Anita Marra Rogers

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Anita Marra Rogers

Anita Marra Rogers Signature

Anita Marra Rogers

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.

See Anita’s 2018 ornaments

Welsh Corgi Ornament

Welsh Corgi

28th in the Puppy Love series

When Willow, the welsh corgi who belonged to Queen Elizabeth II, died in April at the age of 14, Keepsake Artist Anita Marra Rogers sent an early sample of her new ornament to Buckingham Palace. After all, the new Puppy Love ornament was based on Willow.

“I sent it to her and got a really nice note back,” Anita said. “From the Royal Mail! The Queen had my ornament!”

The Queen has been interested in raising corgis for decades, but Willow was extra special to her because she would be the last of her kind in the royal family. And sure enough, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting sent a reply thanking Anita for her “generous gesture” and said the queen was touched by the thought.

Anita doesn’t have a dog of her own but spends plenty of time taking care of her “grand-dog,” her daughter’s black-and-white toy poodle named Oreo. The three of them are pictured together in the Keepsake Ornament Club edition of the 2018 Dreambook.

She always mixes in other kinds of material, in addition to the bow and brass tag. So this year she added tinsel garland. “They’re long, short dogs,” Anita said. “The kind that lends itself to running with tinsel.”

Nifty Fifties Keepsake Angel Tree Topper

Nifty Fifties Keepsake Angel Tree Topper

Anita’s favorite thing about this year’s Nifty Fifties ornament? That it looks so much like the first actual tree-topping angel that she designed almost 30 years ago, not long after she first came to Hallmark.

“I painted it the same color as this one,” Anita said. “People still bring it to get signed at signing events. And she still tops my own tree every year.”

The concepts always started with a sketch, an idea. This was the first year it was vertical, as a tree-topper, instead of the usual 3-across horizontal group.

“I decided we needed a change,” Anita said. “I think it was a popular decision to go vertical.”

Keepsake Artist Rodney Gentry designed the box, and Keepsake Artist Tom Best created the retro-inspired artwork on the box. Once Rodney finished with the box and Anita was happy with the proposed size, she sculpted the angel in wax. She then painted it like the original before the whole thing was put together.

The unofficial series answer the question: what would Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments have looked like if they’d been around back in the 1950s? They didn’t officially start appearing until 1973, when the line made its debut with six, glass-ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures.

Birch Branch Owl Ornament

Birch Branch Owl

Tom also helped inspire Anita with the latest iteration in this unofficial series. Typically, the birch-inspired ornaments have been snowmen, and once it was a reindeer.

“Tom had the idea of turning it into an owl,” Anita said. “I put it all together.”

She used pieces of real pinecone to make the wings and sculpted the rest. She made the eyebrows look like the kind of “helicopter” leaves that drop from oak trees, and crafted the eyes to look like flowers, mums specifically. Wooden dowels provided her with the right structure for the holiday bird of prey. Then she covered those with wax so she could sculpt the rough bark texture.

“It was fun working with the owl to get the angles just right,” Anita said. “And the poinsettia adds the perfect little touch of Christmas color to round out the design.”

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