Like so many Keepsake Artists, Joanne has been perfecting her craft since childhood. Her eagerness to learn and grow has taken her all over the world, including a trip to Poland last year, to learn about glass-blowing techniques and work with old-world artisans. Joanne continues to find new ways to celebrate hallowed Christmas traditions, and delight her many fans.
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.”
A career Keepsake Artist and creative force, Joanne Eschrich has sculpted some of the most beautifully-crafted Keepsake Ornaments in recent history. Among others, some of Joanne’s notable contributions in 2019 are the shimmering Nautical Santa, the richly-hued Wings of Splendor, and the latest edition of the Father Christmas series—always special to those who cherish tradition.
Nautical Santa (2019)
While brainstorming ideas for ornaments in the Hallmark Heritage Collection, Joanne relies on inspiration from the Hallmark Archives—but one of her ornaments boasts inspired memories of her beachcombing childhood. Nautical Santa is a blown-glass ornament depicting the beloved Christmas symbol. He’s wearing an aqua-colored robe decorated with patterns of coral formations, shells and starfish, and a pearlescent glaze that evokes the shimmering surface of water.
“Coastal-themed Christmas icons are very popular,” says Joanne. “I wanted to capture that with the opulence of glass, shells and pearls.” But not every element of Joanne’s design comes from her imagination. “I grew up near the ocean, and all of my family still is there. I collected real seashells from the beach near my home and put them into my sculpture. Not only is this on trend, but it’s very nostalgic for me.”
Wings of Splendor (2019)
When sculpting her more realistic interpretations of angels, Joanne relies on the support of friends and family. In the past, she’s even used fellow Keepsake Artists Rodney Gentry and Orville Wilson as life models!
This year’s Wings of Splendor ornament has even greater family ties to Joanne, as her inspiration comes from the new family she’s creating this fall when she marries. “I modeled her look on our Keepsake intern this past summer, as well as from pictures of models my fiancé helped me pull from magazines,” she says. “I love using his family as a sounding board.”
Wings of Splendor
Joanne’s sculpt features African-influenced etchings and color washes on the angel’s wings. “I really wanted to do something different from what I had done before. From the back, her wings are ivory, but as you come around to the front of her, you experience this beautiful mosaic of aqua and orange-red and gold—a festival of color and pattern. It’s just beautiful,” she says. “I showed my work-in-progress to my fiancé’s family and to people here, and it was a great reaction. Our families already have put their orders in for 20 of them! I got the response I was looking for!”
Father Christmas (2019)
16th in the series
Looking over her previous versions of Father Christmas, Keepsake Artist Joanne Eschrich knew the time was right for affirming the inspirational message she conveys through each ornament in the series: a wish for peace on Earth.
To carry that message more clearly, she says she collaborates with Mike Brush, Keepsake Ornaments editorial strategist, who crafts the statements Father Christmas carries in a removable scroll. “Mike will ask me what I’m thinking, and he’ll help me not just with the story of the ornament but with the icons and images as well,” she says. “It’s a fun collaboration, and it makes the whole story of the ornament make more sense.”
16th in the series.
Her 16th Father Christmas wears a green cloak to reflect Mother Earth, she says, sports a peaceful dove on his shoulder and carries a representation of the world in his hands. Joanne added some personal touches on the world in the form of gold dots marking her current home of Kansas City, Mo., her childhood home in Massachusetts and the homeland of her parents, the Azores islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. “They came to the United States as children,” she says. “They didn’t know each other when they were young but knew of each other’s families. They ended up meeting in the states and married—and here I am!”